Tuesday 26 May 2020

In praise of short stories

I do love short stories, whether published in a magazine, an anthology or a collection. I enjoy them if they're written by people I know and by authors new to me. I know (because I write them) that it takes just as much skill to write short stories as long ones, and certainly a different set of skills.

The books pictured are just a few of the short-story books I have. Amongst the others are Leo Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories (surprisingly accessible) and a Doctor Who collection that was published to mark 50 years of the great man (pre-Jodie Whittaker). Fair to say, I think, I have varied taste.

At the moment, I'm reading Bryant & May: England's Finest by Christopher Fowler. The stories are great and the writing is amazing, of course, but I think his full-length novels featuring these two characters are better. (He'll be crying all the way to the bank.) On the other hand, Property by Lionel Shriver is every bit as good as her novels. Closer to home, my writing pal Louise Jensen, well-known for her terrific psychological thrillers and about to break into the romance market under her nom de plume Amelia Henley, has just had a short story accepted by My Weekly magazine.

Do you think an author's short stories can be an indication of that person's style as a writer of novels, and vice versa, or are they such different media as to necessitate separate appraisal?

Tuesday 19 May 2020

You've let me down, you've let yourself down

I rarely struggle for something to write on this blog, but since my last post I've not felt inclined. I've been in a bit of a grump, and I'm sure - well, I know from what people have said - that I'm not alone.

For the last few weeks, I've almost enjoyed the lockdown: not the effects on health and the appalling statistics and the incompetence of the government, but the cleaner air, the increase in bugs and birds in my garden, the quiet and the level of courtesy that seemed to be growing. I started to think perhaps we were moving towards a kinder, gentler world.

And then BoJo spoiled everything with the ridiculous announcement about not going to work unless you had to go to work, and not using public transport unless you had to use public transport, and not being able to see your parents unless you put your house on the market and they booked a viewing. Almost overnight, something changed. People are saying 'Sod it.'

My daily walks have been restricted to places I can reach without getting into the car, because I've been following orders. People have been respecting my two-metre exclusion zone and moving out of the way with a smile, a wave and sometimes even a cheery word. On Sunday, though, we went into our nearby woodlands (the ones threatened with destruction) and there were people everywhere, not just family groups, but also gaggles of all sorts, heads down, not moving to the side, not smiling, not even acknowledging anyone else's existence.

And then there's the litter that has suddenly reappered. Why would you go to the trouble of venturing into the nearest thing we have to countryside and then leave a trail of paper and plastic? Who has been so desperate for a coffee that they've been to Starbucks, carried their cup on to the footpath and then just dropped it?

My rose-tinted specs have been consigned to the bin. I'm  disheartened. My message to the public is this: I'm very disappointed in you.

Monday 4 May 2020

One thing leads to another

A favourite film in the Thorley household is Field of Dreams. Even if you've never watched it, you might have heard people quoting the line 'If you build it, he will come.' It's a lovely film and if you have time (!), I recommend you take a look. The film is great, but the book on which it is based is even better: Shoeless Joe by W P Kinsella. On the edition that I have there is a quote on the cover from Andrew Kaufman who says: 'The movie only captured half the magic of the book. This is a masterpiece.' Can't argue with that. It has moved on to the shortlist of titles from which I shall choose one to take with me on Desert Island Discs one day.

Anyway, author J D Salinger features in Shoeless Joe, so I was moved to read Catcher in the Rye. I've tried to do this before, but just found Holden Caulfield so irritating I couldn't get very far. This time, however, I made it to the end. Sorry, but I still don't like it.

After a quick Jack Reacher to cleanse the palate, I 've now moved on to Thomas Hardy's Return of the Native, which is mentioned in the Salinger book. I've not read this for many a long year and I'm really enjoying it. It's one of those book that needs reading word by word, if you know what I mean. It is from its pages that I've gleaned today's Word of the Day for the thread I'm running on my author Facebook page. Perhaps for the sake of continuing the connection, I should now watch the film of the book, but the only version I can find stars Catherine Zeta Jones and Clive Owen, which doesn't exactly blow my skirt up.

The question is, then, what is the next chain in this link? Any suggestions?