6 Shorts 2017

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The Finalists For the 2017 Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award

KATHLEEN ALCOTT | BRET ANTHONY JOHNSTON | RICHARD LAMBERT | VICTOR LODATO | CELESTE NG | SALLY ROONEY

When I read this book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

10 thoughts on “6 Shorts 2017

  1. Reputation Management by Kathleen Alcott

    “…all she had to do was write three hundred words, essays in miniature, that made her clients seem more impressive and decent than they were.”

    Ironically and somewhat synchronously, I only decided to review this book as part of my own reputation management, from genre to genre and literature, literature as genre. My ability to deploy abstrusions with made-up words. “; time existed only vis-à-vis the proof it had been filled.” My rationale, my raison d’être at the age of 71. The world contained on one’s smartphone, where to go and how to get there by google maps. Where to kindly save someone’s hat bowling away in the wind might put deadly nerve agent on your skin? This is a satisfyingly abstruse portrait of Alice Niemand who works as a reputation fixer on-line, a writer of words that sell the client despite what google might already hold about that client. A woman of one-night stands. We are not who we are but who others gestalt you to be in never-ending real-time, But this leads to conflicts of interest and tragic repercussions in this cosmopolitan, multi-religious world. Leaving something nasty. Guilt, to be blocked by buying things to RE-manage a reputation? First time I’ve seen ‘woodshed’ used as a verb. Thanks Stella Gibbons for setting that new use in motion.

  2. Half of What Atlee Rouse Knows about Horses by Bret Anthony Johnston

    “The herd spread and gathered, spread and gathered, one tremulous and far-ranging body, until they came together in a gorgeous line, a meridian dividing before and after.”

    Eventually as a gestalt of a massive flag unfurling. The poignant life story, going in and going of the timeline, of Atlee in Texas, and the horses that were his mutual nose-breathing, if not whispering, friends or objective-correlatives, together or singly, one horse called Buttons — that he gave his daughter — who could never turn left because of its constant clockwise carnival training. His wife, and stories he told her, till she went with the stories, as he would eventually, too, the colt with a newborn’s legs as would his own legs become, a carousel horse to ride that circle of Buttons again after he dies, I wonder? Learnt memory still intact. A flag still unfurling. Half kept, half left.
    The previous story was learnt memory of google, here of unbridled nature itself. Horseness with gargle froth, mebbe.

  3. The Hazel Twig and the Olive Tree by Richard Lambert

    “: a lost story of Jorge Luis Borges…”

    “Yet it was in this period that he began to publish his first fiction, initially a series of pseudo-biographies which drew upon named sources,…”

    An ingenious, mind-lateralising story for all fans of Borges, involving the latter’s lost story involving Tristan and Isolde, and involving the man writing this and the peer academic who decried his theories (also describing them as a hoax much like Ligotti’s central hoax) about this lost story in a parallel situation with Borges’ own losing his own loved one to another man, a story (full of footnotes and Borgesian references) as a transgression of Wimsatt’s Intentional Fallacy (Borges believing fiction and autobiography to be inextricably entwined) and of my own Nemonymous journal (google this) in the second issue of which in 2002 I published not only the world’s first blank story but also the still anonymously written “The Vanishing Life and Films of Emmanuel Escobada” (google this) in the style of this story itself! And it also seems to refer to the past process of labyrinthising my separate acts of Gestalt Real-Time Reviewing…

    “And I realised then, how deeply that desire for revelation is in Borges’ stories, and how the quest for wholeness, unity, coloured everything he wrote. How it is sometimes the occasional source of a profound sense of one-ness, and at others a sham, an iniquitous, flawed quest producing, sometimes, evil.”

  4. The Tenant by Victor Lodato

    “She’d told them she was a writer; she needed her privacy. The lie had come out of her with such ease that she wondered if maybe she should write a book.”

    But if Marie did, the book turned into a story, I guess, in the singular third person, but one which eventually lasted a lifetime longer, longer even than Tolstoy…

    “; horses and riders kicking up dust under blue moonbeams.”

    It has Johnston’s horse-whispering poignancy (but here with a human being, an initially 15 year old boy from the distant next door house upon which Marie did blue-sky thinking, a boy who came round originally to scoop poop that the cows left after being allowed to wander without a fence onto her leasehold) … and of Alcott’s ‘reputation management’, following Marie’s parents’ death, and the fact that she is not a writer but more of a painter as well as a sketcher in real-time of the boy’s face over the period of his sporadic visits. Gratuities as gratuitous overkill. Blend sketches together and you might eventually clinch the real person. Unless the sketcher dies first?

    “The letters no longer ants, but ladybugs — the Os large enough to catch Marie’s tears.”

    “Marie thinned out the loneliness with gin.”

    A moving gestalt from my own sketchy thoughts in a mind’s eyeful of large print format used in real-time reviewing. I nearly didn’t finish reading it, or perhaps I actually didn’t finish it, like the boy-become-man never finished reading Anna Karenina. I can only guess at what happened. But I’m pretty sure Marie eventually died. I hope that is not a spoiler. Death can never be a plot spoiler, in many ways. Unless it comes too early like her parents’s death?

  5. Every Little Thing by Celeste Ng

    “Then something trips me and my memory opens up and I tumble in.”

    “A smudge on the bib of Becca’s apron. Her hand shaking as she reached for that big black loafer.”

    A woman who suffers from hyperthymesia (I first came across this word recently when reviewing THE LUNGE AND THE PARRY, sorry forget the title) whereby, in her case, she sinks into a Proustian triggered memory like drowning… she is working as chambermaid in a hotel … she herself was once a Lolita, her own daughter threatens to become a Lolita, and one of the guests today seems to be a Lolita waiting for her ‘husband’, a girl with non-alcoholic cocktails by the pool needing to be saved. Oboe playing and Edison’s phonograph, this is a tantalising tale, beautifully adumbrated. With hyperthymesia, no reputation can possibly be managed? No memory’s horse-whispering loud enough, or too loud!

  6. Mr Salary by Sally Rooney

    “At the time he worked for a startup that developed ‘behavioural software’, which had something to do with feelings and consumer responsiveness. Nathan told me he only had to make people feel things:”

    Reputation Management ditched for possibly illicit love, if a forebear is dying of leukaemia. The precious moment as blood cell?

    “It was in my nature to absorb large volumes of information during times of distress, like I could master the distress through intellectual dominance.

    The telling story of Sukie and her Uncle or near-uncle, eponymous Nathan, whose Platonic avuncular relationship with her as a convenient care and shelter system in the past, perfect for a young student Iike her, as we grow to know her through these later signals and our sense of modern inevitabilities. Reminds me of Marie and the 15 year old boy who reads Tolstoy aloud to her, and its imputed avoidance of a certain aftermath… Sukie is visiting Nathan again in Dublin (where the Liffey lifts swollen sleeping-bags like corpses) at least, on the face of it, to visit her dad Frank in cancer hospital, a dad also described as avuncular, now beyond his recognition of her, or hers of him?

    Twin peaks as a shared moment.

    Signals and inevitabilities. Human-whispering.

    Salary/ Sally

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