In case you hadn’t heard, the 2013 Man Booker Prize has been awarded to writer Lydia Davis. The Prize, worth a grand £60,000, is “awarded for an achievement in fiction on the world stage.”
This is exciting news for those of us lamenting the tendency for Brits to underestimate the power of the short story. The writer, described as “poetic” and “minimalist” shows that the tide is certainly turning for this so often overlooked word-form.
Chair of the Man Booker judges, literary critic and scholar Sir Christopher Ricks, comments: “Lydia Davis’ writings fling their lithe arms wide to embrace many a kind. Just how to categorise them? Should we simply concur with the official title and dub them stories? Or perhaps miniatures? Anecdotes? Essays? Jokes? Parables? Fables? Texts? Aphorisms, or even apophthegms? Prayers, or perhaps wisdom literature? Or might we settle for observations?”
It’s an intriguing puzzle. As a journalist, I’m afraid I’m partial to categories – they provide shortcuts that help us to more easily understand what we’re being told, freeing up space for emotional response. To me, short stories seem often to be an examination of small, easily missed things that add up to the enormity of the shared human experience.
But, having just read the Lydia Davis story ‘Letter To A Hotel Manager’ published on the Telegraph website, I admit I’m not entirely sure how to describe it.
Regardless, Lydia’s win is the perfect excuse to celebrate short story writing in all its lengths and forms, so huzzah!
I’ve had a few pieces of good news recently that I can’t resist sharing here.
Firstly, my flash fiction story ‘This Gallery’ has been selected to appear on Litro.co.uk as their #FridayFlash today – visit http://www.litro.co.uk/category/fiction/flashfriday/ to read it. I’d love to know what you think of it.
The piece rolls in at just 326 words.
In other news, my short story ‘Coffee Owl’ has been accepted for inclusion in an anthology from Canadian literary imprint Enfield & Wizenty called Friend. Follow. Text.
And new print periodical The Germ Magazine are to publish my short story ‘Little Blessings’ in their next issue, due out in June. They describe their content as “fresh, sincere, aesthetically stimulating verse and prose”, so I feel very honoured to have ‘Little Blessings’ featured. That story began, aptly enough, with a germ of an idea, which consolidated with an image in my mind of a box of pink-nosed, white mice abandoned on a park bench. Funny how these things take root!
In May 2011 I visited Tunisia and found a country still reeling from its revolution.
It’s a complex place, Tunisia – a country where the locals describe themselves as Mediterranean, yet the main religion is Muslim, and as many farmers keep camels as sheep. Tourism has overtaken agriculture as the main earner in recent years, transforming many coastal areas, particularly those in popular Hammamet, into spa and bar hotspots that could almost be anywhere on the Med, if it wasn’t for the elegant curling Tunisian script adorning street signs and shop fronts.
Tourism is often accused of diluting local flavour, but in the case of Hammamet, the dearth of visitors following the 2011 revolution may have helped restore it, to an extent. There’s enough exotic flavour here to bring to mind the stories of the Arabian Nights, with restaurants serving up meals while belly dancers perform like flocks of chiming butterflies. Continue reading
My, as yet unborn, nephew is being induced today. Here is a poem in his honour.
On this day
when rain and sun have
both swung by
and you still sleep
deep in that dark, most secret
space, the shift will start
to wrench or nudge
you into life,
to breathe our air,
blink in our light.
To begin the existence
you and we have so far
At last weekend’s Affordable Art Fair in Bristol I discovered an artist who’s work sang out from the crowds of paintings, sculptures and prints on show and stopped me in my tracks. Or rather, it buzzed out.
The Swarm by Louise McNaught comprises a series of exquisitely precise life-sized oil paintings of bees on actual train tickets. Continue reading