Anwar Gets Everything by Tahmima Anam Othello by Marjorie Celona Nirvana by Adam Johnson Number Three by Anna Metcalfe Snow Blind by Elizabeth Strout The Shoe King of Shanghai by Jonathan Tel
The Finalists For the 2014 Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award
When I read this book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…
My reviews of the other 6 Shorts series: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/6-shorts/
Anwar Gets Everything by Tahmima Anam
“And when he hauls you up, whatever you do, don’t look down.”
Much hawling of people and materials, this is a story of those in some ex oriente’s downworld backstory migrated to labour on the skyscrapers of Dubai, two torpid towers called Bride and Groom, our protagonist with his wife back home and child. Co-workers getting into cinema films free. The cinematic high-rise finale is dizzying. Short measures taken to preserve one’s own small level world. We all shrink our cloth to match our maximum means… hawling itself, scaling the triangulated coordinates of self.
Othello by Marjorie Celona
“It was the end of August and we hadn’t seen a cloud in weeks. Going outside was like being microwaved.”
I got a hang-in-there as today in UK it’s been a long hot August so far. But I don’t know Idaho or Pullman or Othello, but I guess you can tell me more of their ambiance, the pull-ins, scrapyards, various stains and piss smell in the armpit. This is the narrator’s tale, well, it would be, a 16 or 17 boy or man with a forward flash of the middle-distance rest of his life like a retrocausal drowner drowning… as he contemplates the current complexity of the parental break-ups around him, his Dad and Mum, and why he has a six year old autistic boy called Wolf in his story, and the two bruisers in the low dive ice cream shop he thinks will rob the place, instead Wolf has a fit and hangs like a limpet on to one of the bruisers…yes, you can tell me all about them and the place they are in. I love this story backwards. Wolf’s Dad who runs funerals, notwithstanding.
Nirvana by Adam Johnson
“It was like we were in the past and the future at the same time. I kind of feel that now.”
“I want you to stop talking to the President,” she says. “It’s time to accept reality.”
I try to be light-hearted. “The President’s the one who talks to me.”
“What did the President leave behind? Uncertainties, emptiness, a thousand rocks to overturn.”
Electronic social-media “reputation management” story in the then future 6SHORTS2017: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/08/02/6-shorts-2017/#comment-13371
“I was hired to write a program that would sweep the web to construct client profiles. Creating the President was an easy step from there.”
A powerful SF story, more real than non-SF, a man with a wife who is paralysed from the shoulders downward, striking depiction of their marital life in all senses of this situation, sad (to the point of potential self-destruction) and happy and in between, with a surveilling drone and the man’s electronic projections of both Kurt Cobain and an assassinated US President. But be careful for what you wish for, I say. Even good intentions could go awry in the then future of this 6SHORTS2014…
“I see the President again, on the lawn of a Korean church. I understand that he is a ghost that will haunt us until our nation comes to grip with what’s happened: that he is gone, that he has been stolen from us, that it’s irreversible.”
The next story I reviewed here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/02/18/best-british-short-stories-2014/ and below is what I wrote about it in that context…
“…her head is filled with images of ants raining from ceiling to floor. They are flooding the room like the sand of an egg timer.”
A story in China of a Chinese teacher of English called Miss Coral, replaced by a real Englishman to teach English in the school, and she becomes the school’s international hostess, and thus that man’s official mentor. Silkily written, her special pupil Moon (special needs girl), the crassness of that Englishman, the strictures of the school’s director, are all finely felt by the reader, including wincing at things happening as well as being charmed by them. I know this is not a spoiler, being too far fetched in more ways than one, but it is one of my special bespoke theories about a story … Moon was one of Elizabeth Bowen’s many ‘Shadowy Thirds’. The slums flattened, too. City ever quick-changing, skyscraper by skyscraper. Moon and Miss Coral interchangeable. Made it seem even more beautiful and sad.
Snow Blind by Elizabeth Strout
“‘We’re not in the appetite.’ Annie had once asked her brother to play cards and he had said he was not in the appetite.”
The Hawling of Anwar or the Proustian memory of Celona, this is a poignant and satisfyingly stoical short story of long lives, all the clues there at the beginning of seemingly dire and shameful adult habits crystallised by future’s remembering. The story of Annie, one of three children, of her parents, brother and sister, of Annie as sylvan skintone-variable loner as a child … and as her loner spirit projected into or from her grown-up within a theatre career. A story of eventually transcended or tape-recorded shame. White dazzle of the sun and snowblind earth.
“What Annie did not say was that there were many ways of not knowing things; her own experience over the years now spread like a piece of knitting in her lap with shadows all through it.”
Isabel nested his balls in the palm of her hand, as she spoke. “I can’t get ‘men’s shoes’ out of my mind. Men’s shoes. Men’s shoes. Always men’s shoes until men’ shoes, just the sound and a new meaning attaching to the sound, take on an evil aura. As if I’m dreaming about not dreaming.”
“Men’s shoes? That’s a funny expression to have a phobia about. Your tongue must be to blame for pronouncing it with a meaning it wouldn’t otherwise have.” And he kissed her slippery tongue to taunt it back to good behaviour.
—- from BIG SHIP, LITTLE SHIP AND BROWN (in ‘Weirdmonger’, Prime Books 2003)
The Shoe King of Shanghai by Jonathan Tel
“…for above a certain income level death is of less account, the rich maintaining their network of connections in Heaven and Hell,…”
They say if you die in Beijing, you reincarnate as your punishment in Shanghai. If I recall correctly. Like ‘The Phosphorescence’ I read yesterday in 6SHORTS2016 (https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/08/10/6-shorts-2016/), this mind-dazzling story is as if Proust has written a magic realism of the highest quality. Also, as with Phosphorescence, an added ingredient of Hawling building works interweaving through the byways of the main plot of the shoe thief at funerals. Echoing, too, Anwar’s building of skyscrapers in this very 6SHORTS2014. Even the cars parked outside the funeral are associated with shoes. It is hilariously tantalising and is a for-its-own-sake endlessness as a word-hypnotic path towards a maze, whereby several changes of shoes are required. Wolf’s Dad in Othello also runs funerals. ‘Shoe’ and ‘child’ are homophones in a certain dialect of Chinese.
I now note that NIRVANA by Adam Johnson won the award.
All my reviews of the 6 Shorts series: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/6-shorts/