6 Shorts 2013


Miss Lora by Junot Díaz The Gun by Mark Haddon Evie by Sarah Hall The Dig by Cynan Jones Call It ‘The Bug’ Because I Have No Time to Think of a Better Title by Toby Litt The Beholder by Ali Smith

The Finalists For the 2013 Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award

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

9 thoughts on “6 Shorts 2013

  1. Miss Lora by Junot Díaz

    “Almost every night you had nightmares that made the ones the president was having in Dreamscape look like pussyplay.”

    “Let it roll around in the channels of your mind. This is nuts, you say to yourself.”

    It sent me duly nuts, this Spanglish romp, written pre-Trump era, but somehow post-Trump. A 16 year old boy, with poignant backstory, regularly screwing older eponymous woman, scrawny with no titties. Deepens with each future reading, but I have read it only once so far. Asses and fucks galore with words that stutter in paragraphs and flow like there’s sense in them when strung together; it’s as if he’s screwing into the back of nothing. And they both closed their eyes when doing it I guess. One of them from shock at what is being screwed however addictive it is, the other from guilt, maybe. A rite of passage.

  2. The Gun by Mark Haddon

    “Except there’s no wind this morning, just an unremitting mugginess that makes you want to open a window until you remember that you’re outside. Mid-August.”

    Mid-August now. How many more mid-Augusts left? All different. Some alternatives to other even more different ones. This is a telling story of bifurcation and absurdity of events, often listed simply as deadpan descriptions, like a cow falling through a ceiling, chance choices made, haunting visions seen, a vision like a man in a car watching you cross the dual carriageway with an overstuffed derelict pram. All part of one life, bifurcated several times, till you don’t know fully who you are. Your special needs sister with the light gone, never to avoid a boring, soulless life. Cf the deer’s life (“That desperate hunger for more time, more light.”)
    A story of a boyhood friend absconding with his dad’s gun and takes you, Daniel, as another boy, with him in forays of naive shooting and facing out a bully called Robert… many memories that hang about in under-scored passages of striking text you want to remember. Too many to quote. Too many to make a single you. Life is surely not that rich, unless bifurcation is not bifurcation alone but also recurrence? Not all recurrences are ‘boring’. That desperate hunger for more time, more light. Again and again.

    “A military plane banks overhead. Daniel is both disappointed and relieved that he is not offered the second shot.”

  3. Evie by Sarah Hall

    “It’s inside the daylight. Making each other wet. It’s all the way in. In.”

    Three students, two men, one woman, their backstory, one of the men and the woman marry, a gradual accretion of sexual desire in the woman in later years with her husband, at first with the aid of pornography, then with the other man as a third participant. A contextually disguised story from the Pan Book of Horror, where the sexual urge becomes an insane monster as well as a physical disease. Powerful and gratuitous. No way you would want to meet this monster in a dark alley nor in book where you don’t expect it. But once having met it, you have mixed feelings about enjoying it as a literary work or even about becoming a monster yourself. The ultimate spoiler.

  4. The Dig by Cynan Jones

    “The way was to have a minute hesitation before doing things. This came from trying to be eager and cautious at the same time around his father.”

    “They had to couple the right dogs. Dogs that could work together at rat could fight at a badger dig, as if they sensed the individuality of the process.”

    “But the big gypsy seemed to be rapt, a pasty violence setting in his eyes as he listened and watched Messie, his bitch, solidify, focus. Finally, the dog let out a low whimper of desire.”

    Almost an echo of the human urges in the previous Evie story but here more animal, somehow more honourable amid gypsies and countryfolk with less base but more basic instincts, but here there is more to fight for, less selfish, more harum scarum yet with formal pecking orders of hunters and prey, to link into a rough-shod Gaia. A running or digging to earth with adept choice of bitch and dog against rat, badger, boar and mink, mink as a sort of consolation prize. A gawky boy, bullied at school, his first such dig, a sort of coming of age with his pup. Lived this through him. And I felt scored over and run to ground myself by the pithy prickly paragraphs. Beyond sex.

  5. Call It ‘The Bug’ Because I Have No Time to Think of a Better Title by Toby Litt

    We enter the world of the Cynan Dig again and the Evie or Lora Orgiastics, but I, for one, sit lurking at the threshold bugearth of this text ready to pounce on digging out my own cure-all bio-punk bug that it generates in moto perpetuo, waiting for this bug to emerge without ‘vultures’ disguised as you other readers getting to it first –

    “For bug installation, no surgery is necessary – the new host simply swallows the bug, which is about the size of my mother’s little fingertip and which disassembles in the stomach; for uninstallation, no surgery is necessary – when the bug detects that brain activity has (legitimately) ceased in its host, it reassembles in the liver and makes its way down through their lower intestine, using needle-like pinions, quickly emerging from the rectum. At this point, the bug is ready to assimilate itself to the first health-host that comes along and swallows it.”

    Sorry for the long quote, but I need to stake my claim as I weave within this Litt-provided Choose Your Own Path to Adventure (a method of ‘fiction’ from its heyday during my own son’s boyhood). Combined with geomancy like, say, geo-Goa, reaping the chance event or the prescribed event like the dying of one’s own parent to guide your path when you visit the hospice, but, meanwhile, who stalks whom – or vultures whom – in the bug stakes? To be or not to be, this consuming Litt-fiction somehow makes the reader feel more real and in control. Or is it just me? Using this reviewing technique as an interface?

    “Fictional characters, even underdeveloped ones, should be accorded their human dignity.”

  6. The Beholder by Ali Smith

    “I wonder what we’d call padlocks if we didn’t call them padlocks.”

    “On days that are still I can trace, if I want, exactly where I’ve been just by doubling back on myself and following the trail I’ve left.”

    Cf THE GUN and its ever-bifurcated trails of fate. Here, also, a near-absurdist,
    Proustian rhapsody, an autobiographical rapture of delirium and clear sight – and things coming out of the body as in the orgiastic sex or dog /bug hunting in the other stories. Here, it is a doctor-defeating body-growth (a green half-crown becoming a sharp plant with briars) in an averagely frustrating life of a protagonist. One where sleep is a hospital ward or a feel for a healing word like ‘sleep’ itself, nay, many words as words that are beautiful objects to curl within , even a word like ‘wank’ willed to be beautiful. And the song of a mongoose…

    The experience of this sexy or sick six is unique, I’d suggest.

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