A Year’s Reading

I was lazy in 2015 – only four novels read.

Men Without Women by Ernest Hemingway – short fiction is where his strengths are, in my opinion. His style works best in the short form, the starkness and simplicity lending a sense of immediacy and purity to the writing. I’ve been trying to capture these traits in my own short fiction.

Osama by Lavie Tidhar – a weird one. Part detective mystery, part paranormal, part alternate-reality. An interesting read, although I personally felt that the ending lacked the necessary punch.

The Longshot by Katie Kitamura – excellent. A very short book, arguably a novella, written in a very lean manner with a limited cast of characters. The relationship between trainer and fighter is conveyed with subtlety and nuance, and is as much about what isn’t said as what is.

Joe by Larry Brown – earthy, solid writing with engaging characters. This is something close to what I aim for in my own writing. On the strength of this novel, I’ve bought Brown’s Fay as well, which is currently in the to-read pile.

The Longshot and Joe are both examples of what I’m aiming for in my own writing: leanness, with a kind of sturdy, no-frills quality to it, telling stories which focus on normal, humble people facing things bigger than themselves.

Currently reading The Trial by Franz Kafka.

Ambit 222


A short story of mine called Pool Hall Kid appears in Ambit 222 this month.

As ever, the journal features some excellent prose, poetry and artwork. Issue 222 also includes the winners of the annual Ambit poetry and fiction competitions (this year, the poetry was judged by Dan O’Brien while Alison Moore judged the fiction). I particularly enjoyed Sea Change by Louise Kennedy, which won first prize for the fiction competition.

You can buy a copy of Ambit 222 here.

When the Moon Overtakes the Sun

A short almost-prose-poem of mine, called When the Moon Overtakes the Sun, is now available to read at The Electronic Encyclopedia of Experimental Literature (The EEEL for short), a publication by tNY.Press. It’s coupled with a very atmospheric piece of artwork by Alex Robichaud which fits the writing perfectly.

You can read it here for free. There’s plenty of other writing there – much of it experimental, all of it good – so go and have a look.


A Year’s Reading

It’s been a slow year for me in terms of reading. I haven’t read many novels – certainly not as many as I did in 2012 and 2013. But I have probably read more short fiction than usual, in magazines such as Structo, Ambit, Firewords Quarterly, theNewerYork and others, as well as in the writing workshop I’m a member of.

Here’s the list.

Underworld by Don DeLillo – I gave up on this around two-hundred pages in. The writing is great and I was completely absorbed during the first few sections, but things grew very slow as the book went on. I’m usually fine with a slow burner, but I suppose tastes change and fluctuate. I don’t doubt I’ll come back to it at some point.

High Rise by J. G. Ballard – I needed something short after Underworld. Something quicker, edgier, completely different. High Rise charts the social descent of a group of people in a huge block of flats, and the chaos that ensues.

Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy – I like anything by McCarthy, and this was no exception. Despite being a very simple story, fable-like in its telling – it haunts.

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller – Excellently written, poetic one moment and stark the next. Heller takes liberties with sentence construction at times, and this facet of his writing style is something I admire – it’s something I do in my own writing – although I wonder if it irked some readers. Also, there’s a thread of hope running through the book, which was a relief after Outer Dark.

Naked Lunch by William Burroughs – Another one I gave up on. What little I have written this year has been more experimental compared to my previous efforts, so I read Naked Lunch hoping to learn something new regarding experimental writing. However, I just couldn’t get along with it. The swirling, rushing prose worked for the first few pages, but it soon became tiresome.

Revival by Stephen King – This feels like a return to the subject matter he explored earlier in his career, particularly in novels such as Salem’s Lot. There were also some fun links and nods to his other novels, such as the Dark Tower series. However, as is often the case with his later works, Revival‘s ending doesn’t quite deliver.

Currently reading: Men Without Women by Ernest Hemingway.

Some short fiction I’ve read this year, off the top of my head: Munitions by Anton Rose, and Under the Dark by Dawn Bailey.

Briony Bax at Platform 505

Briony Bax, editor of Ambit, has written an article for Platform 505. In it, she talks about editing a literary journal, and all the things that come with that. It’s a good insight into some of the things that go on behind the scenes of a literary journal. She also outlines what Ambit is all about: ‘…encouraging new voices and experimental form…The magazine must be judged on the quality of the work, not the name attached to it.’  I even get a mention. You can read the article here.

Writing in Ambit 218


October saw the publication of Ambit 218, which featured a short prose piece of mine, called An Echo on the Night Wind. I wrote it just over a year ago, and it was one of the few things I’ve written which I got down in one take with very little editing afterwards. For me, that doesn’t happen very often. It was also my first real attempt at prose-poetry. I’m pretty happy with the result.

As always, Ambit 218 features a lot of good writing and art. There’s a story in there by Lavie Tidhar, whose work I’ve always enjoyed. I first came across his stuff years ago, when I was sending my first attempts at short stories to a speculative fiction magazine called Murky Depths (I eventually got published in issue 8). Lavie’s work (mostly comics if I remember correctly, for which he did the writing – I could be wrong, though) was in various issues, and I enjoyed his work immensely. It’s funny how things come full circle – years later, we’re in the same magazine (which in terms of content is pretty far removed from what Murky Depths was about).

You can buy Ambit direct from their website, or from stores.