Posts tagged short stories

Different kinds of writer

I have a bad habit, sometimes, of generalising about what “writers” are like, mostly based only on my own experience. Last night I got a good reminder that there are many different kinds of writer. I was performing at an event called “Stand up for Books“, organised by the Society of Authors and the Society of Young Publishers. I was one of six authors reading from their work. Not only was the writing itself very varied in style and subject matter, but the way we behaved on stage was very… Read More

Off-key stories hit the mark

I was excited to meet Courttia Newland at Bim Literary Festival here in Barbados earlier this year. He’s a British writer, but was here because his mother is Barbadian. I’d read his debut novel The Scholar when it first came out, which I now realise is a long time ago (like, last millennium). Had always planned to try another of his books but never got around to it, so I was happy to pick up this collection of “twelve macabre short stories”, and get it signed. First of all I… Read More

How much would you pay for a short story?

Quick question for you. I’m thinking of making some of my short stories available for download from this site, but am not sure how much to charge for them. So I’ve set up a quick poll, below. I’d really appreciate your vote (oh dear, I sound like a politician). Seriously, though, it would help, and please be honest. If you wouldn’t be interested or don’t think it’s worth paying for, just say so. The results are anonymous 😉 What I’m thinking of is a pdf document that you’d download after… Read More

“Maybe This Time” by Alois Hotschnig

I found Maybe This Time a very unsettling collection of short stories. I mean that in a good way. Being unsettled is often the prelude to thinking about things in a new way, and to me that’s one of the most important functions of literature. The stories are very varied in style and content, but many of them deal with the question of identity in one way or another. In the first story, The Same Silence, The Same Noise, a man becomes addicted to spying on his neighbours. Yet he… Read More

“Best European Fiction 2010” edited by Aleksandar Hemon

This was a very interesting collection of short stories from around Europe. There’s one piece from each country, so it really felt like a broad and varied collection rather than being weighted toward particular countries. One thing I didn’t like is that some of them were extracts from longer pieces, which I don’t think works very well. A short story is crafted specifically to fit that length; an extract from a novel, no matter how well-written, often feels dissatisfying to me because I feel as if I’m missing things by… Read More

“Bon Voyage, Mr President” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

A short book of four short stories. I liked the main one, Bon Voyage Mr President. It’s quite a straightforward story, with none of the magical realism for which Marquez is known. The dying ex-president of a Caribbean nation is in Geneva, seeing doctors about a mysterious ailment. A man from his home nation recognises him and invites him to his house, with the initial intention of making money out of him by selling him funeral services (the man is an ambulance driver and makes extra money working for funeral… Read More

“Russian Short Stories from Pushkin to Buida” Part 5

The final part in my journey through Russian literature. For the original post in the series, please click here. Varlam Shalamov Here we move into the Stalinist era and writing about the Gulag. Through the Snow is a beautiful extended metaphor about writing as walking through virgin snow, with readers coming along behind on tractors and horses. Berries is about prisoners being tempted by berries just on the other side of a line they are not allowed to cross. One of them crosses, and is shot dead. The guard comes… Read More

“Russian Short Stories from Pushkin to Buida” Part 4

For the original post in this series, click here. Isaak Babel These three stories come from Babel’s posting as the equivalent of an embedded war correspondent with a Cossack regiment in Poland in 1920. They are not compromised or sanitised in any way, however: the convey the full savagery and horror not only of war but of military life. My First Goose, for example, is set not on the battlefield but in the barracks, where the narrator arrives, a bookish political commissar, and is mocked and threatened by the soldiers…. Read More

“Russian Short Stories from Pushkin to Buida” Part 3

For the original post in this series, click here. The Gentleman from San Francisco and In Paris by Ivan Bunin Two stories about abrupt deaths, both beautifully written, both very different. The Gentleman from San Francisco is about the transitory nature of existence. A bit like Dostoevsky’s Bobok, it shows how a lot of the things we think are important are rendered irrelevant by death. The gentleman from San Francisco is very wealthy and is treated with exaggerated deference by the staff at a hotel in Italy, but when he… Read More