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, 21 January 2015

"The Best British Short Stories 2014" by Nicholas Royle (ed) (Salt, 2014)

Royle's introduction is, as usual, informative and opinionated, though he doesn't point out that only 2 of the stories (if that) are from single-author collections. Stories are from 4 to 39 pages long. There's quite a lot of watching people from windows. A few of the stories start in Realism but end elsewhere. There's only a story or two whose presence surprised me. In my comments here I'll stick mostly to judgements. As ever, saying I don't like something doesn't necessarily mean I think it's bad.

  • Elizabeth Baines - Like narrating, memory is creative; it involves choice, and is shaped by narrative expectations. (Yes)
  • David Constantine - (Yes)
  • Ailsa Cox - Well written. The sort of thing I expected to like, but it didn't grab me (Pass)
  • Claire Dean - Another story that begins in gritty realism then slides into something like magic realism (or full-blown fantasy) that can't be mistaken for an altered mind-state (Yes)
  • Stuart Evers - A sort of "Waiting for Groundhog", until the final shift (not sure, but in the end Yes)
  • Jonathan Gibbs - About books, writing tutors and sex. (Yes)
  • Jay Griffiths - WW2. Bombs in spiral staircase = conception and DNA. (No)
  • David Grubb - (Yes)
  • M John Harrison - I liked the style. I had to overcome my allergy to dreams. (Yes)
  • Vicki Jarrett - (No).
  • Richard Knight - A husband's on a country walk while his wife's awaiting medical test results. He sees a dead body. His wife phones to say "it's ok". He doesn't want to tell her (or anyone) about the body. He'd rather go to Morrison's with her. Death can wait. (not sure, but in the end Yes)
  • Philip Langeskov - The longest story - 39 pages - allowing detours like "They felt, or at least Daniel felt, an immediate familiarity in that atmosphere". The story's momentum is maintained by false alarms - in the end no holidays are called off, nobody's seriously ill, nobody disappears and there are no traffic accidents (Pass)
  • Si├ón Melangell Dafydd - Had my doubts about this until it slid into another genre at the end. (Yes).
  • Anna Metcalfe - Set in China. I think I've read it before (Pass).
  • Louise Palfreyman - Loner voyeurism leading to magic realism (I think it's a Yes)
  • Christopher Priest - Good as a genre piece. I'd more or less anticipated the ending though. Also I didn't believe that she could think she was being singled out for observation, or that she could be quite so vague about the money that initially she was "determined never to spend" (No)
  • Joanne Rush - It starts in familiar Cambridge compsci haunts. 2 students marry, move away. The husband leaves for Bosnia. The woman's alone. "When I got back, there was a diminutive old lady in a headscarf standing in my kitchen ... Her smile was animated, but she was clearly dead". She's the first of many Bosnian ghosts (Pass)
  • Mick Scully - Well written. Set in a care/dementia care home (No)
  • Joanna Walsh - A post-trauma, distracted woman. "You had cut but you had not pasted" (No)
  • Adam Wilmington - Well written. A couple have trouble getting rid of a mysterious "it" (No)

Other reviews

  • Charles E. May
  • Katie Lumsden
  • Sarah-Clare Conlon (Manchester Review)([Claire Dean's] ‘Glass, Bricks, Dust’, a beautifully written fairy tale with an uncanny leaning (something to which Royle is a self-confessed addict) … There is a lot of weird stuff in these twenty tales. But there is also humour, warmth, hope, compassion.)
  • Bare fiction (My favourite piece in this collection is David Grubb’s Roof Space)

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