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.

Reviews of short story collections

Single-author collections

A

B

C

  • "Multitudes" by Lucy Caldwell (Faber, 2016) [The narrators like going into other people's rooms while they're away. High achieving, role-model girls in school and underage smoking feature, as do babysitters and music lessons. More generally, the young narrators seek older people whose lives they can learn something from. I enjoyed most of the stories. It's a page-turner.]
  • "Intimacies" by Lucy Caldwell (faber, 2021) [The pieces (bar perhaps the last) are all very readable - at times erring on the side of readability. The issues aren't always "explored". A situation arises that forces a decision. Memories either help the decision-making or retrospectively help explain why the decision was made. The strands that comprise the better stories sometimes seem rather contrived (e.g. the Noah book vs the multiple-choice book in "All the people were mean and bad"). That said, I think "Words for things" and ""All the people were mean and bad" are good.]
  • "The early stories of Truman Capote" by Truman Capote (Penguin, 2015) [He started writing seriously at 8. By then he knew he'd rather be a girl. These rediscovered pieces were written in his (early) teens. Stories often begin with the weather and end with a rather unexpected emotional reaction to events.]
  • "Stories of your life" by Ted Chiang (Tor, 2002) ["Story of Your Life" is excellent]
  • "The Cusp of Something" by Jai Clare (Elastic Press, 2007) [I like their tone - the lack of info-dumps, the wealth of inner voice. Information's delayed (sometimes forever), creating a tension that often replaces that of plot. Description is more atmospheric than symbolic. No families, old people, or illness. No confidantes. No career plans, routines or calculation. No world events or politics. Instead there are islands, empty cities, post-catastrophe emptiness of landscapes, missing lovers imagined or sought, serial lovers and female sexual frustration all depicted in episodic paragraphs.]
  • "Dreaming in Quantum" by Lynda Clark (Fairlight Books, 2021) [The proportions of Sci-Fi, Realism, Magic, etc vary and don't always suit me. There are lots of dogs and severed arms. She likes withholding information - no blatent info-dumps. The life/non-life boundary interests her - cloning, bionics, taxidermy.]
  • "The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories" by Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury, 2006) [I read the title story, "The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse", skimmed the rest then gave up.]
  • "The Cambridge Mysteries" by Barbara Cleverly [4 whodunits set around Cambridge]
  • "Daddy" by Emma Cline [When a man and woman meet, the possibility of sex hovers, along with who's in control, who wins. The role of fathers (absent and otherwise) is examined. The stories don't always have strong "plots" (though Son of Friedman has a good set-up). I liked the stories - undramatic, with an accumulation of detail that the reader needs to assemble and order.]
  • "One of us is lying" by Sally Cline (Golden Books, 2013) [There are secret life-styles within marriages of convenience, realigned gender preferences, stories which look like re-writes of earlier stories. Interleaved between the longer pieces were stories of 1-3 pages none of which worked for me.]
  • "In another country" by David Constantine (Comma, 2015) [There are no family units. The stories are person/couple-centred, the city/landscape a source of symbolism; plot a sad necessity. Like the distant trains in these stories, or impending storms, one can sense from afar the arrival of long, gushy flurries of long sentences, the underlying apotheosis. The re-used symbols don't worry me, nor the re-used themes. The repeated combinations of these are more problematic.]
  • "A man's hands" by Andrew Crawford (Shepdek Publishing, 2012) [I like it. The pieces are linked by character and theme. There are airports, hotels, stations, bars, visitors from other times. Touch vs memory. Characters returning to places hoping to recover memories. Men age and women don't. Women visit, knocking at doors.]

D

E

  • "Emerald City and other stories" by Jennifer Egan (Corsair, 2012) [Recurrent themes are - blood; affairs that the innocent spouse discovers years later; attempts to recall the details of a significant event that happened years before; meeting acquaintances in unexpected places (China, Spain, Santa Barbara, an out-of-town bar); expectations of fame; ending the first section/paragraph with a story-setting statement. I liked "Sisters of the Moon". And the others weren't at all bad.]
  • "How we are hungry" by Dave Eggers (Penguin, 2005) [I liked the longish "The only meaning of the oil-wet water". I didn't like any of the shorter pieces though.]
  • "All That Is Between Us" by K.M.Elkes (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2019) [The overall standard's impressively high. I liked "Giraffe High", "You Wonder How They Sleep", "Fair Weather", "The King of Throwaway Island", "Flabberjacks"]
  • "The Informers" by Bret Easton Ellis (Picador, 1994) [I've categorised this as a short story collection because that's how the frontispiece describes it. I think few of the pieces (some as short as 4 pages) can stand alone. I prefer to think of it as a novel. I liked "The Up Escalator", "In the Islands" and "Another Gray Area", though I thought they were rather long.]
  • "Taking Pictures" by Anne Enright (Jonathan Cape, 2008) [Frequent features are sexy men, big-framed men, bunches of tissues, and women (especially mothers) dying of cancer. Even when I didn't especially like a story as a whole, there are usually interesting aspects or passages]
  • "Distant voices" by Barbara Erskine [Standard stories about ghosts, affairs, childlessness and misunderstandings using many stock "Father Brown" characters along with little sons of single mothers, and drug smugglers. Their language varies much less than their profession/class does. If you care for diversity, go elsewhere. And the plots aren't outstanding. Sometimes, yes, it is all a dream. And yes, a sharp icicle is an ideal murder weapon.]
  • "Sweet home" by Wendy Erskine (Picador, 2019) [Even when stories don't quite work, you can feel sorry for the characters and there's observation and/or witty conversation.]
  • "Ten stories about smoking" by Stuart Evers (Picador, 2012) [The main character is usually much the most thoughtful and literate one in each story. There are many break-ups and house-movings. "The best place in town" is my favourite story. I like at least half of the stories - for me, a strikingly high proportion.]

F

  • "The Fahrenheit Twins" by Michel Faber (Canongate, 2005) [Another disappointment from a prose writer I'd had my eyes on. Too often (e.g. in "The Eyes of the Soul") a single idea is pursued until it peters out.]
  • "How the light gets in" by Clare Fisher (Influx Press, 2018) [The most common topic is "insecure people in recovery". Overall I felt rather frustrated by the pieces. Many had a line or two which I liked but few stuck in the memory. I prefer the longer pieces.]
  • "Singing a man to death" by Matthew Francis (Cinnamon, 2012) [There are first, second, and third person pieces, the main characters often female. The settings are medieval and modern, the locations spanning continents. The only prevailing trait I noticed was mention of the power of song.]
  • "Palo Alto" by James Franco (Faber, 2011) [Having read the first 2 stories I was ready to abandon this book. We always know whether a character is handsome/cute, though detailed description of anyone or anything is lacking. The stories contain many events and anecdotes though, and these have a cumulative effect, eventually winning me over.]

G

H

  • "The Pier Falls" by Mark Haddon (Vintage, 2017) [It was a more interesting read than I expected - I did want to keep reading on. He uses lists. He slows time down, itemizes an activity, then whizzes through 30 years. He surprises us as life does, without hints or fore-shadowing. He's happy to present unlikely events and inexplicable or out-of-character behaviour. He slides into other genres. There are passages of semi-consciousness. There's lots about dying in water.]
  • "Sunstroke" by Tessa Hadley (Vintage, 2008) [The reviews quoted on the back cover mention "understated", "discreet", "excels in glimpses". The quote on the front cover begins "Really very sexy". Take your pick.]
  • "Bad dreams" by Tessa Hadley (Vintage, 2017) [The prose is matter-of-fact - no fuss, no beautiful sentences. She's happy to tell rather than show, so she can get on with the story. She's prepared to dip out of the prevailing PoV for a paragraph to make a point, even if it only a little point. In several of the stories, the main character, alone, has the chance to explore a room or house - often one they knew.]
  • "The Beautiful Indifference" by Sarah Hall (Faber, 2011) [She certainly knows how to spin a literary yarn - the interspersed details are sharp, the progression and surprise of the characters' thoughts are persuasive. The main characters in this book are all female (teenage to middle-age) and articulate. They often display body/emotion splits mediated by animals. The characters are (or will be) unhappy, or someone dies. The themes don't vary that much]
  • "Madame Zero" by Sarah Hall (Faber, 2017) ["boundary issues" are sometimes mentioned explicitly. Even when not, characters note when behaviour is unconventional. Motherhood's a theme too. Not as knock-out a collection as I was hoping for.]
  • "Sudden Traveller" by Sarah Hall (Faber and Faber, 2020) [This book has some plain stories, and some stories with good paragraph or pages. The title story has tear-jerking components (dying women visited by little grandson who's weaned on the day of her funeral) and symbolic weather. I like the "sudden traveller" idea, but I don't think the story adds enough to its ingredients.]
  • "Manhattan in reverse" by Peter F Hamilton (Pan, 2012) [I prefer high-concept SF, or stories with more developed characters. That said, I like the world-building - e-butlers, rejuves, eyebirds, OCtattooos - and I like the idea of SF whodunnits. Hamilton can keep a story interesting.]
  • "Uncommon Type" by Tom Hanks (William Heinemann, 2017) [I'm glad that someone like him has published short stories, though 400 pages is perhaps too much of a good thing. The stories have quite simple structures - hen-pecked husband strikes back, etc. - and they tend to tell rather than show, not leaving much to the imagination]
  • "The fantastic book of everybody's secrets" by Sophie Hannah (Sort Of Books, 2008) [The first story here, "The Octopus Nest", was enjoyable, the 2nd was ok, but I struggled to complete the 3rd. Too few paragraphs are subjected to cost-benefit analysis, too many dead horses are flogged. The same could be said for the book, though there some are characters, plots and phrases worth cannibalising]
  • "The Dog of the Marriage" by Amy Hempel (Quercus, 2008) [A reviewer described her as a writer's writer. I can see why. For a start, there's the brevity of her pieces. Also I suspect that writers are more impressed by the good fragments and less disappointed by the final effect than readers are. My favourite pieces are "San Francisco", "In the cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried", "Weekend", "The Uninvited" and maybe "Offertory"]
  • "Tales of Persuasion" by Philip Hensher (4th Estate, 2016) [In most stories the main character is a fish out of water. In some stories they meet other characters who are out of their element too, knowingly or otherwise. And there's usually someone who apologises for talking too much.]
  • "The White Road and Other Stories" by Tania Hershman (Salt, 2008) [Maybe alternating the long and short pieces wasn't a good idea. I feel that all the required components of stories are in the book, but rarely together in a single piece. The contents needs another shake, more cross-infection, more survival of the fittest.]
  • "My Mother was an Upright Piano" by Tania Hershman (Tangent, 2012) (Flash) [There's often a 3-part structure, and the SF guideline of changing only one feature of reality (or conventionality) at a time is commonly adhered to.]
  • "Some of us glow more than others" by Tania Hershman (Unthank books, 2017) [They're nearly all narrative, edging into vignette but never essay. Bird imagery is frequent, and it's central to several pieces. There are encounters with unknowable others - people puzzled by people, people empathising with octopi. More generally people look to the elements of air and water for transcendence. The title piece contains many of the themes and devices used in the other stories.]
  • "Skin" by Tobias Hill (Faber and Faber, 1997) [He uses short sentences. At the start of sections one's sometimes disorientated. The 2 novellas, "Skin" and "Zoo" are the best. Both use the whodunnit/quest formula. "Skin" begins particularly well. "Zoo" has an interesting storyline.]

J

  • "Prodigals" by Greg Jackson (2016) [I didn't understand all the endings.]
  • "Fen" by Daisy Johnson (Vintage, 2017) [Certainly worth a read, though the weirdness becomes rather predictable after a while. The writing's excellent. The borders between Nature, animals and humans are porous. Even when there aren't transformations, there are similes]
  • "A snow garden and other stories" by Rachel Joyce (Doubleday, 2015) [I was going to give the book up while reading the first story, 'A Faraway Smell of Lemon', until the improvement in the final few pages tempted me to read on. I thought the style ponderous and the characterization shallow. I found "Trees" the most interesting story of the book, though the ending fell rather flat]
  • "No one belongs here more than you" by Miranda July (Canongate, 2007) [quirkiness, humour and similies pervade the stories. I like "Majesty", "Mon Plaisir", the 1-page "The Moves" and the 5 page "The Man on the Stairs". Sex of various types (M+F, F+F, age-gap, commercial, casual, submissive, imagined) gets linked to self-discovery, though what's discovered isn't always good news. Self-transformations are hoped for, and these may involve one's partner ]

K

  • "Walk the blue fields" by Claire Keegan (Faber and Faber, 2007) [The title story's the most impressive piece I've read for a while. It's the endings that I learnt the most from.]
  • "That was a shiver and other stories" by James Kelman (Canongate, 2017) [The most common characters are middle-aged men, optionally single, who cogitate while waiting. They don't get on with their grown-up kids. Women are 'Other'. They've innate intelligence and often like books, feeling they could have done more to develop that aspect of themselves. They're rather death-haunted. They worry about right and wrong.]
  • "Night Geometry and the Garscadden Trains" by A.L. Kennedy (Phoenix, 1993) [Wife battering and sensitivity to smells appear rather a lot, and I think that too often a structural gimmick is used to make a plain biography more interesting. I liked "The seaside photographer" best, perhaps because the author didn't use adultery or murder to force a piece of "writing" into the shape of a "story".]
  • "original bliss" by A.L. Kennedy (Vintage, 1998) [I much preferred this to her earlier book - narrators are more varied in location, age and outlook. They stay in character better too. I liked 'Rockaway and the Draw', 'Groucho's Moustache' and 'The Snowbird' in particular, and the ending of 'Breaking Sugar' was striking.]
  • "Now that you're back" by A.L. Kennedy (Vintage, 1994) [I was happy to see the story form stretched in 'The Mouseboks Family Dictionary'. There's humour (in e.g. 'On Having more Sense') and enough variety in the stories. The 1st person voices sound a little too samey though.]
  • "What Becomes" by A.L. Kennedy (Jonathan Cape, 2009) [Couples fall apart. So do individuals. There are hand injuries]
  • "Indelible Acts" by A.L. Kennedy (Jonathan Cape, 2002) [Lots of sex where emotion involves a third person. There are middle-age breakdowns of various types. The main characters are often men, though it's not always clear. One gets the impression sometimes that the only way to change is to suffer brain injury. She uses metaphor where many would use simile. When describing a heightened experience, metaphors come thick and fast]
  • "Homeland and other stories" by Barbara Kingsolver (HarperPerennial, 1989) [women worrying about relationships; people's place in the world (and in the world of rocks, plants and animals); male vs female perspectives; parenting or deciding to be parents; furniture makers; ex-hippies. Gender politics. Each story has sufficient description, characters, theme and sometimes plot to keep me reading.]

L

M

  • "The Atmospheric Railway" by Shena Mackay (Jonathan Cape, 2008) [I've read 58 pages - 6 new stories of this "New and Selected" collection. 365 long pages to go. Time to cut my losses, though other people seem to like her.]
  • "Any other mouth" by Anneliese Mackintosh (Freight Books, 2014) [an interesting read with a few good stories and an informative handout about grief. "A Rough Guide to grief" lives up to its title. The volume dial's set to 11.]
  • "Secrets and other stories" by Bernard Mac Laverty (Vintage, 1997) [Several of the main characters think about a friend or relative who has recently died. "St Paul Could Hit the Nail on the Head" is my favorite because of the amount of revealing description. I wasn't so keen on the 3-4 page pieces, and towards the end of the book the stories fade.]
  • "Fifteen modern tales of affection" by Alison MacLeod (Hamish Hamilton, 2007) [In "Radiant Heat" the writing's snappy, and the incidentals are interesting. It's much the best story in the book. Most of the other stories are about 10 pages long and borrow some detail or other from "Radiant Heat" - premature births, static electricity or ball lightning as orgasm, and older men dying. Birth, copulation and death.]
  • "Bliss, and other stories" by Katherine Mansfield (Aeterna Classics, 2015) [People easily split into selves - observer and observed - or they're surprised by their self in a mirror, etc. The PoV easily changes. Couples are in unhappy relationships, male arrogance or artistic ambition not helping. The characters, often lonely, have moments of inexpressible joy that they can't find a reason for or can't sustain. The women have bursts of affection for their partners. There are hints of homosexuality.]
  • "True North" by Andre Mangeot (Salt, 2010) [strong story-telling with a clear central character and moral trajectory. Scene evocation is especially strong. stories begin with an arrival at a new (or rarely visited) location, with teasing hints about the plot, then there's some flashback (sometimes a page, sometimes several). There's usually a love interest and parents are involved one way or another. Relationships come to an end or are re-evaluated in the light of new evidence leading to feelings of betrayal, guilt or revenge. A flash of violence (usually involving knives) is common.]
  • "The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher" by Hilary Mantel (Fourth Estate, 2014) [I like the idea of, and much of the execution of, "Terminus". "Comma" was in Best British Short Stories 2011. 2 little girls from different backgrounds are united by their curiosity about a handicapped baby. I liked most of it.]
  • "Leaving the sea" by Ben Marcus (Granta, 2014) [Patchy. I liked "I can say many nice things" Forget section 2. "The Father Costume" reminds me of "A martian writes a postcard home" and high SF. The pieces in section 5 also have a poetic style. "The Moors", in a section by itself, didn't appeal to me.]
  • "Notes from the fog" by Ben Marcus (Granta, 2018) [Several parents die. The characters' lives are de-emotionalised, over-self-analysed. Things that should connect don't. And v.v.. Sex connects to unlikely things. There's a dissociation of inner and outer. Relationship have a therapist/patient tone.]
  • "The Stone Thrower" by Adam Marek (Comma Press, 2013) [These themes and a few others recur (parental guilt and responsibility; ill children; character-based near-future SF; off-screen event later explained; children with pencils/pens; broken glass; bee stings; vomiting/trembling; injections) though the locations and eras change. The main poles are Self, World, Animals and Family, where the Self-World relationship is less antagonistic than the one between Family and World. Public events and parties tend to be used as means towards unpleasant ends when control of relationships in private settings doesn't turn out well.]
  • "Monopolies of Loss" by Adam Mars-Jones (Faber and Faber, 1992) [He's a busy writer, with something of interest on every page though at times the stories lapse into lists of elegant metaphors and revelatory details. There's little dialogue and there are few "real-time" passages]
  • "The Unfinished Novel and Other Stories" by Valerie Martin (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006) [Many of the characters are artists. The stories' tensions often revolve around artists becoming famous or rich (frowned upon even if the work's unaffected, poverty being a badge of authenticity). Waitressing and casual bisexuality are common amongst the women. I don't like lines like "giving Evan a quick, complex look made up in parts of gratitude, flirtation, and suspicion" that pretend to be "show" though they're "tell".]
  • "Everything in this country must" by Colum McCann (Phoenix House, 2000) [2 short stories and a novella, all having a youth as the main character, whose same-sex parent is dead or invalided. They all feature "The Troubles" The short stories feature a first-person youth - convenient observers who don't understand what's happening. The author ventriloquizes (rather than intrudes) when the children can't express enough.]
  • "Chance Developments" by Alexander McCall Smith [5 chatty stories where women often take the lead, being prepared to wait/propose]
  • "Thirteen Ways of Looking" by Colum McCann (Random House, 2015) ["What Time Is It Now, Where You Are?" wasn't much. I liked the other 3 stories]
  • "Thunderstruck and other stories" by Elizabeth McCracken (Jonathan Cape, 2014) ["Something Amazing" is a fast-moving, style-shifting story. I like it."The House of Two Three-Legged Dogs" is too long - the worst story.]
  • "Stranded" by V.L. McDermid (Flambard, 2005) [The range of character types and voices is rather limited, and the story-lengths give little scope for subtle plotting. Conflicts between work and home life are common, as are lesbian couples, solicitors, and one-night-stands that endure. Law-abiding people provide a story's surprise by committing crime. That said, the pieces interested me more than I expected]
  • "the high places" by Fiona McFarlane (Sceptre, 2016) [I liked "Unnecessary Gifts" and "The Movie People" most. Several of the other stories were interesting too]
  • "This Isn't The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You" by Jon McGregor (Bloomsbury, 2012) [This collection of short (and very short) stories was written over many years. "We Wave And Call" begins "And sometimes it happens like this:" which illustrates his linguistic tendencies - the continuous present; vagueness, and diesis. Childlessness, accidents, pallets and buried bodies prevail. He dwells on the imbalance between brief chance events and the mental revisions they trigger, the unwinding of years that were lived sensibly, rationally. Descriptions (essentially static) of mental states compete with narratives whose purpose is sometimes preparation for a description - pictures at an exhibition. Not all of the pieces work for me, but McGregor remains amongst the UK's most unpredictably interesting and successful writers.]
  • "Dinosaurs on other planets" by Danielle McLaughlin (John Murray, 2016) [After reading the first few pages of the first story I knew I was in safe hands; it's immersive. I'm impressed by the whole book. Common features are crystal glass, staying with relatives, dead insects, birds (alive or dead), and people who drift off into the countryside, having to be found.]
  • "Assorted Fire Events" by David Means (Fourth Estate, 2003) [This guy can write. Not much dialog though. Deaths figure in many of the stories. He zooms in on action. The characters hoard special moments - not so much epiphanies (though sometimes dying people figure), more often mundane events, an everyday substitute for the sacred, for communion. The pieces are mostly 3rd person. That and the measured prose gives an essay feel to some pieces]
  • "The Spot" by David Means (Faber and Faber, 2010) [Slo-mo (or zoom-in, or zoom-out) as the action gets intense. Details provoking major asides. Tonal juxtapositions. Lyricism. Essay-style detachment. My favourites are "Spontaneous Human Combustion", "The Gulch" and "The Junction"]
  • "Subjunctive Moods" by C.G. Menon (Dahlia Publishing, 2018) [Adjectives and metaphors abound. They often impress, but they can also collide, repeat, puzzle, or crowd out the meaning. Inanimate objects and substances are imbued with spirit. I liked the variety of the plots and kept wanting to read on towards the lyrical, unresolved endings. There's often a symbolic sub-plot that a lyrical ending returns to. Several stories feature contrasting cultures or life-styles, the protagonist conflicted. Coming to terms with the past is an abiding problem, objectified as wondering how to deal with grandparents. I liked "Farne Island" most.]
  • "Three moments of an explosion" by China Mieville (Picador, 2015) [I can see why he reminds some people of Borges - there are thought experiments as well as stories. Reading "Watching God" I thought "Wow, this guy can write". Hardly any sex though. Not even much love. And sometimes the endings disappoint.]
  • "only when the sun shines brightly" by Magnus Mills (acorn book company, 1999) [I liked most of the characters and the dialog, but only liked the "Hark the Herald" story. "At your service" seemed especially slight.]
  • "The Pre-War House and other stories" by Alison Moore (Salt, 2013) [The style's very show-not-tell. Even when there's a first-person narrator there's little introspection or self-analysis. If the main character's female, there's often a man distanced by language problems or cultural/generational differences. There's frequent scraping, parents' houses, the aftermath of a parent's death, women recently separated, men living alone - absence in general. Together, the stories somewhat weaken each other. That said, half a dozen of them are excellent.]
  • "Birds of America" by Lorrie Moore (Faber and Faber, 1998) [The balance between comedy/wordplay and character development mostly works fine. Sometimes the plot creaks a bit, though I don't know if that matters because the stories are all good reads. In my favourite story, "People Like That Are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk", there's narrational distancing. The characters aren't named. A toddler has cancer. It's strong and moving. The mother (who happens to be a well-known writer) wonders if she'll cope. It's suggested that she keep notes. As usual, the dialog is snappy]
  • "Bark" by Lorrie Moore (Faber and Faber, 2014) [As well as "Bark" appearing in various guises there are rings, cancer, Montessori, divorce, and lonely women who miss being touched. And of course, lots of one-liners. Some are serious and part of the plot. "Wings" is perhaps my favorite story. In this book her stories aren't always more than the sum of their parts.]
  • "Touch" by Graham Mort (Seren 2010) [My favourites were "Blood from a Stone" (with reservations), "Why I've Always Loved Fishmongers", "The Beauty of Ice" and "The Prince". The rest while not being bad, sometimes read as portraits, mood pieces, or researched pieces set abroad, full of people in the aftermath of a death or separation who are not quite coping. Description is preferred over plot. So many birds appear that when I started a story I was in suspense waiting for them.]
  • "Paris for One and other stories" by Jojo Moyes (Penguin, 2017) [There's repetition of plot and character, and of phrases too. I can see why the book sold well.]
  • "The love of a good woman" by Alice Munro (Vintage, 1998) [Image creation is something that's on the mind of several characters in this book. I like "Save the Reaper". She uses interjected flashbacks, one-line memories, and often has more than 3 active characters. Families figure strongly. Years pass. There's a dislocation between events and the understanding of them. Epiphanies are delayed, muted, half-expected by the characters. Readers are sometimes kept in the dark about details that all (or most) of the characters know.]
  • "Hateship, friendship, courtship, loveship, marriage" by Alice Munro (Vintage, 2002) [Powerplays/conventions between the sexes and highlighting of gendered social roles feature in several stories. Repeated details include flat-chested women, tall women, "house, not an apartment", and suicides. She leaves gaps of decades, begins with a fragment.]
  • "The Moons of Jupiter" by Alice Munro (Vintage, 2004) [There's often a jump before the final section of stories. "The Moons of Jupiter" and "The Bardon Bus" remain my favorites, with "The Accident" coming third.]
  • "Selected Stories" by Alice Munro (Random House, 1986) [I like Munro's stories when the characters are opinionated, not evasive. I don't like it when a significant detail is withheld by the narrator so that we can be surprised later.]
  • "Dear Life" by Alice Munro (Chatto and Windus, 2012) [There are 4 stories about women leaving boring security to try a new lifestyle. Each story has a sudden change in narrative style (a change in pace, the amount of introspection, or of detail) at a crucial moment. Often there's a coda.]
  • "Men without women" by Haruki Murakami (Vintage, 2018) [I like "Drive my car" and "Kino" most.]
  • "Making Sense" by Jim Murdoch (fandango virtual, 2013) [a mixture of first and third person narratives, male and female - mostly internal narrators who think that words will help, albeit retrospectively. Several of these personae are trying to talk themselves into understanding something. In the course of their story, some make progress. In searching for sense, different strategies are adopted. My favourites are "Katherine and Juliet" and "Objects of Affections and Intention".]

N

  • "A book of blues" by Courttia Newland (Flambard Press, 2011) [An interesting enough book, though a somewhat disappointing one because I feel he could have made more of the stories. Most have interesting scenes or settings or characters but in few stories are all the components working at their best. Themes? Sexual jealousy. The quiet male winning in the end. Not fitting in with those who stayed behind. Reunions (with old friends or places) where only one of the two has changed.]
  • "Bizarre Romance" by Audrey Niffenegger and Eddie Campbell (Jonathan Cape, 2018) [Illustrated short stories. "Backwards in Seville" was my favourite piece, both for its story and picture. But that's not saying much]

O

  • "Lantern Slides" by Edna O'Brien (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1990) [Stories deal with visiting old parents, brother/sister incest, a mother going on holiday with her son and his fiance. Then more holidays, more visits to relatives, Irish village gossip and continental beaches. There's none of the spareness and power of "Paradise".]
  • "Tell her you love her" by Bridget O'Connor (Picador, 1977) [Several of the first-person characters are unsuccessful with the opposite sex, trying various schemes to improve their chances. They usually have shop/office jobs. They express themselves in out-of-character ways when it suits the author. "Heavy Petting" is the longest and perhaps the best of the stories.]
  • "Where have you been?" by Joseph O'Connor (Vintage, 2013) [There are several fathers trying to have a closer relationship to a son, or v.v.. Dublin is booming, the Irish are returning. The dialogue's good, with Irish history feeding the flames. There's humour too. Yet overall I was underwhelmed.]
  • "Light box" by K.J. Orr (Daunt Books, 2016) [Settings include Argentina, USA. UK, Japan. Main characters (male and female) range from children to old men. Those are the bare facts. The interesting features lie elsewhere: in the tone, the glancing blows. After a crisis, the characters flee, become inexpressive, or the story ends. Strangers are significant. I'd have been happy to have written nearly all of them.]
  • "How to breathe underwater" by Julie Orringer (Viking, 2003) [Death, and children's nastiness to other children feature strongly. The girls are as bad as the boys.]
  • "What is not yours is not yours" by Helen Oyeyemi (Picador, 2016) [There's little description, but many stolen keys. Some characters are ghosts or puppets who I couldn't care about. Some characters are human and I couldn't care about them either. "a brief history of the homely wench society" is especially tedious. "presence" is better]

P

  • "London Calling and other stories" by Jeremy Page (Cultured Llama, 2018) [Stories that range in length from a short paragraph to about 80 pages. Some of the pieces featured meeting people at certain times, and men who had no trouble with women.]
  • "four last things" by William Palmer (Secker & Warburg, 1996) [Lots of snow. We learn of people largely through the author's language. We read their actions and spoken words. The characters don't express their own thoughts. On the downside, the title story is loose structurally (the parts too long for the framing device) and some of the stories don't know how to finish.]
  • "Gods & Angels" by David Park (Bloomsbury, 2016) [I feel for the people in these stories despite the hint of heart-string-pulling. "Boxing Day" has some nice touches and observation.]
  • "Whoever you choose to love" by Colette Paul (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2004) [Overall, I liked the book. The stories had interesting details even if the situations became samey. Bedsit land. Fastfood jobs. Schoolgirls. Weight issues. Luke-warm relationships. People interrupted from trying to find themselves by a change of circumstances. People with arts degrees unemployed or doing low-wage jobs waiting for something better to turn up. Lives changing in a moment.]
  • "Ashes in my mouth, sand in my shoes" by Per Petterson (Harvill Secker 2013) ["Like a Tiger in a Cage" was my favourite story.]
  • "Binocular vision" by Edith Pearlman (Pushkin Press, 2013) [They're neatly written and don't conform to a predictable plot template, though they're all (except perhaps for "Self-reliance", which has a drug-induced fantasy) realist. There are several fat men, some female programmers, Jews, diamonds sewn into hems, central american settings, Godolphin, topology teachers, and old people striking up friendships with each other or the young. Stories tend to have at least one intelligent person - most often a precocious girl. I liked "Fidelity", "How to fall", "Jan Term", and "Aunt Telephone". The newer stories are at least as good as the older ones, and have greater variety.]
  • "Honeydew" by Edith Pearlman (John Murray, 2015) [Rather too many stories seem lightweight to me. The plots are hard to predict though, and there are interesting (sometimes incidental) details. She's prepared to sacrifice credibility for the sake of symbolic structure, but for me the symbolism isn't worth it.]
  • "Chemistry and other stories" by Tim Pears (Bloomsbury, 2021) [These piece seem to be previously unpublished - never a good sign. ... "Through the tunnel" may be the best story]
  • "Alligators in the Night" by Meg Pokrass (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2018) (Flash) [Situations abound where the status of a relation is changing - first dates especially, the main character (always female?) in want of a relationship, lacking the skills to find one. There are also many pets, breasts, freckles and dogs that sniff at guests. The idea of eloping to Alaska appears in 3 stories, lice in thrift shops appearing in 2. I felt that sometimes stories tried rather too hard to repeatedly surprise. Overall the book kept me interested.]
  • "Petit Mal" by DBC Pierre (Faber and faber, 2013) [Most stories have an illustration or two - photos and paintings in plush colour. I liked "Lie", and "Angels" has promise. The styles vary from anecdote and SF to satire, essay and CNF.]

R

  • "Burning bright" by Ron Rash (Canongate, 2011) ["Back of beyond" was the best of an unimpressive bunch]
  • "Don't try this at home" by Angela Readman (and other stories, 2015) [Mothers are frequently the main character though not always the narrator. Mother + daughter relationships are commonly studied. The normal 1:1 mind:body ratio is sometimes disrupted. A physical lack is compensated for by some special power. Also shoplifting; human/animal mergers; absent other parent; late disclosure of main character's name. I thought "Don't try this at home", "Conceptual", "There's a woman works down the chip shop", "The Keeper of the Jackalopes" and "Boys like dolls" are sufficient to justify the book. Most of the other stories were at least interesting.]
  • "How do you spell Bl...gh?" by Ian Robinson (Redbeck Press, 2002) [the majority are rather "avant-garde". Intermittent Light is my favourite piece - here traditional assets (observation, rounded characters and expectation) combine successfully with New Wave cinematic techniques. The title story works well too. Elsewhere the repetition of themes and images brings diminishing returns - the language doesn't quite shoulder its extra responsibilities.]
  • "365 stories" by James Robertson (Penguin 2014) [This collection has 365 pieces, the Quality Control put until extra pressure by the constraints that one piece had to be produced each day in 2013, and that the pieces had to be 365 words long. By the end I'm not without admiration of the project as a whole for its width more than its depth]
  • "Posthumous Stories" by David Rose (Salt, 2013) [On the back cover the prose is described as elegant, 'sinewy and spare', 'crisp, succinct and finely wrought'. I know what they mean. That control permeates the content too - undercover ops, assignations - and the characters who are mostly male, reticent, Pure O. And there's lots of interpreted culture, of non-artists in an artistic setting. Recommended.]
  • "St. Lucy's home for girls raised by wolves" by Karen Russell (Vintage, 2008) [She has amongst the most energetic initial paragraphs that I've seen. These themes often figure - lost children, dead children, children on holiday or at camp, absent parents, generation gaps, water. In general, pre-pubescents are trying to understand elder siblings, friends and themselves in settings that aren't mundane. Although the ingredients don't vary that much, the proportions do, and the writing is interesting enough.]

S

  • "Lying in Bed" by Polly Samson (Virago, 1999) [They're neatly written stories and often a pleasant, undemanding read. "Wasted Time" is my favourite - I liked the punchline, the relative brevity of the story and the spare characterisation.]
  • "Tenth of December" by George Saunders (Bloomsbury, 2013) [I think the title story's the best in the book. I also like "Victory Lap", "Sticks", "Home", and "My Chivalric Fiasco" too.]
  • "In Dreams Begin Responsibilities and other stories" by Delmore Schwartz (Souvenir Press, 2003) [First-generation parents who get rich by doing something like insurance tend to have layabout offspring, impressed by their own witticisms. There's a lot about how success can't be measured by money or publications, or even by the effort expended. The writing style takes some getting used to. It seems stodgy in places, and sometimes the author seems to intervene when "showing" fails]
  • "The loneliness of the long distance runner" by Alan Sillitoe (Harper Perennial, 2007) [I think nowadays there'd be less literary compromise - the first-person syntax would be simpler. Amongst the other stories, which haven't aged that well, are many book readers, unhappy couples, dead fathers, loners, and challengers of authority.]
  • "Constitutional" by Helen Simpson (Jonathan Cape, 2005) [Lots about cancer and Altzheimers. Lots of people pondering about life and relationships. All in all, alright I suppose.]
  • "Cockfosters" by Helen Simpson (Jonathan Cape, 2015) [In most of these stories the main character tells us the story of their life punctuated by events in the current time frame - musing on the past while having a meal or looking at a clock or waiting for an appliance to be mended. "Moscow" and moreso "Berlin" are the best of a disappointing bunch.]
  • "Free love and other stories" by Ali Smith (Virago, 1995) [Most of the couples are imminently breaking up. The collapse will be sudden because it's already happened internally. For the most common character type a moment of respite from stress triggers a flight response. When previously unadmitted thoughts have a chance to be made manifest, they blossom, though not in ways that makes return impossible. The straying characters are lucky in who they meet: thoughtful lorry drivers, old ladies in supermarkets, interested waitresses - no wierdos.]
  • "the first person and other stories" by Ali Smith (Penguin, 2008) [The same (often gender-free) voice speaks in many of the stories. The roles of storytelling are displayed - telling tales; understanding self by identifying with a character in a narrative that may be self-created; learning by making and interpreting stories; listening to stories others make about you; making up stories that are told sequentially or one inside the other. The narratives are presented as plays, musicals, films, books, stories and personae.]
  • "Other Stories and other stories" by Ali Smith (Penguin, 2004) [stories each containing smaller stories. The narrative/imagery patterns can sometimes appear somewhat gimmicky, the characters leaving no mark in the big world, affecting one other person, if that. She uses "you" more than many other people do, often in the first sentence. Her scene shifts are sometimes never explained, or explained unconvincingly, or retrospectively.]
  • "Public Library and other stories" by Ali Smith (Penguin, 2016) [Plots can sometimes seem indulgent. She likes using strange connections and what comedians describe as "callbacks". Typically the narrator's mind drifts when there's nothing much else to do. There are lists (names of roses, for example) and concluding lyrical flourishes. There are interesting observations and phrases. She likes using dreams. Her child characters all seem much the same whatever their age.]
  • "Grand Union" by Zadie Smith (Hamish Hamilton, 2019) [several pieces feature a storyteller ]
  • "The virginity of famous men" by Christine Sneed (Bloomsbury, 2016) [Differences in age, fame, wealth and beauty create insecurity in relationships - divorce and a beautiful person feature in nearly all the earlier stories. There are no problems with the believability of the characters, or the quality of the observations. However, I preferred the stories on other themes.]
  • "L'amore a Londra e in altri luoghi" by Flavio Soriga (Bompiani, 2009) [The first story, "Aprile", is much the longest. In 45 pages in the first person a male describes his life episodically, developing themes - island vs city; poetic past vs prose present; his friend Claudio's life compared with his own; his mother, grandmother and religion; the father who left; forgiveness; and his niece. In the end there was more variety than the early stories led me to expect.]
  • "Olive, Again" by Elizabeth Strout (Viking, 2019) [I wasn't impressed either by the individual stories or the sum of the parts. There are many ex-partners, deaths, etc that raise the emotional stakes, but there's little return.]
  • "All That Man Is" by David Szalay (Vintage, 2016) [males in a european setting experiences a pivotal moment in life, though they might not realise at the time. Cars and journeys figure in many of the stories. The men's aims aren't complex, nor are their schemes. They want more money, women, and fame.]
  • "Learning to Swim and Other Stories" by Graham Swift (Picador, 1994) [Separated parents and dead parents are common themes, along with one parent having an affair that the other knows about.]
  • "England and other stories" by Graham Swift (Scribner, 2015) [There's often little action, and the storytime duration may only be minutes. Backstory and musing dominate, the main characters being thoughtful and analytical. Many of the stories involve men (usually 2) who've been friends for a long while. Widowers and people whose father died early populate the book. A few male+female couples also feature. There are stories about people who survived WW1 and/or WW2, which adds to the book's old-fashioned feel. He likes to associate a place or a minor, arbitrary object with a significant event. The final (title) story is much the best]

T

  • "Broken Things" by Padrika Tarrant (Salt, 2007) [no 2 minds seem to be inhabiting the same world - each story's dominated by an individual who's equally at home with Angels and Giros (the latter a UK reference), and who interface with others via essentials - food, housing, and sometimes love. Most stories are in the first person - main characters in the third person usually die. There's quite a lot of death, abandoned babies, thin films on objects, and wings - birds and angels. Striking similes abound]
  • "Wrote for luck" by D.J. Taylor (Galley Beggar Press, 2015) [Many concern social/work situations that become awkward, with several lawns. All the pieces have credible characters who often make a decision during the story, but that's as far as it goes.]
  • "Sandlands" by Rosy Thornton (Sandstone Press, 2016) [The stories are rather traditional, set in Suffolk, sharing many details and locations. I think "High House" was my favourite. Lots of fog and mist. Middle-aged people reflecting on the past. Research worn heavily. Repeated phrases in italics. Very little crisis-resolution, or change in the main character. Chatty info-dumping. The past repeating itself. Saturated air/soil. Normal states of mind. Much the same diction throughout.]
  • "Little Red Transistor Radio from Trieste" by Dragan Todorovic (Nine Arches Press, 2012) [I thought the first story was good, the 2nd even better, the 3rd memorable. Plateau'd a bit for me after that, but he's a find. Yes, there's a lot of hurt and pain, but sometimes love wins through, if you like that sort of thing.]
  • "Mothers and Sons" by Colm Toibin (Picador, 2006) [They're all short stories in the sense that they're single viewpoint, single issue pieces. But because of their length they often move slower than many a novel. There are mothers who were singers, and several wakes with musings on how dead faces correspond to living ones. It's sometimes a new Eire, with Euros, e-mail, burning CDs, and gay raves. I liked reading them, even the ones loaded with inevitability. The final story ends well - like many of the other endings it arrives once you can guess the rest of the story.]
  • "The American Lover" by Rose Tremain (Chatto and Windus, 2014) [Sunsets, shores, power-cuts and people's ages frequently figure. In time-honoured fashion, people act and speak unrealistically for the sake of the story. I liked the title story.]
  • "The Darkness of Wallis Simpson and Other Stories" by Rose Tremain [Characters re-assess their lives in the light of someone's death (or their own impending death). There's dramatic irony, the characters seemingly unaware of what's clear to readers, but I don't think the characters need be quite so cartoonish. The voices are convincing enough. Maybe the stories are aimed at mainstream audiences. Maybe 3 of them are alright. Some of the others wouldn't normally be published, I feel.]
  • "After Rain" by William Trevor (Viking, 1996) [In too many of the early stories the punch line (the deepening of emotion) is stuck on by the author; something not inconsistent with the observations in the story, but also something not prepared for. The later stories were better though. I liked "After Rain", "Gilbert's Mother", "Lost Ground" and "A Day".]
  • "Merciless Gods" by Christos Tsiolkas (Atlantic Books, 2015) [Liquid/slime that dries, leaving a residue. Rogue, errant fathers who desert then are later admired, in a way, by their offspring. Bi-curious males. Drugs. Prejudice. Condom or no condom? That is often the question - trust or death-wish?]

V

  • "Aphrodrite's Hat" by Salley Vickers (Fourth Estate, 2011) [The endings are generally interesting, but the setting up can be slow. I liked "Troubles" the most - it has a main character who suits the narrative voice, and an interesting plot. As in many of the other stories, wife and husband don't seem very close, so little is at stake when affairs are suggested.]
  • "The Method" by Tom Vowler (Salt, 2010) [PoV is 1st or 3rd person. Both male or female voices are represented, usually aged 25-40 and street-wise, WASP, in a generic England during the noughties. A few non-linear forms keep readers on their toes. The language is lively and entertaining. The mood is sustained using a catalog of woes. Several of the pieces involve private/secret missions to re-live, commemorate (or avenge for) a significant event. Retribution can easily go as far as murder.]
  • "Dazzling the gods" by Tom Vowler (Unbound, 2018) [It's all realist, the narrative voices usually male, the characters easy to believe in. No tricks. Absent fathers, childlessness, stand-ins, birds, unhappiness and chess appear more than usual. Aside from those features, there's much variety - voices from various classes, various points-of-view, and though there's a tendency towards open endings, some stories nearly have punch-lines.]

W

  • "Vertigo" by Joanna Walsh (DorothyProject.com, 2015) [The language sounds awkward sometimes, using repetition in a nouveau roman way, or to show that the narrator's struggling with words. Sometimes it sounds as if syntax is being twisted to make the language more poetic. At times though I think it's merely clumsy. The narrators are women (perhaps one woman). Other women are there to be compared with. Men are unreliable husbands, ex-husbands or potential bedmates. The narrator's state of mind is sometimes represented by language ploys - repetition, disruption, point-of-view changes, etc.]
  • "We live in water" by Jess Walter (Penguin, 2014) [In many the main character has failed, or their partner has left (with the children). There's often a search/quest of some sort. "The new frontier" was my favourite story.]
  • "You have 24 hours to love us" by Guy Ware (Comma Press, 2012) [Identity is a key theme. Many of the other stories feature false memories, assumed names, or how State/social pressure may shape character development. I like the themes and the style of writing.]
  • "Mischief" by Fay Weldon (Head of Zeus, 2015) [Early stories feature pantomime male baddies (fault-finding, intolerant, and self-righteous) paired up with emotionally submissive heroines (with low self-esteem; women who run the house and have a job who are accused of being boring, moaning killjoys). Stories written in the 1990s still have artist/writer husbands with women whose artistic talents have been underestimated. Infidelity continues to be rife. I liked "In or Out of Love in Sarajevo", the 4-page "Lily Bart's Hat Shop", and "Wasted Lives", the latter having passages that are unlike anything else in the book.]
  • "Attrib. and other stories" by Eley Williams (Influx Press, 2017) [I'm impressed by "And back again". More than enough good or interesting stories to be a good read.]
  • "All the bananas I've never seen" by Tony Williams (Salt 2012) [All have narratives, the narrational duration being anything from minutes to years, but there's always some backstory - it's not prose poetry. ]
  • "The Turning" by Tim Winton (2005) [People sense something, then the moment's gone. The characters' internal monlogue is often over-articulate. The dialogue's more authentic. I like "Fog". "Immunity" seemed weak.]
  • "The sing of the shore" by Lucy Wood (4th Estate, 2018) [None of the writing's heavy-handed. The age, gender and name of the main character is disclosed late if at all. Children seem very grown up. Siblings/best-friends are temporarily replaced by newcomers. The characters don't reveal much. The elements fill the resulting void - dogs bark in the distance, sand gets everywhere, winters are harsh. I wasn't keen on the shorter pieces. Most of the longer stories are well worth a read, their final sentence often alluding to the theme which is often to do with transience/permanence.]
  • "Legoland" by Gerard Woodward (Picador, 2016) [I like "Union State". Several times in these stories I felt that the proportions were wrong - a passage lasted 3 pages instead of 1; a story idea should only have supported a page or two of text, or have been a sub-plot of a longer piece. I liked some aspect of many of the pieces.]
  • "Swimming with Diana Dors" by Jeremy Worman (Cinnamon, 2014) [Many of these 22 pieces aren't really stories though. Some are character profiles, some are half a page long. The first section, "Places", could be one person's episodic memoir.]

Anthology series

Anthologies/Magazines

  • "Turning the Corner" by David A. Hill (ed) (CUP, 2007) [Stories chosen for their "accessibility and for their relevance to the way we live now". "Waving at trains" by Mathew Davey is my favourite. "Peerless" (Rose Tremain) is nearly as good.]
  • "Stories on the go" by Andrew Ashling (ed) (2014) (flash) [Too many pieces read like extracts, or sequences of events without shape. In the "Romance" stories the main character usually begins with a wish that at the end comes true. I expected the pieces categorised as "Literary Fiction" to suit me best. It wasn't so. An exception is "Words by Bob Summer" which has a little twist at the end, but is noteworthy for its portrayal of character]
  • "Head Land" by Rodge Glass (ed), Freight Books and Edge Hill UP, 2016 [10 years of the Edge Hill Short Story Prize. Liked "True Short Story" (Ali Smith) and "Michael" (Jeremy Dyson)]
  • "Story (Happenstance anthology)" (HappenStance, 2007) [the range of styles is wide, though the mood is pretty grim throughout - death and dysfunctional relationships dominate the non-fantasy pieces. "Perfect Curls" by Sarah Evans was my favourite]
  • "The Sun book of short stories" (Transworld Publishers, 2007) ["Henry" deservedly won first prize. Too many of the other pieces concluded too obviously or unsatisfyingly (punchline too sudden, or pre-punchline material too uniform, or too heavy-handed in its misdirection). Sometimes the surprise ending was only possible because information had been (unfairly?) suppressed earlier.]
  • "The Guardian Summer short story special" (Weekend, 11.08.07) [I like the Burnside piece, pretentious though it might be in the context. Most of the others seemed rather slow to get started and lacked crisp descriptive detail. Most were character-driven - I turned the pages to see what would happen to the main character rather than to see how the plot would twist and turn.]
  • "The Guardian short story special" (Weekend, 02.02.08) [Proulx, Julian Barnes, Boyd, Chris Ware (graphics novel), Alice Sebold, and Tessa Hadley.]
  • "Riptide 1" (2007) [I like the pieces by Sally Flint, Chelsey Flood and Vanessa Gebbie. Some of the other pieces, though they're atmospheric and introduce convincing characters, have the tone/action pacing of longer pieces. They're more like adapted novel chapters; the endings seem merely to avoid closure rather than offer an alternative]
  • "hyphen" by ra page (ed) (Comma Press, 2003) [An anthology of short stories by UK poets. Except perhaps for 2 pieces there's little to suggest that the authors are poets (though you might be forgiven for thinking that they're mainstream, and not very young). Pride of place goes to David Constantine whose "Under the Dam" was in a different class.]
  • "Ellipse 2" (Comma Press, 2006) [17 stories by Jane Rogers, Polly Clark and Zoe Lambert. The subject matter's topical (immigrants, separation, etc). I prefer Rogers, but it's a close thing. Whereas Rogers uses variation in style, Clark destabilises using relationships and genders (even body-swapping). Her section had the greatest initial impact. Lambert's multicultural reach is impressive, though I wasn't so struck by her story-telling.]
  • "Libbon 2" (2006) [It's an A4 magazine with about 10 stories that are interrupted by little photos. Stories like "bad love radio" don't feel the need to explain everything. They boldly print some reviews of Libbon 1.]
  • "Iota Fiction 1" by Jane Weir (ed) (2009) [2 factual pieces (one set in Italy, one about someone moving away to an empty house), and stories set in Paris, Malta, London (with many Russians), Arkansis, a foreign city, Florence, somewhere in the UK, Madrid and the US. Many of the narrators are long-term tourists, well-spoken without being pretentious or literary. Pat Winslow's piece pleased me most.]
  • "transmission 11" (Summer 2008) [10 stories, some micro fiction, interviews, articles and reviews in an illustrated A4 format all for £4. I wasn't knocked out by any stories, neither was I bored by any.]
  • "ReBerth" by Jim Hinks (ed) (Comma Press 2008) [Stories about ports. "Right in the Eyes" by Valeria Parrella (Naples) and "Aborted City" by Hatice Meryem (Istanbul) were my favorites.]
  • "The National Short Story Prize 2007" (Atlantic Books, 2007) [You'll admire David Almond's story more if you haven't read Skellig]
  • "Engineering Infinity" by Jonathan Strahan (ed) (Solaris, 2010) [Hard-ish SF. Benford continues to show he can write. The stories by Stephen Baxter and Robert Reed had their moments. Reed's was perhaps my favorite.]
  • "The Book of Other People" by Zadie Smith (ed) (Penguin 2007) [23 character-based stories denoted by well-known writers. Stories by Danticat, Kunzru, Julavits, Lethem and George Sanders had their moments too, though there were more disappointments than delights. Vendela Vida's "Soleil" was perhaps the most successful]
  • "Outside the Asylum" by Michael Stewart (ed) (Grist Books, 2011) [I liked Ben Cheetham's "A Perfectly Ordinary Man" (bedwetting and the Holocaust) and Holly Oreschnick's "The Man Who Never grew Up" (fairy tale mannerisms + child molestation). Neither of the ideas were new but they were well executed.]
  • "These Seven" by Ross Bradshaw (ed) (Five Leaves Bookshop, 2015) [Stories by 7 mostly well known writers with Nottingham connections.]
  • "TLS short stories" by Lindsay Duguid (ed) (2003) [In this book where all the stories were well written and I felt I understood what all the authors were trying to do, Hilary Mantel's story "Curved is the line of beauty" impressed me the most. I liked Penelope Fitzgerald's "The Red-Haired Girl" too.]
  • "Riptide - The suburbs, issue 10", Ginny Baily and Sally Flint (eds) [Ariella Van Luyn's story is my favorite. Susmita Bhattacharya's and Alexander Knights' are ok too. "The Cellar" didn't appeal to me. Tom Garrod's "Carnival" did. Lauren Hayhurst's piece is more than just atmospheric. Simon Davy's story has a ghost whose body isn't dead - doubtless it's been done before but I don't recall it.]
  • "The New Gothic" by Bradford Morrow and Patrick McGrath (eds) (Picador, 1992) [Scott Bradfield's piece about "the young men" was my favourite - borderline gothic. Bradford Morrow's piece was good too - a man steals especially from people he loves.]
  • "Flash Fiction" by James Thomas, Denise Thomas and Tom Hazuka (eds) (Norton, 1992) (flash) [My favourites were "The Stones" by Richard Shelton, "Jane" by Steven Molen, "Bread" by Margaret Atwood, and "A Chronicler's Sin" by Pavao Pavlicić.]
  • "Flash V7.2 (Oct 2014)" by Peter Blair and Ashley Chantler (eds) (flash) [I liked p.6, p.11, p.17, p.49, p.54 and p.75. p.26 sounded too much like a stripped-down journal entry. I wasn't keen on p.30 and p.37. My favourite story is "Rich" by Louise Ihringer.]
  • "Being various" by Lucy Caldwell (ed) (Faber, 2019) [300+ pages of new Irish short stories - 24 of them. Late pregnancies. The Internet. Older men with younger women. In "The Lexicon of Babies" (Sinead Gleeson) Babies began to be born as letters - "Fonts instead of fontanelles". Who will become the master race - vowels or consonants?]
  • "Town & country" by Kevin Barry (ed) (Faber, 2013) [Irish writers. I liked Dermot Healy's story. Julian Gough is near-future SF, which makes a change. I liked Lisa McInerney’s story. I've seen Barry's "The Clancy Kid" before. It's good.]
  • "The Book of Birmingham", Kavita Bhanot (ed), (Comma Press, 2018) [In a few stories it looks like the author has started with a historic event, added some period detail, and channelled it through a character in an attempt to bring the history to life. If possible, they've given the character a personal problem which interacts in some way with the event. "Blind Circles" (Joel Lane) was my favourite.]
  • "All hail the new puritans" by Nicholas Blincoe and Matt Thorne (eds) (Fourth Estate, 2000) [They begin with a 10 point, single page manifesto which the authors signed up to. I liked the stories by Scarlett Thomas, Matthew Branton, Matt Thorne and Toby Litt.]
  • "Postbox: Issue 1" (Spring, 2019), Colin Will (ed) [15 pieces, chosen from 103 submissions. My favourite is "A Secret History of the Shoe Tree" by Kirsti Wishart.]
  • "Courage is a Gift" (M.S Wordsmith, 2019) [Stories by and about transgender, non-binary and genderqueer people. I found several of the pieces interesting. I felt they could have done with further development. There were too many predictable happy endings for my liking, too many pieces that focus on the coming-out moment, wondering whether parents and friends will take it well.]
  • "Raconteur (issue 2)" (Raconteur publications, 1994) [The stories by Joe O'Donnell (an incident at a beach, largely from the perspective of a trinket-seller) and Sonia Melchett were good.]
  • "Nevertheless she persisted" (Tom Doherty Associates Book, 2020) (flash) [Sometimes the writing fails, sometimes the plot does. I'm not into fantasy, which doesn't help. "Anabasis" by Amal El-Mohtar is perhaps my favourite.]
  • "Hidden Depths" (AWC Online Workshopping Group, 2017) [a collection of short stories produced by an online workshopping group formed by the Australian Writer’s Centre. I liked parts of some of these. Though many of the stories depended on plot, the endings were a let down, and the characters weren't very complex.]
  • "The New Uncanny", Sarah Eyre and Ra Page (ed) (Comma Press, 2008) [A.S.Byatt's "Doll's Eyes" was the story I liked most. Alison MacLeod's "Family Motel" is another good story. "The Un(heim)lich(e) Man(oeuvre)" by Ian Duhig contained many fun riffs.]
  • "Elsewhere: Somewhere" (Cargo Publishing and McSweeney's, 2012) [Overall the anthology was better than I'd expected. Jen Hadfield's creative non-fiction was perhaps my favourite piece.]
  • "Short FICTION 4", by Anthony Caleshu (ed), 2010 [Novella-length pieces. The magazine's prizewinner by Jill Widner interests me because it's from a novel in progress. 3 other excerpts have already won prizes (published in the North American Review, etc), and 4 others have been published (in Asia Literary Review, etc).]
  • "pleasure VESSELS" (Angela Royal Publishing, 1997) [I enjoyed reading this collection of 22 stories from the 1995 Ian St James Awards competition, but soon into the anthology I was struck more by the stories' similarities than their differences. 2/3s of them are in the first person, only 2 of them are in any way fantastical, and all have a strong, single-stranded narrative drive. Couples in a critical moment of their relationship are the most common characters, the situation being described for a page or so before the narrative really kicks in, flashbacks providing background information.]
  • "Pulse Fiction" (Angela Royal Publishing, 1998) [The best of the 1996-7 Ian St. James Award entries. Tobias Hill, Julia Widdows, Michel Faber and Mick Wood were my favourites.]
  • "Snapshots" (Angela Royal Publishing, 1999) [10 years of stories from The Ian St James Awards - a now defunct yearly story competition for unestablished writers. Stories from Kate Atkinson, Julia Darling, Louise Doughty. Michel Faber, Tobias Hill, etc. Most of the stories have a non-neutral narrative voice.]
  • "Words & Women: The Compendium" by Lynne Bryan and Belona Greenwood (eds) (Singular Press) [Short Prose (1,000-2000 words?) from women over 40 - some names I know (as poets) and some experienced prose writers.]
  • "Poolside" by Duncan Bosk (ed) (Melcher Media, 2007) [A waterproof book featuring pool stories! I liked Paradise (Edna O'Brien), Interesting women (Andrea Lee), The swimmer (John Cheever), The Isabel fish (Julie Orringer)]

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