End of year thing

I feel like there should be an end of the year post but I have such a lousy memory I can’t recall all the things I liked best. I listened to Nicki Minaj a lot  and I have much love for her. “Did it on ’em” was a song that actually made me go “What the fuck is this? What is she saying?” and then “Oh my god, it’s amazing. She’s amazing. This is perfect.” I’m so glad there is a woman more than equal to the top guys in the field, and that she is recognised as such.

I have sadness that there’s still “top guys in the field” instead of top people. It’s true all over – TV, comedy, writing, whatever. There are the successful men and then the select women who are deemed of rare enough quality that they get to hang there too. Even on twitter amongst the people who tweet about lit stuff it seems there’s a boys club (with separate UK and US branches of these in the blog world too) and only a few honorary women. Anyway, a massive cheer for Caitlin Moran who somehow managed to write a clever, funny, brilliant, best selling (number one on the list for weeks and weeks) book about feminism (even if it is mainly a biography) How To Be a Woman.

Favourite novels of the year are The Canal by Lee Rourke and The Coward’s Tale by Vanessa Gebbie. Fave short story collections are Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower and Ayiti by Roxane Gay. Speaking of Roxane Gay, it’s been a pleasure to read her intelligent, articulate thoughts online in a wide variety of places (HTML Giant, The Rumpus, and her own blog to name a few.)

Fave TV show was Sons of Anarchy. Compelling viewing that just kept relentlessly building. We’re a season behind the US here and I am so looking forward to watching Season 4 when it airs. I also loved The Mentalist. I want to be Patrick Jane, and date Cho.

Film of the year? No idea. I saw Thor yesterday though and really enjoyed it. Home and Away boy has done good! And learned how to open his eyes. How buff? More fun than I expected too. I appreciated the Shakespearean swagger and am really looking forward to Whedon’s Avengers.

Scent of the year – Amazing Grace by Philosophy. Absolutely gorgeous. Fresh, clean, non-cloying.

Meal of the year was in the Fork and Field where I tasted the best pasta I have ever had. Seriously so good that I couldn’t stop smiling. It was Gratin of Macaroni with spinach, parmesan and fresh truffle and was perfection.

Book-selling hurrahs were realising we’d sold over 100 copies of Janice Galloway’s Collected Stories, and selling out of Kuzhali Manickavel’s Insects Are Just Like You and Me Only Some of Them Have Wings yet again, selling heaps of The Best British Short Stories, and ordering in goodies like Roxane Gay’s Ayiti and Breece D’J Pancake‘s Collected Stories. I get a real thrill introducing people to damn good writing and I’ve never had anyone come back and complain about a recommendation I’ve given so I hope that’s a good sign.

More personally, my family have struggled through hellish times this year but emerged stronger. I pack the sad, angry, bitterness down inside me and carry on. What else to do? One of my boys made up a song – “I’ve got an arch of love for you” – and he sings it, complete with arm gestures, to me. I congratulated my other son on how well he dealt with an awkward situation – “I model myself on you,” he said. There is nothing more precious, more wonderful, than my twins. My resolution for 2012 is the same as the advice I give to my beautiful boys – “Be the best you that you can be.”

Happy new year y’all.

The Canal by Lee Rourke

I’m really late with this one but The Canal by Lee Rourke is a bloody fab read. I went to Bristol last weekend for the short story festival and met lots of writer chums. Inevitably the subject of books came up and I raved about this. At the bookshop we were asked to do a new bookseller recommendations bay and I said The Canal was my read of the year so far – I figured it was about time I mentioned it on my blog as well.

It surprised me. What I thought I knew about The Canal was that it’s a meditation on boredom, and I didn’t find that a wholly enticing prospect. I picked it up and put it down a few times before I settled to it. I always approach fiction hoping to love what I read but it rarely happens.

The Canal is good. Really good. It’s not a meditation on boredom at all, although of course boredom plays its part. This is a story that builds and builds and it’s a gripping, absorbing read. A man sits by a canal and thinks. His thoughts, thankfully, are interesting. A woman sits next to him. They talk. They meet regularly, the man becoming increasingly obsessive about seeing her, and the story unfolds.

Rourke uses repeated prose to great effect, giving the novel a “real life” feel and a firm sense of place. I marvelled at how he described the canal so beautifully, with many fresh images. He’s skilled at creating snapshots of London life, from a woman yelling at her dog, to a group of youths whose menace crackles off the page. His writing is damn fine, and to my delight it became a novel I didn’t want to put down.

"My" short story display case, and Janice Galloway, Tania Hershman and others…


Lee Rourke blogged yesterday about his book “Everyday” being sold in a branch of Waterstones. And he had the photo to prove it!

Yay! It’s “my” short story display case.

Today Tania Hershman also blogged about it, because her fantastic collection The White Road and Other Stories is there too.

I love the fact that I get to maintain a short story section in the shop. I change it often, try to keep it fresh and enticing, but I always keep Janice Galloway‘s collection “Where you find it” in there. You may or may not recall me blogging about how much I LOVE this book here and here. I am delighted to say that we have now sold 50 copies. How cool is that!

I also keep Sylvia Plath’s “Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams” there, because, well, it’s Sylvia.

You will currently find Tania Hershman, Lee Rourke, Claire Wigfall, William Trevor, Charles Bukowski, Katherine Mansfield, Richard Yates, Miranda July, Vanessa Gebbie, Ali Smith, Alison MacLeod, Neil Smith, Tao Lin, Sara Maitland, Jhumpa Lahri and Jay McInerney in the case. We have sold out of Lorrie Moore for now.

Short stories are coooool.

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