Sunday, 12 January 2014

New Year... onto a healthy regime...

Forget weirdy diets and a gym membership. This year my healthy resolve is all about putting quality fiction into my system. Specifically short fiction. Obvs. I read lots of it already - you really (really) can't write fiction without reading fiction. But my aim is to be more deliberate about this. Putting reading at the centre of each day, rather than the periphery; making time specifically for it, forsaking all others, rather than snatching precious moments between other tasks.

First on my reading list is Best British Short stories 2013 (Ed. Nicholas Royle, Salt, 2013). Every year, I put the latest edition in this series on my Christmas list. I adore them and find myself returning to the collections often for reference and recommending stories out of them.

This one lives up to my expectations. Particular favourite stories are Alison Moore's 'The Smell of the Slaughterhouse' for its beautiful spare handling of a difficult topic, particularly for the bravery and skill in telling it with such searing brevity. And Adam Marek's 'Storm Chasers' because I knew something was coming but had no idea what... The ending genuinely startled me - it is a fantastic example of exactly how narrative should work - you won't guess the ending until you come to it, but the ending is so perfectly sympathetic to the story that you can't believe you didn't see it coming. I also particularly like Anneliese Mackintosh's 'Doctors', partly because it showcases perfect use of  second person narration, and also because it manages to fly in the face of my dislike for stories about writing/writers... Often I find writers writing about writers/writing in their stories naval gazingly, self consciously cringy and banal. But Mackintosh handles this story beautifully. (Actually, I probably need to reassess my dislike of stories about writers because now I keep thinking of other examples that I really admire and rise well above this aversion - including Toby Litt's 'Call it "The Bug" because I have no time to think of a better title' from Bio Punk (Comma Press, 2012) and, from BBSS2013 itself, Ellis Sharp's 'The Writer', because they are both in their separate ways experimental and intriguing. Maybe I do like them after all, but only when I feel, as with Mackintosh, Litt and Sharp, that I'm in very safe hands.)

Great collection - with enjoyable breadth and diversity. Much to admire.

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