I'm in elimae

February's elimae is out now, and I've got a piece in there.  Thank you, Kim!

I'm in Flatmancrooked

My Story, Hear That Song, was a semi-finalist in Flatmancrooked's Prize For Excellent Writing Done During a Period of Great Fiscal Renewal.  Love that title.  Anyway, it's up on the site for a week as their Feature article.  Woo-hoo!

Also, for anyone who didn't get to see Claire Urwin's play, No Wonder, at the Manchester Library Theatre, you totally missed out.  It was funny and brutal and sad, beautifully produced, and, I think, should have run for weeks.  Claire did my MA last year (in the poetry strand, I believe), so she's set the standard very high.   

reasons not to leave the house or talk to people

On Tuesday, a man riding his bicycle down the middle of the footpath, ignoring the lovely clear cycle lane to his right, berated me for running on said footpath.  I had no right, he said, and rang his bell at me.  Today, the HSBC telephone woman gave me an earful for not telling her I'd changed my mobile number; when I pointed out that I hadn't changed it since 2004, and that the number she had for me was a bizarre mixture of my actual mobile number and my most recent two land-line numbers that could only have been concocted by her computer in one of its frequent missions to COCK UP MY LIFE, she laughed nervously, and then lowered my overdraft facility by seven hundred and fifty pounds.

I'm going to see Claire Urwin's play, No Wonder, at the Manchester Library Theatre tonight at 9pm. There will be no running or banking, and I expect to have fun.  If you're around, do come along.  

I'm in Litro!

My story, The Explosion of Josiah Bounderby, is live at Litro today.  The February print edition, Issue 92, can be found in various London tube stations and other places around the country (and world!) - check the website for details.  I'm really happy with this - I'm in the same issue at Charles Bukowsi!  And the editor's introduction to the issue says my piece will 'knock you for six'.  Hurray!

I've spend the afternoon so far crouched on the living room floor with bits of paper, a pen, and a highlighter, trying to arrange plot-points of the novel, and listening to Elbow's Leaders of the Free World - not even the whole album, just the song, on repeat, for hours.  I'm not sure what this says about me, but I feel quite organised, even if I haven't gotten dressed by, what is it?  Three pm?  Isn't this the writer's life?   

I've been a lazy blogger...

... though Google Analytics is trying to cheer me up by saying that nobody's even paying attention anyway.  So, what have I been doing? Writing, deleting, rewriting, deleting, ad infinitum; the general idea for the novel is solidifying, even if the words aren't accumulating as quickly as I'd like.  This morning's work lost its gloss by lunch-time; tomorrow I'll have another crack at it.  I've also been doing a bunch of reviews for Bookmunch and trying to catch up on my Christmas books: I'm really savouring Wolf Hall right now.  I usually read very quickly but sometimes it's luxurious to make something last.  I'll be sorry when I've finished this one, though I've got plenty of exciting things to take its place.

University starts up again next Monday, so I'm also trying to get ahead on the reading for that.  The primary texts are okay: the course is Contemporary Fiction, and there's only two novels on the list that I haven't read before.  Although I will reread most of the others, they're almost all books I really enjoyed the first time round, which makes the whole process that bit more pleasurable.  What I'm doing now is getting started on the secondary reading - there's books and essays galore, many of which focus on the publishing industry and culture - the rise of the British book prize is something we're looking at near the start of term - and so it differs substantially from the usual lit-crit fare.  Exciting times.

I've got a couple of short pieces due to be published in the next couple of weeks - more on that as and when they appear - but otherwise subbing has dropped back to pre-Christmas levels; but that's okay - the novel is the thing at the moment.  That, and, well, watching Glee over and over and over and over, which is what I'm going to do, again, right now.  Bye. 

final call...

This is Andy's exhibition poster:

The show's on until Friday, 22nd January 2010.

plans and art

I'm handing in my essay and two chapters for assessment this afternoon, and then I'm going to get some cherry beer with my MA homies.  I'm not sure if I've spelled that properly, but it won't matter once we get our hands on the beer.  Then tomorrow I'll get cracking on the next sections, and resume reading for the up-coming semester.  I shall spend hours printing things and I might underline stuff too.  Oh, yes. 

Now, I know this all sounds thrilling; but in fact, I do lead a very high-faluting lifestyle.  I was in Sheffield just last Friday for the opening of my boyfriend's latest art exhibition.  He's got a photographic installation in a group show, Instinct, curated by Claire Blundell Jones and Victoria Lucas.  If you're in Sheffield this week, it's in an old shop space on the Moor and is on until Friday, 12-6.  His name's Andy Broadey.  Go, go, go. 

(If you want to do it the way we did it, though - the proper way - you'll have to go out afterwards to the Washington pub and get completely pissed and dance to 1950's rock'n'roll all night.  Thoroughly recommended.)         

Bolano review

My review of Nazi Literature in the Americas is live at Bookmunch today.


The snow's finally beginning to melt in my part of Manchester.  Now the house is surrounded by manky slush and mud and whatever rubbish was buried under the bright white surface.  Frying pan, garbage disposal.  Anyway, I've still been mainly housebound the past few days, writing and writing and writing for my university submission next Monday.  I've got drafts of my two chapter that I'm pretty happy with, and I'll spend the next Wednesday to Friday going over my essay and making sure that it is in fact somewhat coherent, and doing final revisions on the prose.  Then next week will be a frenzy of reading for the new semester, and I might also pop into town to see what other people look like, as I haven't seen many faces since 2009 apart from him indoors and the guy in the convenience store across the road who charges too much for orange juice.  You know who you are.

I've had two acceptances recently that I'm really pleased about, but I don't have anything else out there in the literary wilderness at the moment. I should polish up a few flashes and send them on their way, but all I want to do is curl up with Wolf Hall, which I started last night, and swoon!  I LOVE Hilary Mantel.  I want to marry her books.  This one's enormous and is sure to take a while, but it'll be like a big bubble bath of a book, and I won't want to get out.  Hmm.  My similes are all fucked up here.  I'm now a little afraid of those upcoming revisions.

Scott Prize shortlist announced

A big congratulations to my writing colleagues Joel Willans, Tom Vowler and Ben Cheetham, who've made it onto the shortlist for Salt Publishing's Scott Prize - a new award for full-length short story collections.  Next month they'll announce the four winners, all of whom will get their collections published.  There's twelve people on the list, so the odds are good for at least one of my friends to win, but let's hope they all do.

FF Chronicles guest post, and I love Erin

I've written a guest post on the Flash Fiction Chronicles blog today about writing flash versus writing novels.  Check it, as the kids say.  My glacial-pace novel writing skillz are being put to the test at the moment, with my first graded submission to the university due in less than two weeks.  I'm rather bogged down in the other assignment - the Muriel Spark essay - and my grand schemes of spending the week in the library have been scuppered by the weather.  Screw you, snow.  What with the flu, from which I've just about recovered, and the frozen air and roads, I've left the house once - count it, once - in a week.  That was to see Avatar (3D Imax, oh yeah).  If the library reopens tomorrow, I'll get dressed and breath fresh air, I promise.  In the meantime I've scheduled a reading-break into my essay-panic, and I'm about to drink a large vat of tea.

In other news, huge thanks to the lovely Erin at Rarely Likable (also the genius behind The Northville Review) for listing one of my stories in her 2009 round-up of fiction.  I think Erin's very likeable indeed.

2010 Reading List

Here we go.  Again, an asterisk denotes a required text for the MA.  In 2010 I've mostly been reading:

114. Neuromancer, William Gibson. Classic sci-fi techno-thriller. Impressive, but I didn't love it.
113. Us, Martin Malone. Disturbing novel about family abuse, multiple narrators.  Good.
112. The Granta Book of the Irish Short Story, ed. Anne Enright. Interesting and very large anthology.
111. The Behaviour of Moths, Poppy Adams. This really grew on me as it went along. Nice psychological drama - slightly reminiscent of The Remains Of The Day.
110. Hullabaloo In The Guava Orchard, Kiran Desai. Really entertaining but the ending let it down.
109. The Courage Consort, Michel Faber. Disappointing short novel.
108. Checkpoint, Nicholas Baker. Dialogue about George W. Bush and the Iraq War. Interesting.
107. BBC National Short Story Award 2010 Anthology. Great little collection.
106. Insignificant Gestures, Jo Cannon. Great debut story collection from a GP-turned-writer.
105. Ordinary Love, Jane Smiley. Two novellas, the second I particularly liked.
104. Generation A, Douglas Coupland. A fun read, but not hugely brilliant/memorable.
103. Regional Geometric Novel, Gert Jonke. Odd novel about bureaucracy- more interesting than enjoyable.
102. Christie Malry's Own Double Entry, BS Johnson. Bizarre and very funny short novel.
101. The Birth Machine, Elizabeth Baines. Excellent book about birth and science and fairy tales.
100. Less Than Zero, Brett Easton Ellis. Nihilistic and depressing as ever. Now to get the sequel!
99. Pereira Maintains, Antonio Tabucchi. Fantastic Italian author writing about Portugal in 1938. Excellent.
98. Sharp Sticks, Driven Nails, (ed) Philip O'Ceallaigh. Anthology from The Stinging Fly. Interesting mix.
97. The Warrior Who Carried Life, Geoff Ryman. SF thingy by my old MA tutor. Strong in places.
96. Free Love, Ali Smith. Meh. Short stories, not as good as some of her later work.
95. Crash, JG Ballard. I know people love this, but it really bored me.
94. Pan, Knut Hamsun. A strange tale of a couple of dysfunctional folk courting. Dark and funny.
93. The Method and Other Stories, Tom Vowler. Excellent new story collection.
92. Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson. Beautiful and sad.
91. No and Me, Delphine de Vigan. Excellent story about a French teenager and her homeless friend.
90. Walking To Hollywood, Will Self. Crazed psychotic memoir ramblings - not my thing.
89. Freedom, Jonathan Franzen. Solid family epic, but I didn't enjoy it as much as The Corrections.
88. Forgetting Zoe, Ray Robinson. Horrible but beautiful story about an abduction.
87. Logicomix, Apostolos Doxiadis + Christos Papadimitriou. Graphic novel on Bertrand Russell. Great!
86. Ease, Patrick Gale. Very mannered, with an incredibly annoying and unconvincing main character.
85. The City and the City, China Mieville. Brilliant science-fiction detective story.
84. The Girl In The Flammable Skirt, Aimee Bender. Wonderful, quirky short stories.
83. Super Sad True Love Story, Gary Shteyngart. Excellent futuristic techno-comedy apocalyptic love story!
82. Mirrors, Eduardo Galeano. Immense, thought-provoking, beautiful history book.
81. The Elephant's Journey, José Saramago. Funny, but too gentle for me. I prefer his harder stuff.
80. The Escape, Adam Thirlwell. Excellent writing but it dragged and the plot was useless.
79. The Finkler Question, Howard Jacobson. Booker longlistee 2010 - not impressed.
78. The Thing Around Your Neck, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Excellent short stories.
77. Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology Volume 3. Starring me! Really fantastic stories, though, for real.
76. Thinner Than A Hair, Adnan Mahmutovic. A Bosnian refugee turns to prostitution.
75. These Demented Lands, Alan Warner. Sequel to Morvern Callar - pretty trippy, very strange.
74. Morvern Callar, Alan Warner. Reread. I LOVE this book.
73. Circus Bulgaria, Deyan Enev.  Flash fiction; not very varied, though, and a little too long.
72. American Genius: A Comedy, Lynne Tillman. Strange, almost stream-of consciousness novel. Interesting.
71. Home, Marilynne Robinson. Sequel to Gilead; heart-breaking.
70. Joe Speedboat, Tommy Wieringa. Coming-of-age novel that doesn't really deliver.
69. Girl With Curious Hair, David Foster Wallace. Effervescent short stories.
68. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson. Gorgeous, beautiful, peaceful, moving, wise, profound, brilliant....
67. In The Country of Last Things, Paul Auster. 1984 meets The Road. Sad.
66. Peru, Gordon Lish. Excellent - as usual with Lish, made me feel like people are all wrong inside.
65. Something Beginning With, Sarah Salway. Funny and light; enjoyable with a few really lovely bits.
64. Gone Tomorrow, P.F. Kluge. Meh. Campus novel disguised as mystery investigation thing.
63. Nourishment, Gerard Woodward. Not his best, but entertaining.
62. Plague 99, Jean Ure. This gave me nightmares as a child; still good and quite scary.
61. The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery. Meh, but got better as it went along.
60. Grendel, John Gardner. Brilliant - short, fierce, poetic, sad.
59. The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim, Jonathan Coe. Pretty dull but funny when read aloud. Bad ending.
58. Not So Perfect, Nik Perring. Beautiful (perfect!) flash fiction collection.
57. Deloume Road, Matthew Hooton. Poetic and tragic; very beautifully written.
56. Beautiful Blemish, Kevin Sampsell.  Short stories; a mixed bag.
55. Black Boxes, Caroline Smailes. A suicidal woman remembers an abusive relationship. Cheery!
54. Love Me Tender, Jane Feaver. Disappointing collection of interlinked stories.
53. Consider The Lobster, David Foster Wallace. Intelligent and manic and fascinating essays.
52. The Leaping, Tom Fletcher. Excellent gory old-fashioned scary horror. And I really do mean gory.
51. Solar, Ian McEwan. Dull and far too 'worthy.'
50. Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical, Robert Shearman. Very funny and accessible short stories.
49. The Last King of Scotland, Giles Foden. Meh. I much preferred the film.
48. *Falling Man, Don DeLillo. MA reread. Not his best, but still a good read.
47. The Housekeeper & The Professor, Yoko Ogawa. Gentle and sad, though a little too muted for me.
46. The Theory of Light and Matter, Andrew Porter. Really beautiful story collection.
45. Dear Everybody, Michael Kimball. Everyone raved about this, and it's great - sad, touching, funny.
44. The Stars In The Bright Sky, Alan Warner. Sequel to The Sopranos - also excellent.
43. The Sopranos, Alan Warner. Reread - one of my most favourite books, ever.
42. Ask Alice, DJ Taylor.  Flawed novel without much of a plot, but absorbing anyway.
41. The Good Man Jesus And The Scoundrel Christ, Philip Pullman. Interesting fable.
40. Remainder, Tom McCarthy.  Reread for an essay. So soon since I read it first, feels like Groundhog Day.
39. If It Is Your Life, James Kelman. Disappointing short story collection.
38. The Road To Wanting, Wendy Law-Yone. Meh - quite interesting, nothing special.
37. How Late It Was, How Late. James Kelman. Miserable yet hopeful. Great voice.
36. *The Inheritance of Loss, Kiran Desai. MA reread. Beautiful descriptions, if very, very light on plot.
35. John The Revelator, Peter Murphy. Atmospheric, great characters, ropey plot, but absorbing.
34. Let The Right One In, John Ajvide Lindqvist. Creepy bloody vampire thriller - yay!
33. The Cement Garden, Ian McEwan. Just about as icky as I expected.
32. Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, David Shields. Really thought-provoking, even for this inveterate novel-lover.
31. *Diary of  Bad Year, JM Coetzee. Fiction/non-fiction mash-up. Interesting.
30. *Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell. MA reread.  More gimmicky than I remembered.  Meh.
29. Death Is Not An Option, Suzanne Rivecca.A hit and miss collection, very insightful in places.
28. The Solitude of Prime Numbers, Paolo Giordano. Gentle, touching.
27. *The Night Watch, Sarah Waters. Liked this much more than I expected. So sad!
26. Let The Great World Spin, Colum McCann. This impressed, but didn't enthral me.
25. Sucker, Lana Citron. Fast-paced multi-voiced tale of love and sex and booze. Not bad.
24. *Austerlitz, WG Sebald. MA reread. Kinda arduous; can't say I'm a fan, despite the hype.
23. The Diaries of Sofia Tolstoy. Interesting, but sooo long and depressing.
22. Everything Ravaged Everything Burned, Wells Tower. Short stories. Well written, some very strong.
21. Remainder, Tom McCarthy. Charlie Kaufman meets Sartre. Strange and fascinating.
20. Glover's Mistake, Nick Laird.  Deeply disagreeable main character; horrible tale of revenge.
19. Juno & Juliet, Julian Gough. Uplifting and sad and hopeful and very, very funny.
18. Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel. Vast and gorgeous and fascinating.
17. Lark & Termite, Jayne Anne Phillips.  Evocative, mesmerising. Loved it.
16. Even The Dogs, Jon McGregor. Bleak, beautiful, brilliant.
15. Orphans of Eldorado, Milton Hatoum. Anti-mythologizing mythic tale.  Not keen on this.
14. *The Sea, John Banville. MA reread. Still beautiful, though maybe a little too studied.
13. The Shaking Woman, Siri Hustvedt. Exhaustive but detached look at the history of nervous problems.
12. Thaw, Fiona Robyn. Less literary than my usual fare, but absorbing tale of a woman's depression. 
11. And This Is True, Emily Mackie. Disturbing tale of family relationships, memory, loss.  Good stuff! 
10. The Paris Review Interviews, Vol 2, ed. Philip Gourevitch. Fascinating interviews.
9. This Book Will Save Your Life, A.M. Homes. Light but entertaining, real page-turner. Engrossing.
8. The Nightmare Filled You With Scary, Shane Jones. Short, beautiful, and, yeah, kinda scary chapbook
7. Heliopolis, James Scudamore. Ballard meets Easton Ellis in Sao Paulo - great read.
6. The Sorrows of an American, Siri Hustvedt. Un-engaging, dry, overly self-conscious narrative.  Dull.
5. Under The Dome, Stephen King. Epic and entertaining as ever. Time-consuming though!
4. Personal Velocity, Rebecca Miller.  Tired, predictable prose.
3. Light Boxes, Shane Jones. Beautiful and sad fable.  Also looks like my copy's now worth a bit!
2. Nazi Literature in the Americas, Roberto Bolaño. Very funny pseudo-dictionary of fictional writers.
1. The Thin Man, Dashiell Hammett.  Classic detective novel - very dry, very entertaining.