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!

December
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.

November
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.

October
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.

September
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...

August
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.

July
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.

June
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.

May
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.

April
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.

March
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.

February
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.

January 
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.