Thursday, 16 December 2010

Adieu 2010

Well, that year rather flashed by. If you have any tips on how to slow down time – as in bona fide, physics-based sleights of hand, rather than any New Age guff – please let me know. As years go it was a good un, surreal at times, perhaps typified by finding myself on this list with some heavyweights of fiction. And Kate Bush.

So, looking back, what books made an impression on me? Fewer than normal, I’d say, but then there was less time for reading for pleasure than I’d have liked. Seven hundred or so short stories were appraised, some of which were quite good. And I found myself listening to more stories than before. But as novels went, those I enjoyed the most were from years gone by.

And so given how much time is still required on the novel, and how little shopping for gifts I’ve done, I’m just gonna mention three.

Part fable, part allegory this ambitious, original novel won me over with its assured, unsettling voice and elegance.


The language here is so beautifully lyrical, the story so haunting and compelling, were it not for the ending (which I know riles some people), I’d have regarded this as great rather than very good.

Shriver’s retrospective and chilling narrative isn’t, I’m sure, for everyone, but I found it a remarkable achievement, and probably tips it for my book of the year.

Well, that’s ya lot for 2010. Have a jolly festive time, whatever you're doing, and I hope to see you on the other side.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

NO ROOM FOR INTEGRITY

I did a festive-themed interview over at Vulpes Libris the other day where I talk about the loneliness of writing, the thievery of words and pulling crackers with the cat.

A quick update on the novel. It’s had some interest, but with the requisite some changes are made. Now, I could stamp my artistic feet, profess such tinkering would usurp my integrity too much and refuse to make them. Or I could just get on and do it. Which I have been. Mostly. Sometimes you have to listen to Them What Know. I can already see that the book is stronger, but there’s still some way to go. It’s an extraordinarily demanding task at times. For example, I removed one small piece of information from a character, which involved revising every time she mentions it across the story. And have you ever tried culling a character from 300 pages?

Anyway, it’s all good, especially as Them What Know have called it a classy psychological thriller. I’d no idea. Classy, yes – er-hum. But a thriller? Next I’ll be penning cheap hooks at the end of each chapter. Oh well. It’s still a literary thriller as far as I’m concerned.

I wanted to mention my book of the year, but it’s proving rather difficult. And not due to a plethora of contenders. I’ve read some stunning short fiction in 2010, but no stand out novel. One or two threatened, before wilting tamely in the last 50 pages. I’ll have to see.

Well, I hope you are hunkering down nicely for the holidays, that your glasses are full and Santa brings you some wonderful reading. Here's one of the less nauseating festive songs.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

SHORT FICTION 4

I am pleased to say that Short Fiction 4 is out now. This special issue, dedicated to the long story, features new work by Martina Warner and Francis King, as well as novellas by Richard Lea and Raha Namy. The stories take us around the world, from New Orleans to Shanghai, Indonesia to the Leeward Islands of the Carribean. As ever, our visual literary journal leads into stories with illustrations, whilst celebrated painter of Cornwall, Gill Watkiss, provides our cover, motifs throughout, and shows new work in a full-colour 16 page feature.

There were some 600 stories submitted this year, and, having read them all for the shortlist, I think this could be the strongest issue yet. Mind, I say that each year.

You can order a copy here.

And look out for the Short Fiction Writers Competition 2011, which is accepting entries between January 1st and March 31st. The first prize is £500 plus publication, with award-winning Irish writer Gerard Donovan as our guest judge. What’s more, you can submit two stories for £10, which also gets you a copy of the journal, effectively making entry free.