Quote #19: Axolotl, by Julio Cortázar

There was a time when I thought a great deal about the axolotls. I went to see them in the aquarium at the Jardin des Plantes and stayed for hours watching them, observing their immobility, their faint movements. Now I am an axolotl.

– Axolotl, by Julio Cortázar (from Las Armas Secretas / The Secret Weapons)

 

Cortázar’s stories are just the stuff you need if you want your brain flipped sideways. The story “Axolotl” (you can read it here) is from the 1956 Spanish-language collection called Final del Juego. I read it in French in a book called Les Armes Secrètes, which collects 11 stories instead of the 5 in the original Las Armas Secretas. In English, it seems to be included in the collection Blow-Up and Other Stories, which gather yet a different selection. Jesus, foreign publishers, why mess with a good thing? Go figure. Anyway, pick up any of Cortázar’s books of stories, and teach your cortex the old back-flip.

 

d6f64dfd97567d71792cfc90ca5b241e (1)

Advertisements

A FRANCO-IRISH HISTORY OF CRUELTY: an essay up at Threshold

I have a piece up at Threshold (a great resource for short story writers / lovers, by the way).

It’s a cross-reading of Kevin Barry’s ‘A Cruelty’ and Guy de Maupassant’s ‘Le Crime au Père Boniface’, two short stories that have stayed with me long after I read them, and that have plenty in common. Both feature men whose innocence make them ill-adapted to the world around them, and who’ll fall prey to their fellow men’s cruelty.

There’s some personal (hopefully) relevant anecdotes peppering the piece as well, so this really is a hybrid bit of writing. Hope you like it.

 

Depressing numbers for short story writers

This article by Chris Power in the Guardian looks at the so-called “renaissance of the short story” that article after article (often in the Guardian itself, ironically I would say if irony wasn’t such a quaint concept):

In 2017, almost 50% more short story collections were sold than in the previous year. It was the best year for short stories since 2010. Booksellers are reporting a surge in popularity for the form, commentators note publishers are buying more collections and issuing them with greater care and enthusiasm; in December the newcomer Kristen Roupenian cut five- and seven-figure deals in the UK and US after her New Yorker story “Cat Person” went viral. 

Alright, sounds great, but Power takes a closer look:

if we aren’t living through a renaissance of the short story, how to explain those booming sales figures? Let’s break them down. Collections by Tom Hanks, one of the world’s biggest film stars, and Jojo Moyes, one of its bestselling authors, represent 22% of that total: £1.3m in sales.

Have a good day.

The Proverb Zoo – a short story collection, out May 2018

I am very truly delighted to say that my short story collection The Proverb Zoo will be published this May in Ireland by The Penny Dreadful Press.  There even was an official announcement and everything, so it’s real.

The book collects fifteen short stories, a good number of which have been published in magazines (in I think something like five different countries!) over the last few year. Those stories vary in length (three of them must be a couple of pages long, while others are definitely on the chunky side) and styles. There are minute miracles, shipwrecks, gameshows, IKEAs, kite-flying, severed legs… now, now*. Enough. I just hope it’s a Zoo you’ll want to visit. Spend time with those beasts.

Exact date of publication is yet to be announced, and for those of you in Ireland,  there WILL be a launch, and you’re all invited.

The Proverb Zoo Cover

*This is my sales pitch. I am new at this.

Quote #18: Charles Baxter

“Daddy?” He feels his elbow being picked at. “Daddy!” His daughter is holding her clarinet as if she is about to hit him with it. Behind her brown-rimmed glasses her eyes are fierce. She looks like a twelve-year-old district attorney with a good case and witnesses. “I was going to practice,” she says.

from “Prowlers”, in A Relative Stranger, by Charles Baxter

I love Charles Baxter. I love Charles Baxter. He’s a master; his short stories are intense little nuclei of goodness. Not all like this previous sentence of mine. He’s good. He’s good – his stories radiate kindness. I can pick up pretty much any of his stories and within a couple of pages I’ll have stopped three or four times to ponder some brilliant, sneaky line.

Unsung Stories open to submissions

Unsung Stories

London-based publisher Unsung Stories are open to submission until February 26th. They’re looking for speculative fiction, and accept novels as well as “sets of novellas or novelettes, interlinked short fictions and the like”.

If you’ve read their books, you’ll know they have quite a relaxed approach to genre,  and publish authors who merrily write across the borders of fantasy, science fiction and whatever other categories of the fantastic and weird you might come up with. (They’ve published a noir sci-fi novel in verse, so you see what I mean.)

They’re well worth checking out even if you’re don’t have a manuscript looking for a home. I’d recommend in particular You Will Grow Into Them, a collection of dark and weird short stories by Malcolm Devlin, and Aliya Whiteley‘s The Arrival of Missives.