Book review – The Great Night by Chris Adrian

The Great Night coverA Midsummer Night’s Dream
has been my favourite Shakespearean play since my teens, relishing the eerie setting, whirling otherworldiness and that wonderful sense of the uncanny balance between here and there – our plain, ordinary land and the realm of Titania and Oberon, and the unstable brink between childhood and adulthood.

So when I discovered the existence of The Great Night, a book that seems to be a direct homage to Shakespeare’s play, I was both reticent (how could they possibly do it justice?) and irresistibly intrigued.

Fortunately, author Chris Adrian is a masterful storyteller who seems to relish the original text as much as I do, and highlights, then subverts or enhances elements of that first tale. The fairies are of the primitive, undainty sort that more commonly populate our earliest fairytales, as likely to do terrible, unknowing wrongs as to grant wishes. Puck is particularly fearsome, Titania’s morals utterly fluid and often suspect, and nothing is ever what it seems for more than the most fleeting of moments. Continue reading

The Last Bookshop – a short film

cr The Last Book ShopGot a few moments to spare this weekend? This gorgeous short film comprises a chilling tale, beautifully told in just 20 minutes.

cr The Last Book Shop_1The scene where the old shopkeeper (who has been waiting for a customer for 25 years, two months and six days) shows the small boy how to open a book is surprisingly moving, and the ending is just sublime.

I love the line where the shopkeeper explains books as giving you “memories of things you will never experience.”

Find out more about the talented makers at 

Enter The Fiction Desk Ghost Story Competition 2013

Arnos Vale Cemetery cr Judy DarleyWhen I think of classic British ghost stories I get a satisfying shiver down my spine, not least because it’s an area women writers seem to excel in, from Mary Shelley to Susan Hill!

The Fiction Desk are straying from their preference for more or less realistic tales for a competition focusing solely on the genre of the ghost story, saying “some genre fiction should be part of any balanced reading diet. One genre that we’d like to feature more of in our pages is the ghost story.”

The closing date for entries is 31 May 2013. Continue reading

A poem a day…

The challenge for April is to write a poem every day. Did you know that? It’s been all over Twitter: ‘A poem a day through April till May’. Any length, any form, any topic, as long as you end up with something vaguely resembling a poem.

Seashell interiorFor a long time I’ve thought about trying to develop my rudimentary poetry writing skills, so this seems like too good an opportunity to pass up. So far I’ve managed to write three poems in the first three days of April, the third of which even sort of said what I wanted it to, which felt like a huge triumph.

But, and this is a big but, I also think I need to read more poetry – get the rhythm of it into my head and find out what seems to me to succeed, and why and how.

A sort of month-long self-taught poetry course.

What’s in a name?

Ovum screen shotOn Sunday I posted Ovum, very short story about a couple finding a mysterious egg on their doorstep and having two very different reactions to their discovery.

The story popped fully formed into my head (though it may not yet be completely finished), but the characters’ names eluded me at first, partly because I couldn’t decide their genders: should the one who wants to mother the egg be the male to turn gender biases on their head or would that be too obvious? In the end I realised I wanted to the reader to address their own prejudices a little, and so gave each character a gender-neutral name, to allow the reader to make up their own mind.

Because what’s in a name is quite a lot. It creates expectations, leads to ideas about a person that they may be unable to, or may not want to, live up to. If you name a character Daisy or Lilly, your readers may expect someone delicate and flowery. However, giving a really tough, forthright character that kind of name works because you are turning any presumptions on their head (the 1990s TV series Drop The Dead Donkey had a character called Joy who neatly subverted expectations by being anything but joyful).

I went to a party a while ago where I met a woman who introduced herself as Bob, and I immediately had the idea she was someone bold, someone to be reckoned with, possibly someone with a wry, intelligent sense of humour.

At the same party a group of people I’d never met before told me my name doesn’t suit me. It’s not the first time it’s been said, and in a way I agree, but it’s the name I grew up with and as someone who didn’t even change her surname when she got married, changing my given name could be a reach too far.

The group of people came up with an alternative name for me: Patricia – pronounced Patris-siahhh. Make of that what you will.