The Manchester Review, Issue 11

Issue 11 of the Manchester Review went live the other day; the second one I've been involved in editing. It's well worth reading, and though I'm not meant to be biased (all the content is amazing, of course), I would particularly like to point you to Mothering Season, by Richard Hirst. Richard's also one of the folk behind The Longest Night (another is Booker nominee Alison Moore), a limited edition run of five Christmas ghost stories that was launched last week in the Portico Library here in Manchester. They've pretty much run out of copies now (I've got mine, though, 208/300, ha), but if ever get a chance to read it or hear one of their performances (there's one tomorrow night at Levenshulme Market), it's well worth it.

I've just gotten back from five days at Gladstone's Library, on the first of (hopefully) three retreats I'm funding with my Arts Council Ireland literature bursary. My PhD book (a short story cycle about a bunch of misfits having misadventures, and I'm saying no more lest I jinx it) got a good boost while I was there - about ten thousand words written, a story edited and two more planned. Honestly, it must be the most peaceful place to write, ever. I know various people who've been, are going, or are going to be writers-in-residence, lucky them, and you should all totally go stay there - but not at the same time as me, please! A solid block of time that was all reading, writing and being quiet: bliss.

In less news/updatey/blah info, my kid is very excited* about the Snowman (?) who's going to give her lots of presents next week, and who's to say she hasn't got it figured? May the Snowman bestow you all with booze and chocolate and very good books!

*That is excitement you're seeing; that's her Big Smile, not some sort of painful grimace. Really.

a week of Good News

This blog is an utterly barren place, isn't it? Nowt but a repository for my book reviews and reading lists. Well, hey, it's been a busy year. PhDs and childcare are fairly mutually incompatible, as it turns out, and when you throw in the reviewing (which has admittedly, and sadly, slackened off a little, as my time has been increasingly limited) and the copywriting that pays the rent, and various community campaigning stuff, then, well, blogging takes a hit.

Still, here I am, and with good tidings - for me, that is, though feel free to share your own particular joys. So first, I had a flash published recently in the second issue of The Penny Dreadful, a new Irish print mag that's also got Paul Muldoon in it - fancy! I haven't read the whole issue yet, but it looks great and I urge you all to buy it, and anyway, it's nice to support new ventures, and this crowd are based in Cork, my dad's homeland, and, they'd tell you, the real capital.  

Second: I found out a few days ago that another flash of mine has been shortlisted for the 2013 Bridport Prize! I know it hasn't placed any higher than that, but getting on a shortlist of fifty out of 2700 entries ain't half bad, and I'm very happy, all round. The story's now been shipped out again to see if anybody else likes it, so cross all your fingers for it.

Third, and the BIGGIE: I heard on Wednesday that I've been awarded a Literature Bursary from An Chomhairle Ealaíon, aka the Irish Arts Council! It's to give me time to write my book, and to get a new laptop (one with a battery life of over two hours, thanks very much, HP). In practical terms that means I'll have money for childcare one day a week for the next nine or ten months, and money for a cheap(ish) writing retreat, as well as the laptop. Obviously, I'm enormously excited. I'm not eligible for Arts Council England funding while I'm studying, and my PhD isn't funded, so this is pretty much a godsend (or the aetheistic equiavalent). So, hurray, and a huge thank you to all the people on the selection panel, whomever you may be!

Eleanor Catton review

My review of Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries is live at Bookmunch. (My Booker favourite, for what it's worth.)

DT Max review (David Foster Wallace bio)

My review of DT Max's Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story: A Life Of David Foster Wallace is live at Bookmunch.

Crumey and Latitude reviews

To whomever landed here wondering 'is the manchester fiction prize legit' I can tell you it most certainly is, though it comes with one hell of an entry fee and a tiny word-count (2.5k), making it a pretty niche market as far as I'm concerned. A friend of mine won it last time round, though, so well worth a punt if you have seventeen English pounds to the ready. Deadline the end of August, I think.

Anyway, two recent reviews of mine are up on Bookmunch: Andrew Crumey's The Secret Knowledge, and my trip to Latitude this past weekend (which was also previewed here).

The Ilanot Review

I've got a short piece, 'The Monkeys in Love Will Pet and Cuddle You' in Sentences, the newly-launched issue of online Israeli lit journal, The Ilanot Review.  There's a pile of excellent work in there, so go and have a read. And if you happen to be in Jerusalem tomorrow night (July 4th), they're having a launch night in the bar of the Khan Theatre at 8pm, where a very lovely man called Eli will be performing my story. I feel dead international!

narrative 2013

Popping in quickly to say that I'm at the 2013 International Conference on Narrative this week: #issn13, #issn2013 and #narrative13 if you're on twitter. I gave a paper yesterday on trauma theory, short story cycles and David Vann. Plus I drank a dangerous amount of coffee, and, for any narratology scholars out there, I had dinner with Peter Rabinowitz. Geek out! (He's a big Deadwood fan, fyi.)

free ebook

Happy National Flash Fiction Day, 2013! My chapbook, Enough, is free to download for the Kindle this weekend only (today and tomorrow), so if you'd like a look, here it is.

Local politics. Deep breath.

<obligatory shame-faced apology for not blogging enough> Well. </okay then.>

So I've spent the past six months, almost, really involved in trying to get Manchester City Council to backtrack on their plans to shut out local library and leisure centre. It's been complicated. Several other pools and libraries around the city are also under threat; ours is the best situation, in that they're in fact building a new 'joint service centre' for the area, due to open in 2015, which will house both facilities, which means that the closures we've been fighting apply to the two-year interval between now and then. Everywhere else, pretty much, it's just curtains, particularly where the libraries are concerned. They're going to get 'outreach' facilities - like, a stack of unmanned books in the back of a shop, a machine to check them in/out, and seven hours a week where they'll be able to get a librarian from elsewhere on the phone to answer any queries. Hooray for civilisation, right?

Anyway. In my area, Levenshulme, we found out a few weeks ago that the Council are backtracking on the leisure centre issue. Our pool/gym is staying open until 2015, dependent on certain criteria being met - i.e., pretty much all the community CASH grants from local government for our neighbourhood are now being pumped into the Baths to meet a deficit, unless some other form of fundraising can fill that gap instead (Unlikely: it's a deprived area; who's got the money for anything like that?). Good news, more or less, except to my mind, there shouldn't be community fundraising, and the CASH grants should be available for public application by community groups as usual. Still, we've kept the facility open. The Council, of course, spin it as their generous gesture; not as the result of public embarrassment caused by our angry campaigning.

The library was a more complicated situation. The leisure centre, as well as the CASH grants/fundraising, was shored up by money from the Public Health fund; the library doesn't have a purse like that into which we/they could dip. But we heard earlier this week that the local girls' high school is stepping up. They need an off-site facility, so they've worked out a deal with the Council whereby they get the use of the building every weekday morning until 2pm, rent-free, and then they fund the library to keep running until 6.30pm each evening, plus Saturdays, for the public. We (the public) get fewer hours than before, but hey, not a lot fewer, and we still get a library. Plus the building (which is a Carnegie library building, and very pretty on the outside) stays in use, and the school will probably be interested in it post-2015, too, meaning there's potential for a community-centre type of thing there when the library moves down the road to the shiny new building. (The Council sold our old community centre for a pound a few years ago. Seriously.) All good. When this was announced, we were so happy - I mean, we really, really didn't think we'd have any luck keeping it open at all. A friend of mine was in tears, and she even set me off. Is there a catch? Well, the Council have managed to pull off quite a coup: they've got headlines and glory about how they've 'saved' us, when in fact they've sloughed off all responsibility for the public library onto the shoulders of a third party. That third party is a state body, sure, so it's not exactly privatisation, but still, it's hardly admirable on the part of the Council, is it? They wouldn't prioritise funding a library; they're still not funding a library; but they get clapped on the back anyway. I feel very churlish criticising this. I was delighted on Monday, and I think the school are doing an amazing thing, and our local councillors have worked ridiculously hard on the campaign to get this result - but the Council ought not to be applauded, surely?

Two more things. I'm going on a bit, I know, but I thought it was worth explaining what I've been doing for ages. So. One: the site for the new joint services centre, the Council announced a few weeks ago, will be just off the main road, on the site where the Arcadia Sports' Centre currently stands. The Arcadia is Manchester's only dedicated roller-skating rink. They host roller hockey and roller derby (the fastest-growing women-only sport in the UK) including international tournaments. Some members of the youth hockey teams have represented the North of England in a national championship. Charlie Chaplin once skated there. The actual building is nothing to look at, sure, but the facility is unique. So the Council are going to raze it. They want to relocate the clubs - but the women who run it have done their research and there isn't anywhere else that they could feasibly use and retain all the hours of sports that the Arcadia hosts. It would cost less than half a million to incorporate it into the new build (total budget, £6.2 million, as far as I know), but the Council won't consider it and they won't hold a public consultation. They say there's no money and no room. The site in question is fronted by a smaller site owned by an individual who's asking too much for the land (say the Council). If they bought that land, there'd be plenty of room, as far as we can tell. But they refuse to go down the route of a CPO. So just as soon we had had good(ish) news on the Baths, this screwed it all up. Now we have good(ish) news about the library, but the Arcadia has to be sorted. Why relocate two local services (without asking the locals if they even wanted the facilities moved) and lose another one (much used, much loved) in return?

The short of it is, we're still having to protest.

The second, and last thing, I wanted to ruminate upon, is the model of protest with which we've been engaged. The Council were eager all along (across the affected areas, not just Levenshulme) for community groups to fight for their facilities by supplying council officers with alternative business plans, demonstrating workable financial models for the retention of the services. That went ahead - or, people submitted plans, no matter how workable they might or might not have been. Remember, we/they aren't professionals, we/they hadn't access to all the info or figures at the right moments, we/they were working blind, without full access to the Council's entire budget and whatever other pieces of data that made the Council declare the facilities unsustainable to begin with. So with the best will in the world, you're probably fucked, right? All that aside, I never, never liked that model. I pay my taxes (or I would, if I could earn above the income tax threshold, but that's another story) and cast my vote so that the Council does this stuff for me. Not only are we unqualified to do these things (imagine I asked them to edit a conference paper for me?) - and to do them for FREE, at that! - but we simply shouldn't have to. Now, our campaign group has been, and is still divided on this issue. Many people dropped out of the process altogether because they felt that the Council were co-opting the community into doing things their way; e.g., they set a budget that is destroying our public services (blaming the central government all the while, but without having the brio to revolt) and then they asked those who were protesting to (a) accept that was the case and (b) try and find a workaround. Coming up with a workaround scheme like that is, to my, mind, a tacit, or even perhaps an overt, acceptance of the very budget that we were/are protesting against. It's, again, a tricky situation. The Council made it very clear that if we didn't play ball, we'd get nothing. So people played ball - wrote plans, met the council officers, etc - and we had a long series of often contentious meetings about policy and ideals and techniques and goals and agendas. These people worked bloody hard. What happened in the end? The Baths stayed open using a business model that bore quite a lot of resemblance to that put forth by the campaign group; a model that wasn't agreed upon unanimously, but was still collectively supported to a large degree. So perhaps it was all for the best. The library's rescue, on the other hand, came about because the head teacher of the school heard about our problems; she needed a space; she didn't want to see a library shut; so she had her own negotiations with the Council and presto, chango, we're still open. A different route.

Now, I feel, and I feel very, very strongly about this, that the role of the protesters in the community was to PROTEST. It was our protest (our occupations, demos, rallies, flashmobbing, street parties, TV and radio appearances, and the media support all those things received, particularly from the MEN and Granada) that made the Council have to actually think about business models, whosoever it might have been that wrote them, and it was our protests that made that head teacher sit up and think. (And hurray for her.) It was fantastic. I've made amazing new friends in the past few months because of it all. It made me feel politically empowered and engaged in a way that has felt so far from possible since 2010's general election. My point is, though, that a narrative is being spun right now, of a generous Council, a Council that works with its people to save facilities, that listens and cooperates; and erased from that narrative is the actual shouting and banner-waving. The language of business and board-rooms is being promoted as the reasonable, effective way of progressing, when in fact, of course, it was that very language that announced the closures, and it was the other, unregulated, irrepressible language of dissent and disgust that shamed the Council into having to reassess their plans.

In the same way that local government - which, here in Manchester, is a Labour-majority Council - is, all over the country, assuming the role of enforcer for the Tory-led central government, local governments have tried to make local communities shoulder the responsibility for the outcomes of the budget. 'If you want your facility, then you show us the sums that will make it work.' By engaging with this process, I think, you're endorsing it. I'm really happy that two of our three facilities won't be shutting, but I fear for the third, and I'll keep complaining. I'll go on demos and sign petitions, and barricade myself in if necessary. What I won't do is congratulate the 'democratic process' of Council negotiations; I will continue to recognise, and hope that other people will join me in recognising, that we'll never change the way things are going if we pitch in with it; we need to take a stand and keep our hands clean and maintain our political integrity at all costs.

(Oh, and they're also planning to close our Sure Start Beehive Centre too. Brilliant.)

This has become a right rant, hasn't it? It's probably rather incoherent, too. I have to go read some academic gubbins now. Have you any thoughts? I'm sure some of my fellow campaigners, if they read this, will disagree rather strongly with much of what I've said. We're not all politically aligned. That's been one of the strengths of the campaign - the diversity of voices involved - but also a difficulty in many ways, and it makes for plenty of one-on-one arguments and frustration. You can't avoid that. But, look, if you are reading, oh-people-who-think-I'm-a-mad-socialist-loon, we're all treading the same ground. I'm just trying to attention to the cracks in the pavement.

Town & Country review

My review of Town & Country, edited by Kevin Barry, is live at Bookmunch. I really wish I'd liked this one better.

Granta 123 review

My review of Granta's The Best Of Young British Novelists 4 is live now at Bookmunch. Have you guys read the book? I'd love to hear what you thought.

Edith Pearlman review

My review of Edith Pearlman's collection, Binocular Vision, is live at Bookmunch. Defying my usual crotchety demeanour, I really liked this one.

New story with Ether Books

I've just had word that a tiny story of mine, The Lovely Phelan Ladies, is now live on the Ether Books app. You can read the story here if you download the Ether app - this is one for those who have an iPhone, iPad or Android phone. It's a brilliant app - there's stories by the likes of Hilary Mantel on there. You have to pay to download longer pieces, but flash fiction (like my story) is free. This particular piece was originally published in The Hat You Wear, the ebook made by the folk behind last year's Manchester Independent Book market, so it's great to see it get a new lease of life. Ether also previously published Mum's The Word, my Bristol Prize winner from 2010, so big up the Ether team for taking me on twice.

Donald Antrim reviews

Catching up with myself a bit here - back in March I also reviewed some Donald Antrim reissues. Ace books if you want to try something on the mad side of literary.

BS Johnson review

I reviewed a bunch of BS Johnson books lately. Picador have reissued some old ones and brought out a new prose anthology. Good news for the fans.

The Manchester Review

I've been working at The Manchester Review as an assistant editor (alongside editors-in-chief John McAuliffe and Ian McGuire) since last December. I'm delighted to announce that the latest issue (my first!), Issue Ten, is now live, and features the work of amazing writers such as Emma Martin, Marli Roode, Anne Compton, Connor O'Callaghan, Janet Wolff, and many more. Please read, and share the link, and, if you're a writer (poetry, fiction or non-fiction), submit to us! The next issue is scheduled for October 2013.

well, hello!

It's been ages, hasn't it? I've been doing politics/PhD/rock-climbing (!), and generally getting behind on stuff. But, in terms of news, I've got a flash piece coming up in the next issue of The Penny Dreadful, which is very exciting as it's (a) print! and (b) Irish, and in the last issue they had the likes of Roddy Doyle, so it looks like a pretty damn fine publication altogether, and I can't wait to see it when it's out. I also contributed recently to the Sein und Werden Exquisite Corpse, which you can see if you give that link a click. Always a mad experience. I'm carrying on with my one-graphic-novel-a-month project (reading, not writing) and this month it's Maus, which I'm very much enjoying. I'm not being a very good book reviewer at the moment (embarrassingly far behind on the review schedule), but what I have read (a lot of BS Johnson) has been as excellent as you'd expect. As always I'm on the hunt for good examples of short story cycles (aka composite novels) so carry on recommending stuff to me, please! And, to round up this hodge-podge apology-post, I'm thinking of maybe perhaps running an online short story course this summer, if there's sufficient interest; perhaps a six-week thing with weekly writing exercises, stories to read, and critiques, for circa £70 per person. Drop me a line if it sounds like a thing you'd go for. Ciao for now!

Stuart Nadler review

My review of Stuart Nadler's Wise Men is live at Bookmunch. (I didn't like it.)

This blog is dead bare these days, isn't it? My excuse: ongoing and very time-consuming campaign to save our local library. Update, though: we have (sort of) saved our swimming pool! Manchester City Council have included some clauses in the new agreement that I really, really don't like, but our local councillors are going to work on that, and it's going to stay open for the two years until the new facility is built. The campaign group is now squarely focussed on the library. Plus there's the bedroom tax to fight, and the whole wider anti-cuts, anti-austerity movement. And my PhD. And childcare. And so on.

Still, I've read some good books lately in amongst all the craziness.

Happy Easter!

gig tomorrow night (I'm so cool)

I've been very distracted with campaign-related stuff lately (check Save Levy Baths for full details about our next events - a beach party this Friday, a fundraiser this Saturday, and a flash-mob next Thursday), and so I've neglected to advertise my latest writing event/commisssion thingy. For the second time, I've been asked by the rather amazing band, Monkeys In Love, to write fiction based on their music, and I'm going to perform the result at their second album launch tomorrow, at the Bay Horse pub in Manchester's Northern Quarter. Event details here. Do come! Supporting the band will be Les Malheureux (aka, David Gaffney and Sarah-Clare Conlon) with special drawings they're commissioned from another Levenshulme (via Preston) supremo, Vivmondo. It should be excellent. See you there!

what I've been doing (hint: contains rage)

Well, y'all, I've been very busy, and only some of it writing-related, though all of it reading-related. I'm heavily involved in a campaign to save my local library and swimming-pool, in Levenshulme, Manchester, from being shut down because of city council cuts. It's a very depressing situation, particularly since Manchester is a Labour-led Council that's systematically implementing Tory-led cuts. They're proposing to build a new leisure-centre-slash-library for 2015, but with no site or planning permission yet acquired, and the consultation period (don't get me started on that farce) still ongoing, not to mention the projected future budget cuts we're all predicting in the next few years, it all seems wildly optimistic. Even if it gets built, we'll be without these facilities for at least two years, and that's unacceptable. To give context, in 2011, the Council promised to keep Levenshulme Baths open until a new facility was up and running, and this January (2013), we discovered that the Baths' closure has in fact been in the works for at least twelve months despite those reassurances. Likewise, they shut down the local community centre, promised to develop the site, and then sold it for a pound (!) and the site now lies derelict. So, we don't believe a word they say. I could rant for a long time about this, and if you're connected to me on FB, you'll probably be weary of it already. The campaign site is here if you're interested. I've already been interviewed about it by Sky News, BBC North West Tonight, BBC Radio Manchester, Key 103 FM, and the M.E.N.. We occupied the library last weekend, were threatened with aggravated trespass (of course nothing came of that), and held a large demo on the streets the following day, which was the headline item on ITV news for two days. We've got loads of public support and positive press, but we've got a long way to go if we're to make the Council change their proposals.

So, that's kind of what's been eating up my life the past few weeks.

In other news, though, here's a really ace review of Enough! Hurray! Thank you, Jodie Daber!

Three stories in FRiGG!

I've got three stories in issue 39 of FRiGG! They've done such a lovely job with them - gorgeous artworks and everything. Also, if any of you are thinking of submitting to FRiGG, I want to mention Ellen Parker's brilliant editorial skills: her comments and suggestions totally made my words better. Thanks, Ellen!

true fact(s)

That's pretty much how it goes, right? That's how it cycles during the week, too: a frantic scramble to fit everything in so that there's at least a bit of free time in which to relax, followed by a short and edgy period of idleness (Sundays) where I worry that I'm pissing my time away. Hi-ho. Anyway, despite the mounting books to review, the PhD research and writing and editing, the Manchester Review slush pile, odds and ends of copywriting and other one-off projects, the childrearing and family life, and the rest of season three of Community (ahem), it's still good to just stop once in a while, though in a kind of pathetic way, I do have to timetable stoppage time or it just gets devoured by hungry books and Word docs. But! Get this in your diaries, people: next Friday, February 18th, at 19:30 at Blackwell's on Oxford Road, Manchester, is the launch of Jenn Ashworth's third novel, The Friday Gospels. It's really fucking good. The book, I mean. So intricately structured, with five distinct and believable first-person narrators, and loads of fascinating details about, and nuanced handling of, the Church of the Latter Day Saints (aka the Mormons), and just all-round beautiful prose, it kind of makes you (me) a bit sick with jealousy. There'll be wine at the launch, I hear, so obviously you'll all enjoy yourselves, but one way or the other (because I suppose I have to concede that not all of you fools live in Manchester (fools!)), even if you can't make it to the event, read the book. All right? All right?

new story!

I've got a very short story, The Smell of Elsewhere, up at Metazen today. I'm very happy with this - it's an ace lit-zine with lots of good material on there, so if you don't dig mine, have a look through the archives.

David Constantine review

My review of David Constantine's Tea at the Midland is live at Bookmunch.

Reading List 2013

Christ, it's already time for a new list! That last year went fast. So, here we go: below will be a list of all the books I've read (and finished) this year. Incompletes don't make the cut, nor do literary journals unless I've read them cover to cover, and I'm not going to include academic textbooks, because that would be dull as all hell, right? As usual, an asterix means it's a re-read and an (e) means it's an ebook. I thought about some sort of 'I read it for my PhD' code, but screw it, it's complex enough without that. What else? This year I want to get into graphic novels, so I've asked a couple of friends to recommend me some and now I've got a massive list of titles to get through, which is rather exciting. I don't really make New Year's resolutions, but I do have a sort of plan for my 2013 reading: each month I want to read at least one graphic novel, at least three books from the enormous and ageing TBR pile, and at least two PhD-relevant books - and, if I have a large to-be-reviewed stack, at least one review book a fortnight. I'd like to do more reviewing, but it's getting hard to keep the pace up. The PhD book quota ought to way exceed my two book minimum, but that's why it's a minimum. Finally, it's been a year since I got the Kindle, and if you check my 2012 list, you'll see I really didn't use it much. It's a fantastic tool for reading Word docs and PDFs, but so far it's very much a second class citizen as regards fiction. I intend to read some weighty 18th/19th century tomes on it this year, though, since last year's Middlemarch adventure wasn't half bad, in the end. So!

105. It's A Good Life If You Don't Weaken, Seth. My December graphic novel. Thought-provoking.
104. The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt. Outstanding. Better than The Little Friend, maybe better than The Secret History (I'd have to reread it to tell). Anyway: fantastic.
103. Magic for Beginners, Kelly Link. Short stories. Magic and creepiest and genius - Link's one of the best story writers I've read.
102. Bad Behaviour, Mary Gaitskill. Fantastic (and very sordid!) stories.
101. Open Secrets, Alice Munro. Short stories (of course), and very good ones (of course).
100. *For Esme, With Love and Squalor, JD Salinger. (aka: Nine Stories) You really, really, really cant't beat this stuff.
99. Nail and Other Stories, Laura Hird. Scottish short stories, pretty sordid, sad and funny. Ace.
98. The Longest Night: Five Curious Tales. Five genuinely scary stories. Limited edition print run, and a beautiful book.

97. Sammy the Mouse, Vol.2, Zak Sally. Part two of what all be four. The (bizarre) plot thickens...
96. Sammy the Mouse, Vol.1, Zak Sally. Kinda odd comic about a mouse. Great drawings.
95. Look At Me, Jennifer Egan. PhD read. Appearances, identity and memory all in a massively smart and entertaining novel.
94. Perdido Street Station, China Mielville. Mervin Peake-esque steampunk sci-fi. Brilliant.
93. Because of What Happened: The Fiction Desk Anthology 5, ed. Rob Redman. Meh.
92. Epileptic, David B. My October graphic novel (a bit late). Brutal memoir.
91. *Dubliners, James Joyce. PhD reread of a book that just gets better and better. And funnier, too.
90. The Moomins and the Great Flood, Tove Jansson. Lovely.

89. The Literary Conference, César Aira. A mad scientist clones Carlos Fuentes! Love it.
88. An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter, César Aira. Mutilation in the desert!
87. Ghosts, César Aira. Ghosts on an Argintinen building site.
86. (e) The Tiny Wife, Andrew Kaufman. Honestly have no idea why people raved about this.
85. The Final Solution, Michael Chabon. A mystery story. Enjoyed it much more than I expected.
84. Ballistics, DW Wilson. Novel. Pretty flawed. Review coming soon on Bookmunch.
83. Enormous Changes at the Last Minute, Grace Paley. Short stories. A PhD-related read. Excellent.
82. Equilateral, Ken Kalfus. Interesting, though flawed, novel about 19th century astronomers and engineers.
81. Moy Sand and Gravel, Paul Muldoon. Poetry. Fascinating.

80. Young Skins, Colin Barrett. Interesting story collection.
79. The Scheme for Full Employment, Magnus Mills. Funny and clever.
78. The Comforters, Muriel Spark. Excellently witty.
77. V for Vendetta, Alan Moore. Pretty hardcore - more so that the movie.
76. Two Girls In A Boat, Emma Martin. A really, really excellent short story collection. Read the title story here.
75. The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton. Superb. My Booker money's on this one.
74. A Modern Family, Socrates Adams. Funny - especially if you, like me, hate Top Gear...

73. *Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad. Do I like it? Can't ever really decide.
72. Life of Galileo, Bertolt Brecht. Smart and depressing and generally great.
71. *Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen. Brilliant, funny. It's twenty years since I first read this. Freaky.
70. *King Lear, William Shakespeare. Tragic! Who'd have expected?
69. We The Animals, Justin Torres. Good, but not hype-worthy. (It was very hyped.)
68. Hey, Wait..., Jason. Very sad graphic novel. Beautiful. (My comic for August).
67. The Guts, Roddy Doyle. Sequel to The Commitments. Mixed feelings.
66. Psychotic Episodes, Alan McMonagle. Short stories.
65. The Professor of Poetry, Grace McCleen. Very disappointing.

64. Ethel and Ernest, Raymond Briggs. This month's graphic novel. Moving, funny.
63. Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace. DT Max. Interesting.
62. The Ask, Sam Lipsyte. A very funny and odd sort-of-campus-novel. A bit Delillo-esque.
61. Milk, Sulphate & Alby Starvation, Martin Millar. Really funny and mad.
60. Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes. Excellent and really sad. Totally get why SF folk love it.
59. What Becomes, A.L. Kennedy. Stories. Some I liked, some I didn't.
58. The Keep, Jennifer Egan. Decent. Not as good as Goon Squad.
57. The Secret Knowledge, Andrew Crumey. Intriguing and peculiar mystery story. With added philosophy.
56. The Tale of One Bad Rat, Bryan Talbot. June's graphic novel. Also excellent.
55. Ghost World, Daniel Clowes. Better than the film, and I love the film. My belated graphic novel for May.
54. Call It Dog, Marli Roode. A bit of a brutal read, by my friend Marli - one to watch...
53. Grand Hotel, Vicki Baum. PhD-related, only turned out not to be useful - but a good read all the same.
52. A Night At The Movies, Robert Coover. PhD-related. Pretty insane story collection, as you'd expect.

51. Revenge, Yoko Ogawa. PhD-related. Not vefy impressed. Though I really liked her two novels.
50. *Machine Dreams, Jayne Anne Phillips. PhD-related reread. Chronicle of an American family. Brilliant.
49. *The Accidental, Ali Smith. PhD-related reread, though not actually relevent in the end. I've definitely gone off poor Ali.
48. *The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan. PhD-related reread. Good stuff.
47. *Hotel World, Ali Smith. PhD-related, again. Increasingly going off Ali, the more I reread her.
46. *Anagrams, Lorrie Moore. Another PhD-related reread. Good stuff.
45. *A Visit From The Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan. PhD-related reread. Still brilliant.
44. HHhH, Laurent Binet. Interesting self-aware study of the Czech resistance in WWII.

43. Town & Country: New Irish Short Stories, ed. Kevin Barry. Mixed.
42. A Hologram For The King, Dave Eggers. Really good. Way better than I expected.
41. Granta 123: Best of Young British Novelists 4. Mixed bag.
40. Ghosts and Lightning, Trevor Byrne. Squalor on a Clondalkin estate. Beautifully evocative.
39. Binocular Vision, Edith Pearlman. One of the best collections I've read.
38. The Parts, Keith Ridgway. Amis-esque sort-of-crime novel set in Dublin. Not convinced by it but I do like Ridgway's writing a lot.
37. Well Done God!, BS Johnson. Prose anthology. Interesting, if repetitive.

36. The Complete Maus, Art Spiegelman. My April graphic novel. Stunning.
35. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien. Interlinked Vietnam stories. Excellent. I love Tim O'Brien.
34. Ayiti, Roxane Gay. Short stories by one of the USA's up-and-comers.
33. Spellbound, Joel Willans. I've been dipping in and out of this for weeks. Ace collection by my writing colleague, Joel.
32. Go Down, Moses, William Faulkner. Complex, but very good.
31. Albert Angelo, BS Johnson. Amazing. One of the most inventive, fascinating novels going.
30. *Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry, BS Johnson. Reread. As funny as last time.
29. House Mother Normal, BS Johnson. Totally NSFW. Great stuff. Structurally fascinating.
28. Trawl, BS Johnson. Solipsistic rambling on a trawlership. Excellent.
27. The Stinging Fly, Issue 24, Spring 2013. Literary journal.

26. The Stinging Fly, Issue 23, Winter 2012. Literary journal.
25. Where You Find It, Janice Galloway. Great story collection.
24. Black Hole, Charles Burns. Pretty gory graphic novel set in 1970s Seattle.
23. Tenth of December, George Saunders. Stories. As good as ever.
22. Imperial Bedrooms, Brett Easton Ellis. Sequel to below. Felt tired: more of the usual.
*21. Less Than Zero, Brett Easton Ellis. Reread. Depressing.
20. The Hundred Brothers, Donald Antrim. Equally insane. Incredibly weird.
19. Elect Mr Robinson For A Better World, Donald Antrim. Mad, brilliant, horrible.
18. The Imperfectionists, Tom Rachman. Linked stories. More blunt in form than I'd hoped.
17. Building Stories, Chris Ware. Amazing and beautiful. My Feb graphic novel (running late already).
16. Wise Men, Stuart Nadler. Dull and too long.

15. The Pastures of Heaven, John Steinbeck. Great read, as always.
14. Benediction, Kent Haruf. Lovely sequel to Plainsong and Eventide.
13. The Land of Decoration, Grace McCleen. Great début novel.
12. The Round House, Louise Erdrich. Her new one. Not as convinced by this one, despite the US fuss.
11. Love Medicine, Louise Erdrich. Fantastic short story cycle. Stunning prose and characters.
10. The Garden of Evening Mists, Tan Twan Eng. Me. Interesting, if not very exciting.

9. Alice, Judith Hermann. Linked short stories by a German author. Thoughtful and delicate.
8. Breath, Eyes, Memory, Edwidge Danticat. Shame it's taken me so long to finally read Danticat. Excellent.
7. Absalom, Absalom!, William Faulkner. Difficult, not very likeable, but technically fascinating novel.
6. The Giant, O'Brien, Hilary Mantel. Interesting, but more as a curiosity piece; not my favourite of hers.
5. Lost In The Funhouse, John Barth. Depressingly, brilliantly clever, and very funny.
4. The Friday Gospels, Jenn Ashworth. Now, Jenn might be a friend of mine, but this really is excellent. A clever, clever plot, really nuanced treatment of a tricky subject, and wonderful characterisations. Read it.
3. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. My first graphic novel of the year. Ace!
2. Period, Dennis Cooper. As horrific as all Cooper's stuff. And dead confusing. But good!
1. Snake Ropes, Jess Richards. Compelling new voice in literary fantasy - reminded me of Patrick Ness crossed with Angela Carter.