Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

"Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology 3", (2010)

This contains the 20 short-listed pieces from the competition. About a third of the authors have CW degrees. Another third are experienced albeit unqualified writers. 14 of the 20 authors are female. The competition caused a stir because a c.300 word story won a 3000 word max competition. It's a good story. Dead women (I counted 5, including all the prize-winners), loopy/damaged women (at least 6), a murder or 2, radiation sickness and dystopian fantasies comprise this collection - not a feel-good piece in sight. They're mostly character-centric with short story-time durations.

That's not to say that the pieces are bad - they're not at all - but one does wonder about the state of the UK short story, or the mental state of writers, or whether some of the judges have been going through a bad time just lately.

Joanna Campbell's "Struthio Camelus" has a petering end but deserved to be in the top 3 if "Only the Sure of Foot" did. Darci Bysout's "Marrakech" deserved better too. I was impressed by the craft of "Signs of our redemption". I don't know whether Ben Walker's "Bitter Gourd Fruit" has enough shape to be described as a story, but it doesn't run out of puff. I think it's my favorite piece.

Inevitably there were stories that didn't grab me - "Man Friday ..." (too sub-Beckettian), "An Experiment", "rZr and Napoleon", "Ten plastic Roses" (though it contained "I felt like a traveller who has got to the horizon on faith, only to discover that there really is a line beyond which lies the void"), "Only the Sure of Foot". I'm often unsure about stories that depend heavily on their punchline. At least 2 stories in this book did, and they worked. Spoiler Warning!

  • "A Sense of Humour"'s end arrives just as one's about to guess it - well timed.
  • "Born not Made" laid it on heavy at the start - cider-drinking mothers, night-dresses over tracksuits, high-rise flats, petty crime - and lead to a heavy-handed Billy Elliot plot. All that was a distraction so that the punch-line would work.

Other reviews

No comments:

Post a Comment