All these little worlds the second collection from fiction desk

Earlier this year I reviewed Rob of the fiction desk first collection Various Authors here .So when a few months ago (sorry for delay Rob) I was asked if I want to review the second in this quarterly series of anthologies ,I said yes as known Rob via twitter for a few years and I really trust his judgement at picking the stories for the fiction desk collections .

SO this time we have nine stories in this collection two of the writers that had appeared in the first collection also appear here Charles Lambert and Jason Atkinson .The collection like the first isn’t themed which I like I m not a huge short story reader but when I do read a collection I prefer it to be like a i pod on shuffle you never know what is going to appear next and this collection is like this .One minute your with a family as the put something strange in a fish tank .Then you’re at school where the is strange thinks going on due to a new dress code being brought into force .As ever I ll focus on a couple that caught my eye the first is one by Mischa Hiller called room 307

He took a drink of his beer and looked up to see a women in a pinstriped trouser suit come into the restaurant  .She was on the mobile phone and carrying a leather briefcase on a strap over her shoulder .The two businessmen stared at her like they’d never seen a women before.

Callum the main character in Mischa Hiller’s room 307 sees a women .

The story is about Callum he is  a businessman  away on a business trip when he meets a women called Susan and they chat and get on there is a spark ,he is married thou .The story has a thriller edge to it that slow telling of the story building the tension to the end as we find out who Susan was is she really his wife ,just a random women or something more sinister .this story for me does what great Short stories do with the bare facts a man in a hotel we have his name not much else.but as you see the scene with this women unfold you are there with him as it happens and that is what great short stories should do make you feel in their setting straight away as it is like  a butterfly only there for a short period of time .The other story I really like was Jagger’s and crown by James Benmore .

According to this mornings paper ,I am meant to have died sometime over the weekend .Go and buy a copy of the mail if you don’t believe me ,I’m on page 36 .

Kevin Crown reads of his own death .

Now this story shows another face of short story’s the mini epic ones as Keith crown reads of his own death he was part of a comedy double act ,I pictured some of the acts we used to see in the late seventies early eighties on british tv cannon and ball ,Les Dennis and Dustin gee so on (if you are not from uk maybe google them and you’ll have an idea of what I m,mean ) so this shock that he is thought to have died makes him look back over his working life with Sonny Jaggers from his first array as a solo act then he  meeting Sonny and the rise of them as a double act but then like Icarus all things that maybe fly to high fall to the ground and so it happen to them so in  the space of 22 pages we see a man’s life wonderful stuff and as rob noted on the top of the story Keith crown seems very real .

Last time I compared his collection to c86 so in the same  vein I m going to say this is like a this mortal coil album and Rob is like Ivo Watts Russell sticking together a collection of fresh talent to make a little gem .Below is a list of the stories plus links to Rob’s site where you can order a subscription .

 

 

U&I by Nicholson baker

U&I BY Nicholson Baker

Literay non- fiction

Granta books

Nicholson Baker is an american writer ,I reviewed Vox a few weeks ago as part of the new Granta reissue series and now bring another from the four reissued books with their lovely Village green designed covers .

So U&I what is it about ,well it is about John Updike (a point to note here for the readers is I share a birthday with mr Updike so have a huge soft spot for him ) it is about John Updike books yes and no ,is it about John Updike the man well yes and no ,this book is hard to pin down to a non fiction category ,the book starts with Baker deciding to write a piece for the Atlantic magazine about Updike but as he starts on this it obviously grows into this book .Baker takes us on a journey through his mind and how his mind has absorbed John Updike’s works and his numerous interviews he has read over the years .As we go along this path we dart here and there into Bakers wider reading habits and how he interacts with books and how he has viewed Updike’s criticism in the past ,Updike was a great critic in his day and some one who you feel Baker admired .Now your asking did they know each other well they meet once at a Harvard lampoon party where he got Updike to sign a copy of rabbit is rich ,he was amazed to find out that Updike had read one of his short stories .

AT the offices of the Harvard lampoon ,in november 1984 ,I sprang out in front of him near a plate of ham cutting as he was hurrying leave the post Harvard-Yale game party .

Baker braving first meeting

Hi I’m Nick Baker

I’m John Updike

I know

and they chat briefly

SO what did I make of this book ,I loved it ,I like Bakers loose stream of consciousness style in the book ,it feels like you’re in his head holding a conversation with him ,this is definitely a bibliophile’s book as it is so full of book love ,he mentions so many books and why he likes them I feel I got a hold new insight into some books I ve missed by his slight mentions of them ,as for Updike and I ,the I in this case being me Stu the writer of the blog ,well I ve read four of his book like most people three of them are the rabbit books ,which I feel are the best insight into the  post war american experience the other is the eastwick book .I ve a few of his other books on my shelves am I in a rush to read not really I have a soft spot as mention but I also have another 40 plus years hopefully in front of me to get to them so like Baker who has also not read Updike’s Cannon ,I m in no rush to tick him off my read list as I want to experience Updike for years to come and also I feel the same about Baker so the review of the other two reissues will be a some point in the future .

Have you read this book ?

Have you read Updike ?

Vox by Nicholson Baker

Vox by nicholson baker

source – review copy

I was very lucky to get sent the four new reissues from Granta of Bakers work which is good as I ve only read a couple of his book .Nicholson Baker is an american writer he writes both fiction and non fiction and is known for stream of consciousness writing and his voyeuristic style at times ,he got a ba in philosophy from Haverford college .

Vox was Nicholson’s fourth book and was published in 1991 ,the book is a shortish novel at only 167 pages long .the book focuses on two characters that are on the telephone on a telephone chat line ,they decide to go to a private room to chat one to one ,the book is that one to one chat ,things start slowly then as the two open up the conversation and subjects get sexier and sexier ,as they talk about their encounters and dreams .This is  not a story if you turn red at steamy scenes on tv as it goes into close details of what they want to do in the bedroom ,so as we find out what Jim and Abbey like we feel a bit like a voyeur or an old stasis agent listening into something private that maybe we shouldn’t be listen to but can’t hang up and in a way its the same for Abbey and Jim as they’re paying a lot for doing this as it is a charging chat line there on .

“what are you wearing ?” he asked.

she said “I m wearing a white shirt with little stars,green and black stars ,on it ,black pants ,and socks the colour of the green stars ,and a pair of black sneakers I got for nine dollars .”

“what are you doing ?”

“I m lying on my bed ,which is made .That’s unusual thing .I made my bed this morning .A  few months ago my mother gave me a chenille bedspread,exactly the kind we used to have ,and I felt bad that it was still folded up unused and this morning I finally made the bed with it ”

The opening of the book and you jump in the middle of the conversation

As you can see Baker’s style is a little different to many writers you don’t get any intro ,no here you jump straight in .So what did I think I loved it ,ok at times the sex scenes described are very sexy and made me go red but it is a book you just want to keep reading like being on the bus and sat behind people as there having a juicy conversation about people you don’t know but you just want to sit there and catch it even if you miss your stop .The book is also more famous for supposedly being the book a Monica gave a very famous Bill ,now if that story is true I had no doubt Bill knew what was on Monica’s mind after reading this book it wouldn’t be a book you’d give to the other sex without expecting a reaction  from the person you had given the book too .the book has a wonderful new cover from Village green design that have done the four new covers for these books .

Various Authors – the first Fiction Desk anthology

Source – review copy

The Fiction Desk is a blog and twitter feed run by Rob Redman ,an Editor based in Italy in Roma ,I ve spoken to Rob via twitter  and followed his blog for a couple of years so think I have an ear for what he likes book and writing  wise ,so was so pleased to be sent this collection of 12 short stories by new and upcoming writers .Rob describes the books experience as being a dj  and making compilation cds for the nights he dj ,so I sat back and read his choices .

There isn’t a theme to this collection some stories are similar a number about family ,we follow a Scottish lad on the bus to his parents only to discover his father in a stat of chaos and his mother gone .

“What are you on about ”

“You see ,your mum ,she’s saying …its the drink.” the balls thud and spin on the Tv and ger’s heartbeat makes him stay very still .

Gerry find out his Ma is gone .(almost like a Glasvegas song as a story )

In another a younger boy set out on an ill fated journey to find a long-lost father who is in Wales ,firstly trying the train then walking and meeting people .Another explains the joys of trying to catch and fall in love with an Air hostess over the course of a flight told as a basic guide of how too ,a story by Windmills books PR person Marcus Harvey .A man pretends to be a dog called rex in another ,this story is very surreal .as a family falls apart rex is a the centre of the action .There is a story following an office, a high-powered executive working in the US for the government  is concerned about his  new assistant she seems to leave the office early every day ,he confronts her and she tells him about how she is playing in a small play ,he is interested she says he could join her and he does .

The last thing he heard as Brutus set him down on the floor was the voice of Sadie

“I think we have a caesar”

he stood up and felt like he could probably die all night .

Daniel the executive discovers the joy of acting .

I leave you there with the stories if you want to know more go out and support Rob ,there isn’t a bad story in this collection to use the time-worn phrase they are all page turners .and to take it back to Rob’s starting point of a dj ,well this book is like the semi legendary NME MIXTAPE C86 ,which collected a group of acts in 1986 ,some were couple of hit wonders and some went on to be huge ,this collection has tha feel anyone here could be huge and sure someone from this collection will but who or when is hard to say but if this is Rob’s mix of new writing in English ,well it looks like we re in good health .here is collection and writers with links to the fiction desk bio of every writer .

Do you like new collections of stories ?

The tigers wife by Tea Obreht

Source – review copy (requested by me)

Well I very rarely want get caught up in Hype books but read about this book and it writer Tea Obreht made me .Tea was born in Former Yugoslavia,lived there til she was 7 the in cyprus and Egypt .Before settling with her family in the us were eventually she took  a  MA  in creative writing at Cornell university ,she is teaching there now this is her first novel .I was amazed that someone so young could write a book that by the blurb seems to have been written by some one that is older .

Well what is the tigers wife about ,its set in Yugoslavia ,it is about a grandfather and his granddaughter Natalia ,her grandfather has disappears she is away doing vaccination in a distant town ,  so she rushes off and decides to find him .Whilst doing this we discover her childhood and the fact he always carried a volume of Rudyard Kipling’s the Jungle book and told the young  Natalia  ,stories from this book which he loved .This reminded me of my friend Rob of Rob Around books and his hunt for a book that can be a constant companion to the reader ,rob found this in part with the Essays of Michel de Montaigne ,also in the book the english patient the main character count Alamsy  has a copy of histories by Herodotus that he has loved and kept things in ,so here the grandfather had enchanted his young grand-daughter with tales from Jungle book mixed with local history like the tale of the tigers wife of the title of the book a tale of a mysterious silent women from the second world war ,also the man she thing her grandfather is looking for the deathless man ,a man who has lived forever and wanders the backlands where her grandfather lives .There is also tale of the tiger that escaped from the zoo during the war ,that enthralled her grandfather as it seemed th book he ;loved had come to life .to find out what happens to Natalia and her grandfather you better read the book .

Everything necessary to understand my grandfather lies between the two stories : the story of the tiger’s wife and the story of the deathless man .These stories run like  secret rivers through all the other stories of his life – of my grandfathers days in the army ; his great love for my grandmother ; the years he spent as a surgeon and a tyrant of the university .One ,which i learned after his death ,is story of how my grandfather became a man ,the other which told to me ,is of how he became a child again .

opening of the second chapter .

This book is filled with love ,it is a story of generations ,of Tea’s homeland the Balkans .We get a heady mix of folkish tales and magic realism .I find hard and disheartening that this is a book written by a 25-year-old if you didn’t know you would think it was a much older writer ,it has echos of a lot of great books a bit of the English patient ,a bit of  life of pi and maybe some magic realism of marquez and Okri .I m happy I asked for this book does it live up to the Hype yes it does .If your at Hay festival Tea is there talikg about this book .

The Possessed by Elif Batuamn

Source – review copy

Elif Batuman is a new york born writer ,her parents are turkish ,she studied literature at university in american and the a summer in Uzbekistan ,which forms the largest part of this book .she has published pieces for various magazines in the US .

Now this book is about obsession with russian literature and how it drives people ,now here is a shock I m very afraid of classic russian literature and have spent most of my life avoiding it ,but in recent times the realization is that I ve missed out on a lot ,so when the offer to read this book came I jumped at the chance to do so .Hoping it would inspire me to read more russian lit .The book is a collection of short essay and a longer piece divide into three sections .The short piece focus on obsession with certain russian writers ,the first is Babel the writer who was killed by Stalin leaving little behind but what he left behind has had scholars talking since his death ,a visit to an exhibition of his possessions in california sparks a journey into his world with the joy of Elif who obviously loves these characters so much ,another dealt with a group visiting Yasnaya Polyana Tolstoy’s home ,a group of  Tolstoy scholars and the wild fantasies about the writer was this book influenced by that book ,Alice in wonderland was the book they were arguing and did it influence anne Karenina ,This started a heated debate ,Elif tells this with humour and love .The main piece is about here summer in Uzbekistan studying Uzbek language ,as a former soviet state she discovers a lot about their intertwine history with its larger neighbour by a charismatic young Man called  Muratbek .

Muratbek was very tan with bleached hair and a fixed grin .To his every utterance in every language ,he appended the exclamation “awesome !” “Turkcha gapirasizmi ” he asked me. Do you speak Turkish ? awesome !

The first meeting in summer in Samarkand of Muratbek .

So did the book do what I want yes I ve moved russian books up my tbr pile and need get war and peace back on track ,this tied in with the recent BBC show about Tolstoy where they were at Yasnaya Polyana  ,this tied together brought Elif book more to life .So if you love russian lit this is a must read ,if your like me a novice this will inspire you to take that road that involves Pushkin ,Tolstoy ,Chekov and Babel ,vis her humour and love of these writers .I love Granta’s cover a retroesque homage to leather-bound covers the orginal russian books we re published in .

Have you read this book ?

Do you like russian literature ?


The gospel of Anarchy by Justin Taylor

source – review copy

Justin Taylor is a young American writer ,this is his debut novel last year he published a collection of short stories “everything here is the best thing ever ” ,which I have but have only read the first couple of stories but style wise this is just as good as his short stories .He has written for a number of american magazines and appeared on public radio .

The book is set in 1999 and goes through millennium in is David story from dark nights on the internet trading Pornographic images to meet an old friend leads to an alternate world the hippy alternative universe an anarchist collective ,this is a story of youth and growing up and what happens when you take the wrong path ,it can be fun but at times very dark .all this is sparked by David meet old college buddy Thomas and going to fishgut this is an old house full of people  ,that is the collectives heart and base .This is maybe the dying embers of a sixties dream gone bad ,I love music from big pink and the idea\ of communal living has appeal to me the ability  to swap ideas and feed of other people’s creativity would be great ,but Fishgut isn’t like this the morals are lost in some ways I m remind of Garlands beach what happens when paradise turns bad ,this tackles people’s dream searching for religious belief ,identity and in particular a place in society or in this case in  a group .

Thomas took me on a tour of fishgut ,not that there was much to show .There were three bedrooms – his , Kathy ,and one outfitted with two sets of bunk beds as a guest room or travellers rest .They were all scenes from the same low-budget disaster movie .the linoleum in the kitchen was faded past pigmentation ,but held on to a hazy hangover memory of having once been green

the first site of fishgut .by David shown round by his old friend Thomas .

David gets caught up in affairs with the women at Fishgut ,as he sleeps with them and  get caught up in a five way love triangle ,there is a found journal that leads to a cult left by old guest of the house a man of the road .I enjoyed this book Taylors writing is playful and dark at same time he draws you into this crazy youthful world like he did in the shorts I ve read by him .

 

My dead dad was in ZZ top by Jon Glaser

source – from Publisher due out Feb 8th

Jon Glaser is an actor comedian writer and director ,he has appear in a number of films such as be kind rewind  and comedy shows ,as well as live tours he wrote an earlier book Adult swim’s .

The book follows Jon as he goes through his late fathers belongings and uncovers a lost world of his father as he was a member of an early version of the band ZZ top but left as he couldn’t grow a beard and disliked the direction the band was taking .Now this of course is 100% fake as it says on the cover but this book then goes into nearly every well-known America star of rock and roll from the 60’s onwards .I whole cornucopia of found items from the belly aching born to brunch original version of Bruce Springsteen born to run with a photo showing a ring from a drink thus giving Born to run the song we all know and love .I read this over the space of an evening and was in floods of laughter I know most of the people we have piece’s from within the book so loved Glaser’s with at subtle changes and well thought out version of people’s songs .The rewritten Prince titles for his performance at Steven Spielberg sons bar mitzavahed .

Thank you : steve ,kate

Mah- zel tahv to Rachel

I could never take the place of your Rabbi

Raspberry Yarmulka

when Doves Ketch

little red Draidle

I would die 4 your Gefilte fish

Theives in the synagogue

sexy potato Latke

Some of pince Bar Mitzvah set list .

This remind me of Mark and Lard from British radio in the early nineties with their band the Shirehorses where the took well-known songs and rewrote the lyrics .so if you want know where the name B***hole surfers comes from I choose this or what bands like Boston ,Creedance Clearwater revival  did before they were famous  Jon will give you a great version of what they did before they were famous .a glimpse behind the curtain at what might make certain bands tick and what may happen if the had sold songs to advertise things .I choose this from Harper perennial as a change I want to try some more lighthearted thing this year and this was a perfect choice I perfect gift for any rock or pop lover .

Winston’s score –

It has be the Shirehorse’s David Bowie spoof ,this book reminded me so much of this cd and the way it made me laugh in the 90’s when it came out .As I always say a book the bring back happy memories is a book worth reading and this one did !!!

THE PEARL BY JOHN STEINBECK

source – personal copy

John Steinbeck was probably on of Americas greatest writers in the middle period of the twentieth century ,his books caught the character of America in the depression .He won the Nobel prize for literature in 1962 .He is a name that makes many people jump after being made to read of mice and men at school ,but would ask people to give him another try this very short novella is a perfect book to get yourself reaquainted with him or discover him .

The book is set in a small Mexican fishing village and follows a poor Mexican fisherman Kino   .He finds a huge wonderous Pearl .

And the beauty of the pearl ,winking and glimmering in the little candle ,cozened his brain with its beauty .So lovely it was ,so soft ,and its own music came from it -its music of promise and delight guarantee of the future ,of comfort ,of security .

Kino looking at the pearl .

The pearl has his fortune in it but as it turns out his downfall as well ,at the same time .the book was a retelling of a Mexican folk tale ,Kino his wife Junna and son Coyotito are all effect by the finding of the pearl .The book has a moral theme running through it that is we should be happy who we are and that greed and wealth ,which is what the pearl represents isn’t all it is meant to be .The story remind me of a quote from a Basil Rasthbone Sherlock Holmes film the pearl of death about a famous pearl the bourgeis pearl he said for its beauty it is cover in the blood of many a man and should really be thrown back in the sea .That is what Kino should have done but instead he Kept the pearl got greedy want more and more money for it and eventually when his wife decided the pearl was too much of burden it led to a shocking  conclusion .The book is very short ninety pages long and can easily be read in an evening .The book shows Steinbeck powers of writing taking a simple folk tale and expanding it to a full novella .

Have you a favourite Steinbeck ?

THE END BY SALVATORE SCIBONA

SOURCE REVIEW COPY FROM JONATHAN CAPE .OUT NOV 4

Salvatore Scibona is an american writer ,he was named on the recent New Yorker twenty under forty list .He grew up in Cleveland Ohio and went to the creative writing course at university of Iowa ,he is from an Italian american family

The End is his debut novel it is set in his native Ohio in the early fifties ,well 15th august 1953 mainly .we focus on Elephant park an Italian community we open meeting Rocco the local baker who has just received word that his son has died in a Korean P.O.W CAMP  ,the day is Assumption day a carnival is due as the novel progress we see Rocco meet people and also we are sent back to Rocco’s youth in Scilly .We see poverty community and also a crime ,we meet a number of characters a seamstress ,a jeweller .as Rocco comes to terms with his loss whilst the is this carnival and other things happening in his life .

He was Five feet one inch tall in his street shoes ,bearlike in his round and Jowly face ,hulking in his chest and shoulders ,nearly just as stout around the middle but hollow in the hips and lacking a proper can to sit on (though he was hardly ever known to sit ) and wee at the ankles and girlish at his tiny feet ,a man in the shape of a lightbulb .

the opening and we meet Rocco .

This is a stunning debut novel ,assured with a unique voice ,he has been compared to the greats Joyce ,Faulkner and Bellow ,some are deserved, setting most of your events on a single day will always be compared with Joyce but in reality they are two completely different books this is about a community .Bellow is probably nearest to him of the comparisons in a lot of ways it is like bellows early books ,like seize thew day which follows a similar aged man over a day I wonder if part of this comes from stories Salvatore heard growing up around the dinner table .The characters in this book are beautifully drawn and realistic.Its nice to read a book about the Italian american community that avoids the obvious clichés of that community .He richly deserves to be on the new yorker list and also for this to be a national book award shortlisted book in 2008 .This is like a Edward hopper painting come to life or the kiss photo that is so famous it evokes the fifties and the struggles of that time for a working class community post WW2 struggling with another war .

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries

June 2021
M T W T F S S
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
282930  

Archives

%d bloggers like this: