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.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

"New Writing 15" by Evaristo and Gee (eds) (Granta/British Council, 2007)

I've read a few past editions. Compared to those, this issue (which is well worth a read)

  • seems to have fewer big names (fewer commissioned/agent-driven pieces)
  • seems to be more tuned to its international audience - lots about Islam, and keen to display contemporary sub-cultures
  • is less challenging, genre-wise. An earlier issue had a section of "Texts" - pieces that were hard to categorize. This issue has an epistolatory piece, and short pieces (as short as a paragraph) that are allegedly novel extracts, but is otherwise safe.

In poetry anthologies the range of styles often expands into areas usually dominated by prose. Here, where there's a mix of poetry and prose (increasingly rare in the UK) a tidily written anecdotal poem risks being compared to a paragraph of a short story. Robin Robertson's pieces are rather like end-of-chapter epiphanies but his isn't the only work that flirts on the border. I don't recall there being any end-rhymed poems.

Some stories almost seem chosen more for their setting than to widen the range of writing or genre. Canada, Sydney, South Africa and many other Commonwealth settings appear. Little's left of Old Blighty but for clubbing, airports, shift-work and multicultural dramas.

I liked Burrows, Yassin-Kassab, and Mohanty. Alasdair Gray's fun. I should read him more. Catherine Smith remains unconvincing - little grasp of visuals or sonics, it seems to me. The Zinneman-Hope poem sequence extract has far too many line-breaks given its proximity to prose. Sampson's is better. Desai's disappointing, Lambert's piece is inconsequential, and Hartman's goes on far too long.

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