I will be reading short stories tomorrow night as part of a free Pulp Net event in Piccadilly. Details are here at Lane Ashfeldt’s blog, where she is also asking for “ideas for how Pulp Net might usefully regenerate in the future, from your point of view…”
I would love to see Pulp emerge stronger than ever. And don’t forget that its archives are home to many wonderful short stories which you can browse here.
I went to the Small Wonder short story festival on Sunday. I had my first internet meet too! Vanessa Gebbie (whose on-line writing forum I am a member of) and Elizabeth (another forum member) picked me up at Lewes station and we returned to Vanessa’s for lunch. I have to admit I was nervous about meeting for the first time but Vanessa made me feel so welcome and was even lovelier than I had imagined she would be, somehow softer and warmer. She really is all kinds of ace…thanks Vanessa.
On to the festival where we saw Will Hodgkinson speaking about his books Guitar Man and Song Man and how a song can be a short story. He was joined in conversation by a singer/songwriter called Mara Carlyle, and she sung a song in a voice so wonderful, clear, sparkling and gorgeous that I promptly forgot everything else!
Fay Weldon was up next, a grande dame full of wit and experience. She was followed by Yiyun Li, who seemed immensely likeable and interesting. My problem came when they read from their books. I listened for a bit and then my mind began a drift away from what they were saying, the words washing over me as I mused on gawd knows what and then pulled myself back into focus. I thought about this afterwards, trying to recall other readings I have been present at.
When I have seen poets speak their own words they have brought sense and meaning with them (Les Murray reading his poetry illuminates in such a stunning way it really is akin to a translation). However this magic hasn’t occurred when listening to writers of prose. My light bulb moment is in realising that I simply like my words to be on a page. I want to see them, and when I can’t some concentration is lost.
I don’t like reading prose aloud either, although I know that as a writer I am supposed to. in order to check for rhythm and such.
Erm, that’s it actually, not sure why.
This keeps on happening to me, and usually the culprit (not the right word but it’ll do) is Dave Eggers. I adore Eggers, absolutely adore him. I will read anything he writes. Yup, even the self indulgent too long rambles, even the too short (not very good sometimes) flash fiction, all of it. And I will find value in it.
I think he is amazing too in his generosity to other writers, through McSweeney’s and in interviews and so on. But why oh why does he insist on putting quotes on the front of sooooo many books? Then I see the blurb and think, oh, Dave Eggers recommends this, it must be good, and I buy it and invariably hate it. Why do I think that tho’? I have bought several editions of McSweeney’s, and aesthetically scrumptious as they are, the content often leaves me cold.
It’s not just him to blame, I recently bought a paperback for £11.99 (extraordinarily expensive) because the cover blurb was by Ali Smith, so I saw it as an endorsement of extreme quality. When I began to read however, I thought, well, it’s okay I suppose, but not great, and definitely not worth that much money.
Lesson to self; do not be swayed by those you admire, for their tastes are not yours.
(Just off to read my latest purchase, not only is it recommended by Eggers, but he name checks my hugest writer crush Lorrie Moore, it had better be amazing!)
I approach things in an optimistic fashion I think. When I pick up a book to read, or settle down to watch a film or TV show, or play music, I am hoping to be absorbed and delighted. I want it to be great, really, that’s what I am rooting for.
It seems ages since I have been dazzled. Even with the decent stuff I start out thinking ooh, this is good, which peters out into, well, it’s not so bad, before it finishes and I think, oh.
Veronica Mars ( yeah, on and on I go about VM) was great, I was impressed throughout by plot, dialogue, acting, dammit, I even liked the clothes! But that’s it. That’s the sum total of me being impressed this year so far. Sigh.
So what is that about? Am I old and jaded and way too fussy, is there a dearth of dazzle, is it my hormones?
Every book of short stories at work seem to come with some proclamation that this author is the best writer of his/her generation, and is endorsed by x, y and z authors who all agree that here is rare talent. And I flip open the book and read blah stories that leave me cold. I don’t know what I am looking for but I’ll know it when I see it. I can’t write it either, it’s what I want to write and read and watch and hear, for now it is utterly elusive.
(Actually, it probably sounds a bit like Beth Ditto, and reads like Janice Galloway’s “The trick is to keep breathing” and looks like Veronica Mars…seen it anywhere?)
Reading. It’s ace right? Never a chore to sit with a book. (Except, hmmm, when it is a chore. Which would be, say, when reading up for work or a course or something.) I adore reading. Of course. However right now, I just can’t find anything that I want to read at all.
This is ultra bizarre. Unheard of in my life. I don’t even want to read the paper. Sheez.
A few weeks ago I wandered around work and saw a few books I thought looked intriguing, I ordered them from the library and was delighted to be the first person to get one of them. Lovely, pristine book. On opening it though I just slid right off the page. I tried several times, but nothing stuck. No interest.
Same with the second book.
I turned to the pile beside my bed. Nope. Don’t care.
I was given a damaged copy of Charlie Brooker’s “Screen burn”, surely those bite size witty, vicious telly reviews would suit my scattered mind. Hmmm. No.
Actually, the only thing I fancy reading right now (as in this very moment) is an Elvis biography. The definitive bio, whichever that may be. ( Possibly, it is the trilogy by Peter Guralnick, but I don’t think I care to wade through so many words. Give me the juice, the dirt, the sorrow, and make it snappy please.)