Jon McGregor

All posts tagged Jon McGregor

Short Stories Challenge 2018 – Part Three

Published October 23, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to my third instalment of what I’ll be reading short story wise for the rest of this year. I mentioned in my Short Stories Challenge Part Two all the way back in April that I was becoming quite disillusioned with short stories. I had read a few that I hadn’t connected as well with as others and it was becoming less enjoyable to read them. At the moment, I’m feeling pretty much the same. I have read some great short stories since April including Set-Up by Dianne Gray and The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter however I’ve also read a couple where I didn’t get on so well with them i.e. The Coincidence Of The Arts by Martin Amis and Four Hundred Rabbits by Simon Levack. I understand that I’m not going to enjoy every single short story that I come across but I’m hoping for great things this time around. At this moment in time, I should be on Part Four of my Short Stories Challenge and I’m only on Part Three. This is because I’m just not feeling motivated to pick up a short story each week like I had planned to do. Ah well, fingers crossed for these!

Ringing Night by Rosy Thornton from the collection Sandlands.

Safe Passage by Ramona Ausubel from the collection A Guide To Being Born.

The Chicken And The Egg by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You.

“Sorry” Doesn’t Sweeten Her Tea by Helen Oyeyemi from the collection What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours.

The Little Photographer by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Birds And Other Stories.

The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe from the collection The Best Short Stories Of Edgar Allan Poe.

The Navigator by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories.

The Small Hand by Susan Hill (stand-alone).

Sainte-Thérèse by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales.

Sad, Dark Thing by Michael Marshall Smith from the collection A Book Of Horrors.

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Short Stories Challenge 2018 – Which Reminded Her, Later by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You.

Published January 14, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s Which Reminded Her, Later all about?:

Which Reminded Her, Later is about the relationship between a vicar and his wife when an uninvited guest comes to stay at their vicarage.

What did I think?:

Make no bones about it, I am a huge fan of Jon McGregor’s writing and when I realised this short story was one of the longer ones in this collection, I was delighted. Don’t get me wrong, I love the shorter narratives too, he’s a master wordsmith and manages to do in one page what some authors struggle to do with twenty but that’s the reason why I always want just a little bit more. It turns out this story isn’t one of my favourites in the collection but that in no way means it’s a bad story at all, in fact quite the opposite. It’s just that it hasn’t stayed with me or had such a powerful effect compared to some of the rest of the stories in this book so far.

The story is told from the point of view of Catherine, an English lecturer at a university and the wife of a vicar, Michael. In the main crux of the narrative, Catherine is quite fed up and we sense becoming rather disillusioned with her marriage and with her husband as a person. She has become quite used to his “little ways,” and tendencies to help all the waifs and strays that he comes across, as indeed you might think a vicar should. However his latest antic, by taking in a complete stranger into the house (whose attitude to Michael’s kindness begins to ruffle Catherine’s feathers considerably!) has really started to irk her. She begins to remember other times and other instances when Michael annoyed her in this way, she mourns the loss of her old life and career when she was known for much more than being merely “the vicar’s wife,” and by the end of the story, the reader begins to feel that the departure of the American stranger may be just the start of the couples troubles.

Once again, Jon McGregor knocked me sideways with the power of his writing and his characterisation. Not only does he draw such a perfect female character but he builds up his tale in such a slow, methodical fashion that the reader is immediately captivated and fully immersed on the ride until the very end. If I hadn’t read any other stories by Jon McGregor I would be singing this ones praises to the hills, his finesse with language is just extraordinary but to be perfectly honest, I think there are more wonderful stories in this collection that touched me more. It’s still a fantastic piece of writing however that shows off all his talent beautifully and if you enjoy a slow, literary narrative I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if this is the first story that you read by him.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: Books And Roses by Helen Oyeyemi from the collection What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours.

Short Stories Challenge 2018 – Part One

Published January 8, 2018 by bibliobeth

Image from: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.aniapps.shortstories

Hello everyone and welcome to the first part of my Short Stories Challenge for 2018. In part five of my challenge in 2017, like many of the other parts, I had some absolutely fantastic finds like Seeing Double by Sara Maitland, Unplugged by Dianne Gray and The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands by Stephen King. However, I also had some that I wasn’t particularly fussed about, like The Man From Mars by Margaret Atwood and Freaks by Tess Gerritsen, both of which were huge disappointments. Here’s what I’ve got lined up for the first few months of 2018:

The House At The End Of The World by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky.

Which Reminded Her, Later by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You.

Books And Roses by Helen Oyeyemi from the collection What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours.

The Apple Tree by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Birds And Other Stories.

The Balloon Hoax by Edgar Allan Poe from the collection The Best Short Stories Of Edgar Allan Poe.

Dibblespin by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories.

Remmy Rothstein Toes The Line by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone).

Why The Yew Tree Lives So Long by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales.

A Child’s Problem by Reggie Oliver from the collection A Book Of Horrors.

At The Mountain Of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft.

 

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Vessel by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Published August 26, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Vessel all about?:

Vessel is the story of a widow who receives an unexpected visitor one day in the shape of an old friend who brings her flowers.

What did I think?:

I really, really love Jon McGregor’s writing. Seriously, if I could bottle his talent and then release it into the world, this is the sort of style that I absolutely adore reading and with every story in this collection, I’m always anticipating something quite special. Vessel was another one of these, although I have to admit I had to read this two times to really appreciate what he was trying to say (which wasn’t a problem as it was not only delicious to read but also incredibly short at less than ten pages). Once I had reached the end a second time however and enjoyed that last gorgeous line, something clicked into place and although there was still so much that was unsaid in the narrative, I thoroughly enjoyed every word.

Vessel follows our main female character Mary who has just been treated to an unnamed male guest turning up at her door bearing tulips that it is obvious she has not seen for a while. She is a widow and her husband James is obviously still very present in her thoughts, especially when she begins comparing the two men, for reasons we do not know. It’s clear that she does have some feelings towards her mysterious visitor but is harbouring intense guilt for these feelings and constantly keeps having to remind herself about James. The visitor in turn seems to have strong feelings for Mary and is attempting to bridge the gap between them by suggesting that they could get closer. The end result is that Mary ends up seeing him a lot differently because of his behaviour and actions towards her.

Is this a good thing or bad thing for Mary? We’ll never know (although I have a sneaking suspicion!) as Jon McGregor ends the story with a lot of things “up in the air.” It is left to the reader to interpret things that possibly went on in Mary’s past and what could potentially happen in the future. Sometimes I feel frustrated when stories end like this but funnily enough, I’ve never had that reaction with this author. I don’t know why but his style of writing and wrapping up a story is always more tantalising and intriguing than irritating – perhaps that’s one of the reasons I love him so much. There’s a bucket-load of things that are hinted at in this story or just purely passed over. For example, our visitor has found it quite hard to get flowers, Mary hasn’t seen any for a while and in return, our visitor is quite surprised that Mary has milk, two things that appear to be a rare commodity. We are never told why this is and I so wanted to know! Is there war? Has there been an apocalypse? I’ll never find out and part of me feels a bit sad about that but mostly I just really enjoy letting my imagination run riot.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: Free Fruit For Young Widows by Nathan Englander from the collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank.

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Part Four

Published August 26, 2017 by bibliobeth

Image from: https://thereadersroom.org/2015/08/07/book-worms-life-in-books-short-stories/

Hello everyone and welcome to the fourth part of my Short Stories Challenge 2017. I’ve had quick a rocky road in Part Three – there were quite a few short stories that I was disappointed in, namely Possum by Matthew Holness and An Anxious Man by James Lasdun. However I did read Word Processor Of The Gods by Stephen King which was fantastic (the King hardly ever disappoints!). Onwards and upwards and hoping for better things in Part Four.

Vessel by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You.

Free Fruit For Young Widows by Nathan Englander from the collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank.

Monte Verità by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Birds And Other Stories.

The Murders In The Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe from the collection The Best Short Stories Of Edgar Allan Poe.

Little Radish by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories.

Go Deep by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone).

The House On The Hill by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales.

The Man In The Ditch by Lisa Tuttle from the collection A Book Of Horrors.

The Shadow Out Of Time by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft.

A Place For Violence by Kevin Wignall from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Fleeing Complexity by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Published April 12, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Fleeing Complexity all about?:

Fleeing Complexity is the shortest story in this collection comprising of one sentence only:

“The fire spread quicker than the little bastard was expecting.”

What did I think?:

I made a promise to myself when I started my Short Stories Challenge all that time ago that I would faithfully review every single story in a collection that I read, no matter what I though of them, even if I find them tough to finish (which has been the case for one in particular that springs to mind!). Then I came across Jon McGregor, who I have been a quiet fan of ever since reading his novel Even The Dogs. The stories in this collection so far have been nothing short of remarkable and vary in length considerably. There are ones that are a page long, others that are more regular length you expect from short stories and then there’s this one. One short little sentence.

When I first glanced through this collection, this one caught my eye, obviously because of its brevity and I have to admit, my heart sank. Not because I was disappointed, no, not at all! It was because I thought, quite frankly: “How the hell am I going to review THAT?” Now it’s come to the time when I have to review it, I’m feeling a lot more optimistic about the process. Jon McGregor has chosen every word he uses extremely carefully. I found this to be the case in all of his other stories but it is especially apparent with Fleeing Complexity.

Read it then read it again. There’s so many questions that could spring to mind and opportunities for the reader to use their own imagination in deciding what is going on. First of all, where has the fire been set? Is it a house? Is it woods? You see what I mean? It could be anywhere! Then, what are the repercussions of this fire going to be? There could be lives lost, property destroyed, consequences or indeed no consequences for the perpetrator, that is, if he/she is ever caught. Then I got to thinking why did this person start the fire? What were the reasons behind it? It could have been revenge, boredom, a teenage prank (assuming it is a teenager?!), a curiosity about fire gone wrong… there are so many options to explore. Next, the unknown narrator refers to our perp as “the little bastard.” Who is the narrator? What is their relationship with the fire-starter? Why do they refer to him/her in those derogatory terms? Finally, I really get the feeling that the spread of the fire was accidental – perhaps not the original starting of the fire but how fast it spread after being lit. Why else would our narrator say that it spread quicker than they were expecting?

So apologies if this post has brought up more questions and speculation than answers and feelings about the short story but it’s just one of those sentences that I think has deliberately been crafted to make you think and wonder about things in that way. Jon McGregor is a fantastic author and can’t do much wrong in my eyes and I love his inventiveness and the beautiful way he has with words and connecting with the reader. I’d love to know if you have any further thoughts about Fleeing Complexity. What do you think it’s all about? Can you think of something I may have missed?

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Reader by Nathan Englander from the collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

 

 

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Part One

Published January 7, 2017 by bibliobeth

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Its a new year and time for some more short stories. I usually do short stories in three month blocks however I’ve been struggling to keep up with this so instead of calling this post January to March I shall call it Part One and see how I get on! This is what I’ll be reading in the first half of 2017:

The Raft by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

The Butcher Of Meena Creek by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

The Wishing Tree by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Faithful Lovers by Margaret Drabble from the collection The Story: Love Loss & The Lives Of Women

Double Room by Ramsey Campbell from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page

The Adventure Of The Engineer’s Thumb by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Erase Me: Positron, Episode Three – Margaret Atwood (stand-alone)

On The Banks Of Table River: (Planet Lucina, Andromeda Galaxy, AD 2319) by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

The Passenger by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Fleeing Complexity by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You