Saturday, April 22, 2017

Free and footloose reads: part the third

It's always a delight to be back in Ireland, and it's particularly exciting to attend some literary events while here. From the launches of Lisa McInerney's second book and Lisa Harding's debut, to my first STACCATO spoken-word evening and the latest gorse readings, this last week has been a writer's paradise.

I'd forgotten, however, just how dangerous Dublin bookshops are. This was my haul after Day One in the old country:

This collection has since doubled in size, incorporating Dave Rudden's fabulous Forever Court, Mia Gallagher's Beautiful Pictures of the Lost Homeland and a raft of local journals and classics.

But physical books aside, there is a simply disarming wealth of good writing available online. As a follow-up to part one and two, I present another compilation of recommendations - some recent, some not so recent, all excellent and free for your reading pleasure.

Short Stories
  • Orange horses, by Maeve Kelly. Extraordinary, awful, beautiful work, given a new lease on life by Tramp Press. 
  • Pied Piper, by Carys Davies. Bloody (brilliant) (harrowing) (buried) work, as always from this writer. 
  • Treaty 1941, Zoe Meager. "A song for a man alone, dragging his malaria down the road." An astounding, astounding work; the spins and trips of language, newly drunk.
  • What you pawn I will redeem, by Sherman Alexie. Pathos, kinship, beauty, brokenness, triumph. An absolute must-read.
  • And Then There Were (N-One), by Sarah Pinkser. For the effortless and airtight plotting. For the unclassifiable mix sci-fi turned Christie-mystery turned novel-of-ideas. For the texture of need and loss. 
  • Every Little Thing, by Celeste Ng. Memory without loss; memory as loss. A masterfully constructed short story, tender as a birthed heart.
  • Even on Our Longest Days, by Billy O'Callaghan. Read every quiet, beautiful piece by this man. 
  • Drift, by Becky Renner. "They passed cars raptured empty from the evacuation." An ominous, thrilling story of consummate craft.
  • Butcher's Perfume, by Sarah Hall. Rawbone, idiosyncratic life, in all its dark and crooked corners. 
  • Some Days I Wish I Could Be Frank, by Siobhan Welch. Not a spare word struck, each perfectly - perfectly - aimed.
  • Family, Family, by Jeannine Ouellette. "You see, at Rolling Meadow, we frowned on labels." A delicate, wryly subversive story about yarn and bloodthirsty darlings.
  • Healthy Start, by Etgar Keret. A Beckett-esque flight of sparking connections, enthralling from the first.
  • Lucky, by Julianne Pachico. A deceptively tense, closely-observed short story, from a new Faber collection.
  • 75, by Abiola Oni. A story that lures one in, sweetly, cheerfully, before turning upon you. with teeth.
  • My Sam and I, by Nick Fuller Googins. This is magic, and slow sadness, and a call to life.
  • Settling, by Jan Carson. Beautifully-observed, bittersweet and quite, quite strange. (Also Egg, by the same author: tender, with delicately-measured moments of levity and rue.)
  • Destination Unknown, by Joanna Campbell. "Everything and everyone has to be somewhere: his spare glasses in the sock; his cat who may never find her way home." Oh, this story.
  • Zolaria, by Caitlin Horrocks. The basilisks and maps of childhood, the rising mud and guilt.
  • Being Born, by Oisin Fagan. A breathless, must-read extract - claustrophobic, savage, peopled with violent and intersecting desires. 
  • Funeral by the Arcade, by Leland Cheuk. A deft and accomplished piece, weaving together congee, familial estrangement and former gaming legends.
  • Babyland, by Steve Edwards. A smart, strangely aching piece, hard to shake.
  • Nothing to declare, by John Boyne. A deliciously humorous look at success, public defecation and litter envy. Also works for humans.
  • Cyprus Avenue, by Lucy Caldwell. Deftly nails the many, competing emotions of exiles on the return.
  • In the Act of Falling, by Danielle McLaughlin. The savage, claustrophobic connections that both bind us and break us.
  • When the World Was Soft, by Paul Duffy. "We came upon Witenoom one day, the village they had scrubbed off the maps." Fiercely good story, from a new writer to watch.
  • Bonus readings: the excellent winners of The Short Story competition; the finalists for the Manchester short story competition, and the shortlist for the short story of the year. Also an out-of-the-park-good set of recommendations for International Women's Day.
  • Plus a mention for some excellent Weekend Reads on For Books' Sake: Salting Home by Rebecca F John, Starver by Daisy Johnson, The Missionary Kid and the Moongirl by Zillah Bethell and Theft by Karen E Bender, sadly no longer available online.
Flash Fiction
  • Terra Incognita, by Sharon Telfer. "Beyond this line, nothing; the map waits." Exquisitely captured, a small world complete, and a deserved winner of the Bath Flash Fiction Award. 
  • A Fine Line, by  Leah Jane Esau. How can less than nine hundred words leave your heart in pieces? 
  • My X, by Molly Giles. Sharp, sternum-pricking, such finely-tuned infuriation and familiarity.
  • Shit Cassandra Saw That She Didn’t Tell the Trojans Because at that Point Fuck Them Anyway,
    by Gwen E. Kirby
    . A wild, triumphant wail of a piece. 
  • Happy Endings, by Margaret Atwood. This classic remains as fresh and subversive as it must have in 1983.
  • One Warren Ward, by Fiona J Mackintosh."They are birthing their own endings, these women, in this shabby, beige room." So much more, somehow, than the sum of its broken parts.
  • How to Date a Surfer, by Lori Brody. A wry, bittersweet taste on the tongue.
  • Summer Baby, by Anne Elizabeth Weisgerber. For the exquisite use of language alone, rendering everything new.
  • Pigalle, by Victoria Briggs. Knife-tongued, laced with shock and awe, a spunky jab for any reader. 
  • The Golden Age, by Mark Doten. A crazed, fabulous piece of frighteningly non-fictional fiction.
  • Bonus: almost anything published in Smokelong Quarterly.
  • Song, by Brigit Pegeen Kelly. "Listen: there was a goat's head hanging by ropes in a tree. ...But listen." Every turn of this powerful, gut-punching work is unexpected, even on a second read.
  • Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver. A high, clear slice of beauty and consolation.
  • How to Live in an American Town, by Jennifer Chang. So run with him/ Please./Take the kitchen fire./ Run heart run.
  • Chick, by Mark Belair. Every. single. thing. about this ragged, gum-snapping, show-stopper of a poem.
  • My Blue Hen, by Ann Gray. A tender and wild little thing, this song of eggs and feathers.
  • Prayer, by Carol Ann Duffy. Read this over, and over. Pause, as - each time - something inside lifts to meet it.
  • The Fourth State of Matter, by Jo Ann Beard. I still do not know what to feel about this piece. Gutted. Empty. Full. Just read it. Read it. Read it.
  • Confessions, by Mike Nagel. "I ate their secrets. Swallowed them whole. I've had a stomach ache for eight years." Short, whip-tongued smart, and wholly unsentimental. 
  • To Obama With Love, and Hate, and Desperation, by Jeanne Marie Laskasjan. These voices: lost, fearful, touched with grace. These stories. All these aching stories. 

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