Month: January 2016

Young Skins by Colin Barrett | edge of evening

Short stories: ‘Stand Your Skin’ by Colin Barrett

The first in a series of posts highlighting the very best of my short story reading. 1. ‘Stand Your Skin’ by Colin Barrett, published in his 2014 collection Young Skins. “I try to stick to the moment, to the now of the action. Tense is irrelevant. You can do it in the past tense. […] Backstory, exposition, anything that draws back or looks to perspectivize—these hold little interest to me at moment. Not to say that won’t change. Certainly in the short-story form, what attracted me was the way my favorite stories were like a lightning flash. Nothing existed before or after them, and in the instant of their illumination, they are all that exists.”from an interview with Colin Barrett in the Paris Review The stories in Colin Barrett’s debut, Young Skins, are set in the fictional town of Glanbeigh in the west of Ireland. “My town is nowhere you have been,” says the hungover narrator of the opening story, “but you know it’s ilk.” And we do. This is post-recession, small town Ireland. The opportunities for escape are slim. …

short story collections | edge of evening


Stories are not chapters of novels. They should not be read one after another, as if they were meant to follow along. Read one. Shut the book. Read something else. Come back later. Stories can wait. Mavis Gallant, 1996 (Preface to her Selected Stories, Bloomsbury 1997) I love short stories. I read them. I buy them. And I really love what Mavis Gallant has to say about them too (so much so, that I’ve quoted her here before). Yes, stories can wait. But then I noticed just how much waiting some of the collections on my short story shelf (you have one too, right?) were doing. Waiting and waiting and waiting. I blame the intimidating heft of some of those collected/selected volumes. What a commitment to start ploughing through all of Cheever or Carver or Maxwell, or even dear Mavis herself. A short story collection works best for me when I read a story a day until it’s done. There’s enough space left around each story (Read one. Shut the book.), but there’s also the sense of …

We love: Melric and the Dragon

A new-to-us series of books by David McKee, creator of Elmer the Elephant, King Rollo & Mr Benn. Yes, please! Melric the King’s magician, comes to the rescue when reports of dragons are brought to the palace. The King’s soldiers are getting fat & he thinks that a dragon hunt will be just the thing to give them some much needed exercise. But are the dragons really as terrifying as all that? While the soldiers blunder off hunting all the wrong kinds of dragon — kites, pub signs, paintings — Melric sets about finding the real dragon. Melric and the Dragon is sweet, funny and entertaining, and the pictures contain little details that sharp-eyed readers love to return to: the soldier cutting a cake with his sword, the old lady knitting, the pair of soldiers buying burgers before they set out on the dragon hunt. There’s a great short video (3 minutes) of David McKee talking about his work here. It seems that the Melric books have been around since the 70s but I’d somehow never come across them before. Five are …

Anna Karenina | edge of evening

Anna Karenina

Though it was a chore to look after all the children and stop their pranks, thought it was hard to remember and not mix up all those stockings, drawers, shoes from different feet, and to untie, unbutton and retie so many tapes and buttons, Darya Alexandrovna, who had always loved bathing herself, and considered it good for the children, enjoyed nothing so much as this bathing with them all. To touch all those plump little legs, pulling stockings on them, to take in her arms and dip those naked little bodies and hear joyful or frightened shrieks; to see the breathless faces of those splashing little cherubs, with their wide, frightened and merry eyes, was a great pleasure. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy translated by Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky And it’s proving a great pleasure, too, to read Anna Karenina. I hadn’t tried it for years and years, but this time something has stuck, and after never making it past the first book before, I’m now over halfway and hoping that it never ends. It’s not Anna …

Viburnum | edge of evening

As if your life depended on it

You must write and read as if your life depended on it. That is not generally taught in school. […] To read as if your life depended on it would mean to let into your reading your beliefs, the swirl of your dreamlife, the physical sensations of your ordinary carnal life; and, simultaneously, to allow what you’re reading to pierce the routines, safe and impermeable, in which ordinary carnal life is tracked, charted, channeled. […] To write as if your life depended on it: to write across the chalkboard, putting up there in public words you have dredged, sieved up from dreams, from behind screen memories, out of silence — words you have dreaded and needed in order to know you exist. from ‘As if your life depended on it’ by Adrienne Rich, in ‘What Is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics’ It comes back to this then: starting over. Slowly, intentionally. Choosing what to set aside and what to do. Stacking up the days, each the same as the last. I’ve found that repetition …

Window with baubles | edge of evening

January First

The year’s doors open like those of language, toward the unknown. Last night you told me:                                               tomorrow we shall have to think up signs, sketch a landscape, fabricate a plan on the double page of day and  paper. Tomorrow, we shall have to invent, once more, the reality of this world. from ‘January First’ by Octavio Paz, translated by Elizabeth Bishop with the author   Sketch a landscape, fabricate a plan. Here’s a blank page for the filling. Let’s go toward the unknown. Happy New Year! x