I wrote a bit on twelve short stories that have stayed with me in A Personal Anthology, run by Jonathan Gibbs. It’s a great project: a weekly newsletter of 12 short stories selected by a different literary person everytime. You can (and should) sign up to the newsletter itself, or browse the site by writer/contributor.
I’ve tried to make my contribution varied enough, and most stories are available to read online, so go have a look!
I’m delighted to learn that my flash piece Gravity was longlisted for Wigleaf’s yearly round-up of the best very short fiction available online. It was published last year in NANO Fiction, a great little mag specialised in that kind of petite stories.
The top list is 50-story strong, so that’s quite a lot of reading for these long summer nights we have ahead, and when you’re done the longlist will keep you going.
I’ve recently discovered Albert Londres (1884-1932), a globe-trotting French journalist who seems a bit like a real-world, earlier, more principled Tintin:
Misery is like any other State. Only those who live in it know it. Others don’t even think about it. And when sometimes they do talk about it, they do so as of a country they’ve never seen, that is to say that they only talk a lot of nonsense.
This is from Les Chemins de Buenos Aires (the extract’s translation is mine), a book-length report on the apparently flourishing sex trafficking at the time (1927) between France and Argentina. In this often quite funny first-person account, Londres follows French pimps from Paris to Buenos Aires, tells of how they seduce or trick women into following them, how they cross the ocean and avoid the authorities, how they set them up in Argentina. It’s quite extraordinary to be transported to such a time and place (and milieu), to hear early 20th century pimps in their own words.
Other works of his that I plan on reading include Au bagne (on the French penal colony in Guyana), Chez les fous (an investigation of mistreatments in psychiatric institutions) as well as works on different subjects set in colonial Africa.
His books are translated in English, but I’m not sure how easily one could get his hands on one. But I’d recommend trying! Or if by any chance you read French, a good few of his works are available for free (Public Domain) on Wikisource.
There were several dead refugees, one dead horse, and the dying cavalry officer who was pinned under the horse. At intervals the cavalryman awoke and faintly screamed. Now he screamed for Mother, and again he screamed for a priest. At times he awoke to scream for his horse. His screaming disquieted the buzzards and farther disgruntled the Poet, who was feeling peevish anyhow. He was a very dispirited Poet. He had never expected the world to act in a courteous, seemly, or even sensible manner, and the world had seldom done so; often he had taken heart in the consistency of its rudeness and stupidity. But never before had the world shot the poet in the abdomen with a musket. This he found not heartening at all.
from A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller
Excited by my own sex, I felt light-headed and generous. All sense of hunger had left me. I decided to startle the placid town with my sex, but not by copulating with these suburbanites still asleep in their bedrooms. I would mount the town itself, transform Shepperton into an instant paradise more exotic than all the television travelogues that presided over their lives.
-from The Unlimited Dream Company, by JG Ballard
(You can find an interview with Ballard in The Paris Review, where he says, among other things that the title of this novel was a mistake, as it sounded “like a jeans emporium”.
The latest instalment of the brilliant Unthology series was launched yesterday. As usual, it’s a great collection of fiction, gathering pieces that really work together, without falling into the old boring trap of theme or style unity. It’s as good as it looks, and it contains my short story “Nora and Anthony”.
It’s a theatrical romantic extravaganza, and if you happen to be a Corkonian, the set was fashioned after the Everyman Theatre.
“Kipple is useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match or gum wrappers or yesterday’s homeopape. When nobody’s around, kipple reproduces itself. For instance, if you go to bed leaving any kipple around your apartment, when you wake up the next morning there’s twice as much of it. It always gets more and more.”
“I see.” The girl regarded him uncertainly, not knowing whether to believe him. Not sure if he meant it seriously.
“There’s the First law of Kipple,” he said. “‘Kipple drives out nonkipple.’ Like gresham’s law about bad money. And in these apartments there’s been nobody there to fight the kipple.”
“So it has taken over completely,” the girl finished. She nodded. “Now I understand.”
“Your place here,” he said, “this apartment you’ve picked – it’s too kipple-ized to live in. We can roll the kipple-factor back; we can do like I said, raid the other apts. But-” He broke off.
Isidore said, “We can’t win.”
Do androids dream of electric sheep, Philip K. Dick