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Short Stories Challenge 2018 – The Coincidence Of The Arts by Martin Amis from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night.

Published May 19, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s The Coincidence Of The Arts all about?:

An English Baronet becomes entangled with an American chess hustler and aspiring novelist and has an unexpected affair with a silent Afro-Caribbean woman.

What did I think?:

Coincidence Of The Arts is the first story in this collection in the section entitled “Stories To Intrigue And Excite.” With a heading like this, I must say I WAS quite excited to finally read some Martin Amis but at the same time, approached it with slight trepidation as I’ve read a few less than complimentary things about the author as a person and understand he has a bit of a reputation. I decided to talk to a friend about the author as to what his writing was really like as I knew my source had read a couple of his books and that he would give me an honest opinion that I knew I could trust. Unfortunately, although my friend told me the author could definitely write, he was less than pleased with HOW Martin Amis chooses to write his characters. In particular, he mentioned how black, working class and female characters are written in an extremely stereotypical and perhaps, not a very favourable way.

The British author of The Coincidence Of The Arts, Martin Amis.

Hearing all this, I tried to go into this short story with an open mind. I really do like to make up my own mind about things like this but to be honest, I didn’t have high hopes. The person who voiced his opinion on the author is incredibly honourable, has high morals, believes in equality for everyone and is very scathing of anyone who has obvious prejudices. In other words, he must have had a solid reason and hard evidence to have such a strong opinion. Was he right? I’m afraid so.

I’m not going to go into too much detail about this narrative, the synopsis sums it up pretty perfectly but it’s basically the story of a white English man, Rodney Peel living in New York and working as an artist, painting portraits of rich wives for their husbands. He has two main relationships in this story, one with aspiring black novelist Pharsin Courier and the other with a black woman who he desperately wants to paint but eventually ends up sleeping with on a regular basis. Not much really happens in the story of note to be fair, we mainly get Pharsin and Rodney running into each other and Rodney making excuses for not having read Pharsin’s novel yet. Then we get portions of text where Rodney is going out with a friend and telling him about his relationship with the mysterious woman. Things do connect up slightly at the end but the bare bones of this story make it a tale about art, literature and race.

The setting for our story, beautiful New York where the author, Martin Amis also now lives.

Okay, so where on earth do I start? This is such a strange little story that at times, I found myself wondering what the point of it was. Is Martin Amis trying to be too clever? Did I miss the point of the story entirely? Both these things are possible but in the end, I’m afraid this story just wasn’t for me. I’m slightly confused at it being placed in the “Stories To Intrigue And Excite,” section of this collection. Granted, I was somewhat intrigued by Rodney’s relationship with a woman who remains silent during their encounters but sadly, there was no point of this tale that excited me. In fact, some parts of it made me half laugh/half scrunch my nose up in disgust and others left me feeling distinctly uncomfortable. I’ll elaborate. There’s a point very early on in the story before Rodney and his lady friend have “done the deed,” and he’s talking to his friend about how fascinating he finds her. His friend very bluntly asks: “Have you two actually slimed?”

I couldn’t help thinking of this little guy….anyone remember Slimer from Ghostbusters?!

I mean, ewwwwww. I found it hilarious and utterly disgusting in equal measure. Aside from this awful little sentence my main problem with this story was the way people of colour were talked about both by Rodney and his hideous little friend. It was blatant racism of the worst possible kind and definitely does not sit well with me. I’m not sure if they were necessarily stereotypes but Rodney and friend talk about this woman that he is seeing in such archaic and ignorant terms, I literally squirmed whilst reading it.

I would like to try and end this review on a positive, I do always like to try and find something nice to say when writing a more critical review and in this case, I’d like to say that it is obvious the author can definitely write. I may not approve of the way he writes and talks about his characters but there is no denying he has a talent for spinning a yarn. It’s just a shame that from what I’ve heard from others and now, what I’ve read for myself, I will unfortunately not be treating myself to any Martin Amis in the future. If you can rest easy with these kinds of things in literary fiction, I’m sure you will enjoy his work – I however, cannot.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: Beachworld by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew.

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Short Stories Challenge 2018 – 20th Century Ghost by Joe Hill from the collection 20th Century Ghosts.

Published May 13, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s 20th Century Ghost all about?:

Imogene is young, beautiful, kisses like a movie star, and know everything about every film ever made. She’s also dead, the legendary ghost of the Rosebud Theatre.

What did I think?:

I confess to finding myself a bit under-whelmed by Joe Hill’s first story in this collection, Best New Horror which was good, don’t get me wrong, but having rated the author’s debut novel, Heart-Shaped Box and his second, Horns five stars when I read them recently, I guess my expectations were stupidly high. Luckily, I got on much better with the title story of this collection, 20th Century Ghost and although it might not have reached the dizzying heights of five star-ness (is that EVEN a phrase?!), it restored my faith in Hill as a short story writer.

The author of 20th Century Ghosts, Joe Hill. There were many images I could have chosen but I was strangely drawn to this one with the tree! 😛

So, this story as you may have already guessed from the synopsis is about a ghost called Imogene Gilchrist who appears to a very select number of theatre frequenters, desperate to talk to them about the movie she is viewing. The tale focuses on Alec Sheldon, who now owns the Rosebud Theatre but when he was a younger man, visited there with his brother, Ray on a regular basis. Ray has sadly been killed in the war and Alec is still struggling with his loss but one day, visits the theatre on his own where he has the frightening experience of meeting Imogene and talking to her for himself. Back in the present day, Alec has become quite obsessed with Imogene and the sad story  behind her death, which happened as she was actually watching a film, The Wizard Of Oz. He keeps notes of all his customers who have also seen Imogene who feel compelled to talk to him about the experience. Meanwhile, the theatre is losing money and all the customers who have seen the ghost have had the same strange dream, of boarded windows and a woman crying. Alec must call on all his resources to try and save the Rosebud, talk to Imogene again and make peace with his own tragic past.

This image represents how I imagined the Rosebud Theatre to look.

20th Century Ghost had just enough intrigue, creepiness and indeed, heart-break to keep me turning the pages and I adored the bitter-sweet, horribly sad ending. Imogene was a wonderful character as a ghost and the manner of her death was so sad that it just made me more curious about what her back-story was. Unfortunately, we don’t really find out a great deal but in compensation, we get the fantastic Alec, who got my emotions rocking and reeling due to the loss of his brother. Having not had any previous experience with Joe Hill’s short stories before this collection, I did wonder if he was only going to be good at epic novels but I’m delighted to say that he can write a short, snappy, engrossing tale with the best of them and I’m confident that I’m going to enjoy the rest of this collection.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: The Coincidence Of The Arts by Martin Amis from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night.

Short Stories Challenge 2018 – Four Hundred Rabbits by Simon Levack from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Vol 7.

Published April 12, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s Four Hundred Rabbits all about?:

Four Hundred Rabbits tells the story of a midwinter festival to honour the Aztec gods in which a young man is drugged. As our protagonist investigates, we find out exactly what happened to him and why.

What did I think?:

Once again with my Short Stories Challenge, I’ve been introduced to an author that I’ve never heard of before and I love it for that! Simon Levack is a British author of historical mystery novels that so far, all feature the same character, Yaotl who is a slave in in Precolombian Mexico with the Aztec people. Almost immediately, I appreciated the detail that has gone into Four Hundred Rabbits and in it’s execution, it very much reminded me of the Matthew Shardlake series by C.J. Sansom (which I have fallen woefully behind on). Generally, I thought it was a decent enough tale and it was obvious that the author had created the plot meticulously however it didn’t blow me away. It was enjoyable but unfortunately, only okay in my opinion.

Our protagonist for the story is the same character featured in the author’s novels, a slave called Yaotl who used to be in the priesthood but was expelled and turned quite heavily to drink before he became apprenticed as a slave. In Four Hundred Rabbits, he is brought up before his master, Lord Feathered In Black and his assistance is demanded. In the corner lies the body of Black’s great-nephew, Heron in a drugged stupor. As Yaotl has had a lot of experience with different plants/drugs through his studies as a priest, Black wants him to investigate the incident and find the culprit so that he can be punished. We are taken to a world of strange religious rituals, where four hundred men compete to drink sacred wine through a hollow straw and it is by these means that Yaotl believes Heron has been poisoned. Why was he attacked in this way? Yaotl must find out before his master’s impatience runs out or before he becomes a target himself.

First of all, I really loved how unique this story felt, especially in comparison to every other tale in this collection. I certainly wasn’t expecting to be taken to another country, another culture and another point in time that is so vastly different from our contemporary world with different beliefs and ideals. I mentioned Shardlake earlier and the way Yaotl goes about his business of attempting to find the perp really reminded me of Matthew’s own investigations in the Sansom novels of King Henry VIII’s England. I was fascinated by how all the pieces of the puzzle came together although I still found it a bit difficult to realise the exact motives of our culprit. Although the writing was excellent, something didn’t fully connect with me unfortunately. Perhaps I was interested in Yaotl himself as a character and was far more intrigued about why he had been expelled from the priesthood rather than a young (rather obnoxious) young man being drugged during a festival. Maybe Yaotl is explored further in Levack’s novels and I’d certainly be curious enough to give them a try.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

NEXT SHORT STORY: 20th Century Ghost by Joe Hill from the collection 20th Century Ghosts.

The Beginning Of The World In The Middle Of The Night – Jen Campbell

Published April 2, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

‘These days, you can find anything you need at the click of a button.
That’s why I bought her heart online.’

Spirits in jam jars, mini-apocalypses, animal hearts and side shows.
A girl runs a coffin hotel on a remote island.
A boy is worried his sister has two souls.
A couple are rewriting the history of the world.
And mermaids are on display at the local aquarium.

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night is a collection of twelve haunting stories; modern fairy tales brimming with magic, outsiders and lost souls.

What did I think?:

I’ve followed Jen Campbell’s You Tube channel for quite some time now as we appear to share quite similar taste in books, especially anything slightly quirky and fairy tale-esque. However, I shamefully haven’t ever got round to any of her books before so when I saw all the promotion about The Beginning Of The World In The Middle Of The Night and clocked THAT cover, I knew I had to finally check out her style. Now, this is a short story collection and I would normally put any short story collections in my Short Stories Challenge and enjoy a story at a time, at quite a leisurely pace. However, with this collection I just couldn’t wait and gobbled them all up in a much shorter space of time. There is no way that I can be as eloquent as Jen with words but believe me when I say that this collection is something really special. It seems to display every single aspect that makes up Jen as a person combined with the fact that she touches on subjects quite close to her heart, like folklore and legends, LGBT issues and individuals that have something about themselves, whether it be physical in appearance or their personality that is just a little bit different and aside from the norm.

It’s quite rare for me to read a short stories collection where I could rate every single one of the stories five stars and unfortunately I couldn’t quite do this with The Beginning Of The World In The Middle Of The Night. There was one particular story, “In The Dark” that I couldn’t quite connect with but I know other reviewers who have loved it so that’s probably just personal taste. I’d just like to talk about a couple of the stories that had a huge effect on me and that began with the very first story in the collection, “Animals” which was all kinds of wonderful and portrayed a world where hearts can be bought and sold online. For me, it was one of the darkest, most twisty tales in the bunch – it made me shiver and it was completely brutal, but the way Jen used poetic language made me swoon. In a lot of these stories, it’s evident how much research she’s put into what she’s writing as she draws on old legends from other countries. For example, we learn about the Celtic goddess of sleep who transforms into a swan every year and the giant in Norway who kept his heart outside of his body so he could live forever. I’d love to talk more about this particular story but I simply cannot, you simply have to discover its beauty and magic for yourself. It knocked me sideways.

Another story where I “didn’t see it coming,” was the gorgeous title story, “The Beginning Of The World In The Middle Of The Night.” This tells the story of a man and a woman who are lying in bed one night talking together about potential beginnings in their world. What I really enjoyed about this story (apart from the bitter-sweet and heart-breaking ending of course!) was the style that Jen chooses to use, it’s told in the form of a script, almost like a play and it was quite refreshing to read a story in this manner. It seemed to get across the message behind the tale and the relationship between the couple even more perfectly than if the author had used prose. Finally, I’d like to talk about the brilliance of “Aunt Libby’s Coffin Hotel.” This is set on a small island and follows a girl and her Aunt who run a hotel where guests can stay and feel close to their deceased loved ones by spending the night within a coffin and making contact. I loved everything about this, the imaginative idea and how the narrative slowly plays out until the reader gets a real idea of what’s really going on with these mysterious characters and their strange ideas.

I always had a sneaking suspicion I was going to enjoy Jen Campbell’s writing, it was obvious to me that as a poet, she was always going to construct some stunning sentences but I was really surprised by exactly how much I adored it. Her lyrical style and love of the other-worldly, more peculiar parts of our world is everything I could ever want in an author and I felt like I was reading every single word she wrote with unbridled delight. The fantastical/magical elements are spot on, as I was anticipating but I loved that Jen also isn’t scared to go to the dark places in a few of these stories. As a writer of short stories, I truly believe that this author is up there with those of the highest calibre writing in both the past and present – I’m thinking Angela Carter, Angela Slatter for starters? I can only rub my hands in glee for anything she’s going to write next.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

 

 

 

The Beginning Of The World In The Middle Of The Night was the twenty-second book on my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

Short Stories Challenge 2018 – Part Two

Published April 2, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to the second part of my Short Stories Challenge for 2018. I have to admit, I’m feeling a little disillusioned writing this post and preparing which short stories I’m going to read for the next few months as in Part One earlier this year, I had so many disappointments and very few stellar stories that stood out to me. I think the biggest failures for me would have to be The Balloon Hoax by Edgar Allan Poe and Books And Roses by Helen Oyeyemi but I could mention a few more. However, let’s end on a positive – there was the wonderful The Apple Tree by Daphne du Maurier and Dibblespin by Angela Slatter which completely restored my faith in short stories. It is because of stories like these that I want to carry on with this challenge and find more great authors like the many, many ones I’ve found so far, purely from their short fiction alone. Let’s do this!

Four Hundred Rabbits by Simon Levack from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Vol 7.

20th Century Ghost by Joe Hill from the collection 20th Century Ghosts.

The Coincidence Of The Arts by Martin Amis from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night.

Beachworld by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew.

Set-Up by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears.

Some Drolls Are Like That And Some Are Like This by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles.

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter from the collection The Story: Love, Loss & The Lives Of Women.

The Underhouse by Gerard Woodward from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page.

The Adventure Of The Copper Beeches by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes.

My Mother’s Wedding by Tessa Hadley from the collection Reader, I Married Him: Stories Inspired by Jane Eyre edited by Tracy Chevalier.

 

The 10th Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize – Shortlist Announced!

Published March 30, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to a bit of a different post here on bibliobeth today. I’d like to talk to you about the Dylan Thomas Prize which has recently celebrated its tenth anniversary. It is the world’s largest literary prize open to young writers of 39 and under from all nations who are writing in English with a grand prize of £30,000 and this year, will also commemorate sixty-five years since the death of Welsh writer Dylan Thomas.

This prize really appealed to me as it celebrates all forms of literature, not just novels – including poetry, plays and short stories. But without further ado – let’s get on to the shortlist. I’ll be introducing the six authors, the book and synopsis, and why I might be interested in reading the book.

What’s it all about?:

A heartstopping, beautifully written debut, telling the story of one girl’s search for freedom.

“You think you’re invincible. You think you won’t ever miss. We need to put the fear on you. You need to surrender yourself to death before you ever begin, and accept your life as a state of grace, and then and only then will you be good enough.’

At 14, Turtle Alveston knows the use of every gun on her wall; That chaos is coming and only the strong will survive it; That her daddy loves her more than anything else in this world. And he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her with him.

She doesn’t know why she feels so different from the other girls at school; Why the line between love and pain can be so hard to see; Why making a friend may be the bravest and most terrifying thing she has ever done. And what her daddy will do when he finds out …

Sometimes strength is not the same as courage.
Sometimes leaving is not the only way to escape.
Sometimes surviving isn’t enough.

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Gabriel was born in New Mexico and raised on the Mendocino coast by two mothers. He received his B.A. from Willamette University in 2010, and after graduation spent two seasons leading youth trail crews in the backcountry of the Pacific Northwest. Tallent lives in Salt Lake City. My Absolute Darling was called “the year’s must-read novel” by The Times and “a masterpiece” by Stephen King.

Am I excited?:

You bet I am! This novel has been one of my most anticipated reads for this year and I just haven’t got around to it yet. The fact it’s on this short-list however has just pushed me to want to read it quicker.

What’s it all about?:

One hot August day a family drives to a mountain clearing to collect birch wood. Jenny, the mother, is in charge of lopping any small limbs off the logs with a hatchet. Wade, the father, does the stacking. The two daughters, June and May, aged nine and six, drink lemonade, swat away horseflies, bicker, and sing snatches of songs as they while away the time.

But then something unimaginably shocking happens, an act so extreme it will scatter the family in every different direction.

In a story told from multiple perspectives and in razor-sharp prose, we gradually learn more about this act, and the way its violence, love and memory reverberate through the life of every character in Idaho.

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Emily grew up in the Idaho Panhandle, on Hoodoo mountain. Her fiction has appeared in Zoetrope, One Story and the Virginia Quarterly Review. A winner of a 2015 O. Henry Award and a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, she now teaches creative writing at the University of Colorado, Denver. Idaho is her first novel.      

Am I excited?:

I’ve actually already read Idaho, you can read my review HERE. I loved parts of it and was confused by other parts but you can’t deny the writing is absolutely incredible.

What’s it all about?:

A sharply intelligent novel about two college students and the strange, unexpected connection they forge with a married couple.

Frances is twenty-one years old, cool-headed, and darkly observant. A college student and aspiring writer, she devotes herself to a life of the mind–and to the beautiful and endlessly self-possessed Bobbi, her best friend and comrade-in-arms. Lovers at school, the two young women now perform spoken-word poetry together in Dublin, where a journalist named Melissa spots their potential. Drawn into Melissa’s orbit, Frances is reluctantly impressed by the older woman’s sophisticated home and tall, handsome husband. Private property, Frances believes, is a cultural evil–and Nick, a bored actor who never quite lived up to his potential, looks like patriarchy made flesh. But however amusing their flirtation seems at first, it gives way to a strange intimacy neither of them expect.As Frances tries to keep her life in check, her relationships increasingly resist her control: with Nick, with her difficult and unhappy father, and finally even with Bobbi. Desperate to reconcile herself to the desires and vulnerabilities of her body, Frances’s intellectual certainties begin to yield to something new: a painful and disorienting way of living from moment to moment.

Written with gem-like precision and probing intelligence, Conversations With Friends is wonderfully alive to the pleasures and dangers of youth.”

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Sally was born in 1991 and lives in Dublin, where she graduated from an MA at Trinity College in 2013. Her work has appeared in GrantaThe White Review, The Dublin ReviewThe Stinging Fly, Kevin Barry’s Stonecutter and The Winter Pages anthology. In 2017 she was shortlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award for ‘Mr Salary’. Conversations with Friends is her first novel.

Am I excited?:

I’m definitely intrigued. I’ve heard a couple of mixed reviews about Conversations With Friends but the majority of reviews I’ve read have been overwhelmingly positive. I’m curious to see if I’m going to enjoy it as much as others clearly have.

What’s it all about?:

From “one of Britain’s most original young writers” (The Observer), a blistering account of a marriage in crisis and a portrait of a woman caught between withdrawal and self-assertion, depression and rage.

Neve, the novel’s acutely intelligent narrator, is beset by financial anxiety and isolation, but can’t quite manage to extricate herself from her volatile partner, Edwyn. Told with emotional remove and bracing clarity, First Love is an account of the relationship between two catastrophically ill-suited people walking a precarious line between relative calm and explosive confrontation.

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Gwendoline was born in London in 1979. She is the author of the novels Cold Water (winner of a Betty Trask Award), Sick Notes, Joshua Spassky (winner of the 2008 Somerset Maugham Award, shortlisted for the 2007 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize), Opposed Positions and First Love, which was shortlisted for the Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction, the Gordon Burn Prize and the Goldsmith’s Prize.

Am I excited?:

I have to be honest and say this is the one book out of the short-list I’m the least sure about. It first came to my attention when it was short-listed for the Baileys Women’s Prize For Fiction last year and I was interested then but heard mixed opinions. However, I do like to make up my own mind about a book so I still might give it a shot!

What’s it all about?:

In Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado blithely demolishes the arbitrary borders between psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. While her work has earned her comparisons to Karen Russell and Kelly Link, she has a voice that is all her own. In this electric and provocative debut, Machado bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies.

A wife refuses her husband’s entreaties to remove the green ribbon from around her neck. A woman recounts her sexual encounters as a plague slowly consumes humanity. A salesclerk in a mall makes a horrifying discovery within the seams of the store’s prom dresses. One woman’s surgery-induced weight loss results in an unwanted houseguest. And in the bravura novella Especially Heinous, Machado reimagines every episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a show we naively assumed had shown it all, generating a phantasmagoric police procedural full of doppelgangers, ghosts, and girls with bells for eyes.

Earthy and otherworldly, antic and sexy, queer and caustic, comic and deadly serious, Her Body and Other Parties swings from horrific violence to the most exquisite sentiment. In their explosive originality, these stories enlarge the possibilities of contemporary fiction.

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Carmen is a fiction writer, critic, and essayist whose work has appeared in the New YorkerGrantaGuernicaTin House, VICE, Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, and elsewhere. Her Body and Other Parties was a finalist for the National Book Award and Kirkus Prize. She holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has been awarded fellowships and residencies from the Michener-Copernicus Foundation, the Elizabeth George Foundation, the CINTAS Foundation, the Speculative Literature Foundation, the University of Iowa and the Millay Colony for the Arts. She is the Artist in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, and lives in Philadelphia with her wife.

Am I excited?:

Yes, yes, yes. I already own this book and am just awaiting a spot in my Short Stories Challenge to slot it in. I’ve heard wonderful things and everything about that synopsis is my cup of tea. Can’t wait!

What’s it all about?:

*Shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Prize 2017*

*Selected as a 2017 Book of the Year in the Guardian and Daily Telegraph*

‘Urban and urbane, it’s a magnificent debut’ Daily Telegraph

‘A brilliant debut – a tender, nostalgic and at times darkly hilarious exploration of black boyhood, masculinity and grief – from one of my favourite writers’ – Warsan Shire 

Translating as ‘initiation’, kumukanda is the name given to the rites a young boy from the Luvale tribe must pass through before he is considered a man. The poems of Kayo Chingonyi’s remarkable debut explore this passage: between two worlds, ancestral and contemporary; between the living and the dead; between the gulf of who he is and how he is perceived.

Underpinned by a love of music, language and literature, here is a powerful exploration of race, identity and masculinity, celebrating what it means to be British and not British, all at once.

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Kayo was born in Zambia in 1987, and moved to the UK at the age of six. He is the author of two pamphlets, and a fellow of the Complete Works programme for diversity and quality in British Poetry. In 2012, he was awarded a Geoffrey Dearmer Prize, and was Associate Poet at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in 2015.

Am I excited?:

I’ve heard great things about this collection so yes, I am. I’m a bit of a poetry novice but am trying my best to get acquainted with more poetry and this seems the perfect collection to do that with. It was also short-listed for the Costa Poetry Prize last year so I’m certain it’s going to be incredible.

Professor Dai Smith CBE of Swansea University, chair of the judges said: “The shortlist of the 2018 Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize is an amazing showcase of young writing talent from across the globe. There are two startling and searing novels from contemporary America; two other novels which engage in a forensic examination of love and loathing, from England  and Ireland; an inventively original collection of short stories from the USA and a challenging, poised work of poetry which takes us to the core of a divided Britain. The judges will have a difficult job over the next two months to find a winner from what is already a list of winners.”
 
Personally, I think this is a fantastic, really strong short-list from a diverse group of authors. I love that it’s quite female-heavy, with four of the short-listed authors being female, and the literature selected covers such a wide range of topics that are all hugely relevant in our world today. With everything I’ve heard about each one of the works, to be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if any of them won and I’m excited to find out which one the judges will eventually select to be the winner.
The winner is in fact announced on Thursday 10th May, just before International Dylan Thomas Day on 14th May. However, if you love this short-list and fancy going to a very special event at the British Library where there will be readings from all the short-listed authors, tickets should be available soon so keep an eye out!
In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. What do you think of the short-list? Have you read any and if so, what did you think? Or, if you happen to have read them all, which one do you think should win?
Good luck to all the authors on this short-list and a huge thank you to Rachel Kennedy at Midas PR for providing me with all the information about this prize and the authors.

Short Stories Challenge 2018 – At The Mountain Of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft.

Published March 22, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s At The Mountain Of Madness all about?:

The Mountain Of Madness follows our male character as he embarks upon an expedition to the Antarctic, initially in search of fossils but ends up finding something much more unexpected and incredibly dangerous.

What did I think?:

Sigh. I think I’ll always be grateful to this short story as it’s only when I dragged myself through this (almost literally kicking and screaming at some points) that I realised that Lovecraft and I are not a match made in heaven. I’ve been worrying about our compatibility for some time now after I’ve read a number of stories in this collection but have always persevered, thinking perhaps there’s something about him I’m just not getting. To be fair to him, there has been the occasional story where I’ve thought: “That was alright, sort of enjoyable,” but generally, I’m finding reading some of his work the most mammoth task. This was definitely the case with The Mountain Of Madness. For starters, it was just so incredibly LONG and, full disclosure here, I found myself skimming whole parts of the narrative just to get to the end that little bit quicker.

Funny story – when I was reading it (and heartily complaining to my boyfriend all the way through), I had been quiet for a little while and he took one look at my face and then told me to give up the story, it looked like it was causing me physical pain! Well, by that time I was so close to the end that I thought I might as well finish it. Now I’m thinking that it’s a shame I’m never going to get that time back again, which was an HOUR by the way and that was with skimming as well. God knows how long it would have taken me if I had bothered to read every word diligently!

So, as a quick explanation of this story, it started out promisingly enough with a group of men, all with different skills i.e. biologist, physicist, geologist who embark on a once in a lifetime trip to the Antarctic to try and get a better idea of the area’s history, primarily by sampling some of the rock formations, which is where our main guy comes in as a geologist. It is not long however, before the men find something else entirely, something terrifying, hideous, other-worldly (hey, what else did you expect, it’s Lovecraft right?) and puts them all in very grave danger.

Where do I even begin? I always like to try and find some positives and if you’re a die hard Lovecraftian, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed, he’s definitely adept with his vocabulary, long descriptive sequences where nothing much happens at all and the build up, cooling down and further build up of a scene. This however, is becoming exactly my problem with him. I can deal with the beautiful wording, although at time it does get a bit too much and some of the creatures he creates are incredibly imaginative however it just all feels like more of the same old thing and to be honest, I’m getting bored.

I do understand that most of his stories have connections to the wider world of the Cthulhu Mythos and the book of Necronomicon of course, but just for once I’d like to read a story that doesn’t feel like it’s going in the exact same direction as the last. For example, male character goes searching for alien/ancient beings, male character finds strange city that makes him feel a bit weird, male character finds evidence that creatures are highly intelligent, male character sees creature and is terrified, male character (or friend of male character) has nervous breakdown and fears no-one is ever going to believe him. You see what I mean? It’s getting a bit tedious and although I can see why people rate Lovecraft so much as an author, I fear I’m not going to change my mind about him. This is now the eleventh story I’ve read in this collection and with fifty-six left to go, I’m sad to say I’m going to have to remove this collection from my Short Stories Challenge from here on in. I’ve really tried to give him a chance and I just can’t do it anymore!

I’d love to hear your opinions on Lovecraft if you’ve read him. Do you feel the same as me? Or is there something I’m clearly missing?

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: Four Hundred Rabbits by Simon Levack from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Vol 7.