In which our editor rambles about things he’s read recently. Also a catch-all for random posts.
US-based independent Madras Press publish small books, containing one or more short stories, and donate the proceeds to charities nominated by their authors. The books themselves are very nicely done, attractive little square paperbacks. The first titles were released just before Christmas in 2009, and over the recent holidays they published their second series, which includes a new story from Andrew Kaufman.Andrew Kaufman is a McSweeney’s contributor, and has two novels published in the UK by Telegram: All My Friends are Superheroes and The Waterproof Bible. He has a whimsical style, perhaps reminiscent of somebody like a Richard Brautigan, which probably works better in small doses like this than it does in his more extended work. Maybe for that reason, I enjoyed The Tiny Wife more than anything else of his that I’ve read. It begins with a bank robbery, in which the thief takes one item of sentimental value from everybody present. As a result of these losses, (more…)
Titanic Thompson, born Alvin Thomas, grew up in the early years of the last century, and became known as one of the greatest confidence tricksters of the era. He made millions of dollars through elaborate cons, and by hustling pool, poker and golf.
The path he cut through twentieth century America also brought him into contact with some of the period’s most famous and notorious characters: he was in on the poker game that led to the death of Arnold Rothstein, and he tricked $500 out of Al Capone over a bet regarding how far he could throw a lemon. He became the basis for the character of Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls. He also found time to get married five times, and to kill five people. (more…)
From the creators of Smoke: A London Peculiar, comes this new board game, which is possibly the first board game with a literary magazine theme.
The players in Soho! each take on the role of editor of a literary magazine, and must make their way around the board (representing Soho), collecting pieces of prose from half a dozen recalcitrant, boozing writers. Obstacles and aids come in the form of plastic counters and two decks of playing cards – one representing Soho’s pubs, the other a ‘Bloody Writers!’ deck. The editors can attempt to reach the writers by foot, by taxi, or by Boris Bike. The winner is the first editor to collect all six pieces of prose, thus completing their magazine.
‘Soho’ is being launched on Wednesday 8th December at the Blue Posts, 22 Berwick Street, in Soho, which will presumably lead to Jumanji-like levels of boardgame-themed meta-reality.
As I immerse myself ever more deeply in the world of the short story, I’m discovering a near endless range of great publishers and publishing projects. As well as magazines and anthologies, I’ve seen some terrific chapbooks. I’m hoping to cover a wide selection of these over the coming months, but let’s start with Nightjar Press.
Nightjar Press is run by Nicholas Royle, himself author of half a dozen books and editor of several anthologies – including Best British Short Stories, a new upcoming annual anthology from Salt. They publish dark, disquieting stories, each of which examines general themes through a paranormal lens: a chill for now, a thought for later. (more…)August, I’ll Go to Bed at Noon, and A Curious Earth. I managed to watch those books go by without actually picking any of them up; the publication of Nourishment, his new standalone novel, seemed like a good opportunity to start catching up.
Nourishment opens in the early days of the Second World War, in the London household of Tory Pace. Everything has changed with the advent of war: her husband Donald has been called up, the children have been packed off to the countryside, and her mother has come to live with her, ‘possessed of an unshakeable belief that her daughter, and London generally, needed her.’
Before long, the mother has set the tone of the novel by bringing home a piece of mystery meat from the remains of a bombed-out butcher’s shop – possibly a pork joint, probably a chunk of the bombed-out butcher. Then Tory receives a letter from Donald, who has become a prisoner of war. The letter contains scraps of general news, and an urgent request for dirty letters from his wife: ‘I mean really filthy, full of all the dirtiest words and deeds you can think of… Love to your ma, Donald.’ (more…)
White’s Books first appeared a couple of years ago, when they launched a series of attractive hardcover classics with decorated cloth. It’s a project run under the art direction of David Pearson, an ex-Penguin designer who worked on projects like the Great Ideas series, and the cheap green Popular Classics.
The latest from White’s is a new series of Pocket Classics. (more…)The Stinging Fly, a triannual publication of new writing: poems, fiction, essays, reviews.
As well as the magazine, there’s The Stinging Fly Press, which publishes novels and anthologies. Among other titles, they’ve published Kevin Barry’s There are Little Kingdoms, and Fighting Tuesdays, a collection of stories by fourth year students from Larkin Community College.
Their latest publication is Sharp Sticks, Driven Nails, an anthology of new short stories edited by Philip Ó Ceallaigh. (more…)
Monday, 13th September 2010. There are 6 Comments.
Nicholas Carr’s new book, The Shallows, has been raising questions about the way Internet use (at work as well as at home) may be rewiring our brains, while over in the Guardian, Charlie Brooker wrote a piece entitled Google Instant is Trying to Kill Me, in which he discussed the ways that evolving technology has been chipping away at his attention span. He also tries something called The Pomodoro Technique, a special system whereby, through the use of a kitchen timer, we can train our minds to concentrate on a single subject for up to 25 minutes at a time!
What better time, then, to pick up the latest title from Peirene Press, Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman. Oh, it’s short, like all Peirene’s books. It’s just 125 pages, which should present no challenge to even the most hyperlink-addled brain. Just 125 pages. Just a single, 125 page sentence. (more…)
Each year I try to do a rundown of the Booker longlist according to the book blogs. (Here’s 2008 & 2009.) I’m running a little late this year – don’t look at me like that, I’ve been busy – so let’s get straight to the Booker shortlist, 2010:
Parrot and Olivier in America Peter CareyPeter Carey’s first Booker winner, Oscar and Lucinda casts a shadow over several of the reviews of his new book. Jackie at Vulpes Libris can’t help noticing that one of the characters shares Oscar’s dishevelled red hair, while Trevor at The Mookse and the Gripes finds himself revisiting Carey for the first time since reading that book (having skipped Carey’s other Booker winner, The True History of the Kelly Gang).
Kevin from Canada read this one with some reluctance, not being a huge Carey fan, or being familiar with Alexis de Toquevillle, whose journey to the USA inspired the book:
Carey is a competent and talented writer and he carefully and deliberately unfolds that story in a reader-friendly fashion. He has obviously researched his material thoroughly — too thoroughly for this reader, because long sections of the book are taken up with explanations of the obvious that left me wanting only for them to end. While I appreciate the author’s determination to chronicle the “American” story, he does not have much new to add — his respect for the obvious history is so great that it comes to dominate the book
See Kevin’s full review, and the subsequent discussion in the comments, here.
Room Emma Donoghue
John Self kicked off his review on The Asylum by measuring it against his initial hopes…
Room has an intriguing premise: it’s narrated by a five-year-old boy who lives in a room twelve feet square and doesn’t know the outside world exists. This immediately set my reading glands salivating: I imagined an allegorical, philosophical novel, a European-style confection that provided an analysis of all our lives by an extrapolation to the extreme, something like Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. So my disappointment with Room is partly unreasonable, denouncing it for not being a different book entirely.
… before coming to the conclusion that ‘it’s clear that Room aims at the heart rather than the head, and for many people the emotional heft of the story will be enough to recommend it.’
If Room didn’t find its natural reader in John, it fared better with Jackie at Farm Lane Books, (more…)
Well, maybe you’re right. But step into the world of Things We Didn’t See Coming, the debut novel by Steven Amsterdam, and you’ll wish we’d all stuck with the abacus.
The nine or so chapters (which fill just under 200 pages), follow a single, unnamed narrator over roughly thirty post-apocalyptic years, taking him from childhood, just before the catastrophe, to an accelerated old age. (more…)