‘The People on Privilege Hill,’ by Jane Gardam

Fiction, 2007 Short story collection, in which a number of situations, often domestic and reflective in nature, are played out with well sketched, believable characters. There’s quite a variety in this collection, and while the stories often drift into the realms of the daft and the surreal, there is, nonetheless, a good deal of feeling and emotion within the pages. Some tricks, some ideas and … Continue reading ‘The People on Privilege Hill,’ by Jane Gardam

‘Attrib. and other stories,’ by Eley Williams

Fiction, 2017 Series of stories which examine and play with the way language works, is used and how meaning and intention can slip in the gaps. Streams of consciousness, digressions and other traits feature heavily and dominate over more traditional aspects such as plot and setting, giving moments of joy and exhilaration, but also a feeling – at times – of irritation, as narratives spin … Continue reading ‘Attrib. and other stories,’ by Eley Williams

“The Bloody Chamber,” by Angela Carter

Fiction, 1979 Series of short stories in which erotic subjects and themes are woven in and bring new perspectives to old fairy tales. The appeal of the project may also put some readers off – while there’s much to admire in the narration and gender power shifts, the use of the fairy tale form can lead to the text feeling quite slow and almost over-balanced … Continue reading “The Bloody Chamber,” by Angela Carter

“Trafalgar”, by Angélica Gorodischer

Fiction, 1979 Tales of the mythic-like character Trafalgar, who recalls travels in time and space, in different planets and situations. Interesting, quirky and something which works well, even if the narrative third-party retelling can feel as samey as Trafalgar’s addiction to thick black coffee and thick black cigarettes. Some of the stories are better than others, inevitably, though by the end, there’s a nice pace … Continue reading “Trafalgar”, by Angélica Gorodischer

"The Man Who Ate the World", by Frederik Pohl

Fiction, 1979 Science-fiction stories from the late 1950s. A curious blend of humour, sharp writing, good ideas and impenetrable stodge. Which means that some stories are light, others lose their thread somewhat; in The Waging of Peace, for example, there’s some smart satire on the consumer economy, snuffed and stuffed with some period representation of women, then a boys’ own battle, both of which get … Continue reading "The Man Who Ate the World", by Frederik Pohl

“Happy Days”, by Jason Williamson

Fiction, 2018 Collection of gritty, drug and sex-addled sub and lower class Britain-powered pieces of writing. Williamson’s writing is powerful and persuasive, funny in places and hugely vivid. The slight problem with the book is in the tone – it’s unrelenting and there’s no quarter given to story structures in the pursuit of the scene and situations. Giving up his day job for a life … Continue reading “Happy Days”, by Jason Williamson

“Gutshot,” by Amelia Gray

Fiction, 2015 Collection of short, usually very pithy narratives which feel confusing and almost confrontational on occasion. At their best – and there are one or two crackers – humour shines through the savagery of life and death situations and corporeal failings. There are, however, a number of less engaging pieces which, for whatever reason, don’t quite hit home. Still, well worth checking out for … Continue reading “Gutshot,” by Amelia Gray

"Going into a Dark House", by Jane Gardam

Fiction, 1994 Short story collection in which poignancy, sadness and frequently strange and strained family relationships are, usually, written with some flair and delicacy. These are stories with often fairly slight incidents and narratives, but pretty significant descriptive and emotional impact. As a result, some of the stories can feel a little unfulfilling and the writing can overshadow what’s being written about. However, the descriptions … Continue reading "Going into a Dark House", by Jane Gardam

"Collected Ghost Stories", by MR James

Fiction, 1931 Supernatural tales, most of which stick close to established formulae (mysterious books and texts, eerie buildings) and can merge and blend a little into each other, but pepped up here and there with either humorous touches or the appearance and meta-fictional disruption of a narrator barrelling into proceedings. These are therefore stories to be enjoyed over a long period of time. More often … Continue reading "Collected Ghost Stories", by MR James

"Life is a Dream", by Gyula Krúdy

Fiction, 1931 Short stories, many of which can’t really be called ‘stories’, examining the lives of mainly working Hungarians through the food they are served and eat. The proliferation of broths, marrow bones and sour lungs give the collection a really earthy feeling, with many pieces not resolving and the imminent and sometimes actual presence of death giving the book a dreamy quality. Ten stories … Continue reading "Life is a Dream", by Gyula Krúdy