Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Video Dispatches from the LA Times Festival of Books

Short Reviewer BookFox has taken his microphone and video camera to the LA Times Festival of Books and has posted his fascinating dispatches. Check out:
Author Interviews with T.C. Boyle, Judith Freeman, Marianne Wiggins, Mark Sarvas, Tristine Rainer, Shelley Jackson, Steve Erickson, Aimee Bender, Keith Gessen, and Richard Lange.
and his Man on The Street Interviews. Also, several blog posts discussing specific sessions. Great reportage, thanks BookFox!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Short Review Authors News

Chrissie Gittins (whose collection Family Connections is reviewed here) will be reading from her collection at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Monday 11th August 4.30pm, at the Writer's Retreat, with Gerard Woodward and Gerard Donavan. Also a poet, Chrissie will be giving a solo children's poetry performance at Edinburgh in the RBS Theatre, also Monday 11th August, at 11.30pm.

Guernica has an interview with Ursula K. Le Guin (her collection, The Birthday of the World is reviewed here):

Guernica: Why do you think so much new literary fiction takes on fantasy and science fiction, and what sort of thoughts do you have about this? Or popular culture, for that matter? Why do you think we’re reaching for aliens, ghosts and vampires so often these days?

Ursula K. Le Guin: I don’t think we’re doing so, any more than we always did! I think what’s happening is, it’s all—fantasy, science fiction, ghosts, trolls, whatever—finally being called, being admitted to be literature. The way it used to be, before the Realists and the bloody Modernists took over. Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, and the walls came atumblin’ down.

Read the rest of the interview.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Free short story collection

The One Story blog brought to my attention that Small Beer Press, run by Short Review author Kelly Link, ( the review of her collection, Magic for Beginners is here) and Gavin Grant,will be offering free downloads of John Kessel’s latest short story collection The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories. Says One Story:
The Baum Plan includes Kessel’s Tiptree Award winning “Stories for Men” (gender inequality meets Fight Club…on the moon), “Pride and Prometheus,” a mash-up of Frankenstein and Jane Austen, and “Powerless,” an amazing mix of pulp fiction, paranoia, and academia.Could this be the future of publishing? In July 2005 Small Beer Press released Kelly Link’s first collection, Stranger Things Happen, online under a Creative Commons license. It has since been downloaded more than 50,000 times.

Download the collection from here (where you can also buy a paper copy if you really have to. So 20th century.)
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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A Better Way of Buying Books

Following on from a previous post about how we're not in the new-book-selling business at The Short Review, here's the ideal solution: Better World Books.
We love literacy programs like Room to Read, Books for Africa , Worldfund, National Center for Family Literacy , and our 70 other literacy partners. They provide the building blocks for children and families to learn, grow, and share in the vast collection of human knowledge committed to paper. It just makes sense that a bookstore ought to generate funding for these programs. does that with every book we sell.
Better World Books has been called the "Eco Amazon": what they do is simple. They accept books from libraries and then they sell them online, shipping them anywhere in the world. " So far, we've kept over 5 million pounds of books out of landfills," says BWB. They also have a Carbon Neutral shopping cart: "We collect a few cents from every customer at checkout. The proceeds from this carbon offset are enough to purchase renewable energy credits and support reforestation. We not only offset our shipping, but also the shipping of our literacy partners. And since we sell a lot of books, that is enough to keep tons of carbon out of the atmosphere."

What more could you ask for? Their online shop is here.
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Monday, April 7, 2008

"Lumbering" stories

This is from a review in this month's BookSlut of Israeli writer Etgar Keret's most recent collection:

In early 21st century short fiction, originality is rare. The lumbering “short stories” published in The New Yorker or nominated for the Pushcart Prize or anthologized in various “Best Of” collections often seem familiar, like we’ve read them already. I find myself giving some leeway to these vaguely derivative little missives from mentees to their mentors. After all, we live in a world of billions of words, many of them tired out from overuse. If a story is true, and revelatory, and makes the reader feel something -- if it creates a world -- isn’t that original enough? But too often, those prize-winning stories don’t hold up to any test of quality at all. They don’t deserve to be written, and who knows why they’re so celebrated? Maybe it’s precisely because of their familiarity, because certain styles and themes have worn a groove into contemporary literature.

Finally someone has said it - "lumbering" seems to me the perfect way to describe these what I call "mini-novels" that are published by the New Yorker etc...I read the first paragraph of most stories and I definitely feel I've read it before, I know what kind of story lies in wait over the next few pages - parent-child tension, romantic problems, bla bla bla.

Keret is a shining example of a writer who employs the short form to work magic, to do something that cannot be done in a novel, with a stunning economy of words and with wit and compassion. This is what the short story should be all about. Read the Short Review's review of Keret's Gaza Blues (together with Samir el-Yousseff) here, and the rest of the Bookslut review here Bookslut | The Girl on the Fridge by Etgar Keret
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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Addictions, balance and borrowing

Several people have used the word "addicted" to describe their feelings towards The Short Review. Short story collections - the new heroin? Will this necessitate government action, a Tsar to deal with the issue, support groups? Sadly, I think not.

Let's talk about reviewing. There has been a lot of discussion recently over "real" reviewers (ie those paid to review by newspapers, magazines etc...) and "amateur" reviewers (not my description), which refers to those who review on their blogs etc and who tend to only review books that they have enjoyed and thus the reviews tend towards the positive and even glowing. As part of this discussion, the nature of reviewing was examined. I want to state The Short Review's position: we are not a publicity vehicle for short stories. We are not in the business of praising a collection simply because it has been published. I believe that every book deserves a review, but this is very different from saying that every book deserves a
good review. Reviewing is a strictly subjective discipline: a review should be the reviewer's honest opinion on the work, what she or he likes about it and dislikes about it, and, more importantly, why. A review that says "this is wonderful!" without qualifying it, is just as redundant as one that shreds a book without explanation.

I urge The Short Review's 30 or so reviewers to feel completely free in expressing their opinions. Many of our reviewers, myself included, are writers themselves, but there should be no concern when writing a review that the writer's feelings will be hurt by this. This is about the book, it is never - I hope - a personal attack upon a writer.

In our current reviews, I was delighted that the reviewers did not hold back. Comments included: "mixed bag", "The tone of the story is uneven", "the subject matter seemed overstretched", "without finding anything new to say", "not every story is a great read", "the sloppy writing and (apparently) non-existent editing made it difficult for me to enjoy the book as a whole", "In places, however, I found the cruelty too much for the balance of the story".

For the most part
these are not simply "I didn't like this," but are more specific, explaining why. This, to my mind, is valid reviewing.

One of the authors featured in this Issue, Sylvia Petter, wrote to thank The Short Review and the reviewer of her book, Back Burning. She says:
I'm so glad that there was criticism. This bears out words in my interview - how different people are drawn to different things...I am truly grateful to your reviewer for her balanced and pertinent insights.
This is also why The Short Review provides links to other reviews of the particular book. The more opinions the better.

On a more positive note, several of the emails I have received recently from "the addicted" have mentioned that each issue of The Short Review sends them to Amazon or their local bookshop looking for books. I wanted to put in a good word for libraries - we at The Short Review are not in the book-selling business, we just want to get more people reading the astonishing and varied short story collections that are out there. Persuading you to buy the books isn't our goal - look for them in libraries, ask friends if they have a copy, pass 'em around. Just read them. That's all we're saying. Thank you.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Issue 6 has arrived: erotica, wolves, ray bradbury and a little history

All of us at The Short Review are delighted to announce the timely arrival of Issue 6, April 2008.

This little bundle of joy contains ten new reviews of short story collections, including two firsts: our first erotica review (Best of Best American Erotica), and our first historical fiction collection (S. Yizhar), some classic sci fi and fantasy (Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. Le Guin), debut collections from Ireland, the US, Australia (Patrick Chapman, Susan DiPlacido, Karen Russell, Sylvia Petter), a dash of horror (Heather Beck), some tongue-twisting words (Logorrhea), ... and much more.

We've also got author interviews with Patrick Chapman
I'm writing a novel, now in its final draft (so far), which I've been doing for the last five years or so. It's a romantic comedy about suicide.
Sylvia Petter
I write stories in response to whatever moves or ignites me. I’m a bit all over the place in that respect.
Susan DiPlacido
I wanted a good mix of erotic and non-erotic and some pulpy things to represent all the genres I really enjoy writing -- and reading.
and Heather Beck
It’s a sublime feeling to know that what I created is coming to life for others. I am thrilled if even one person reads my work and enjoys it (but don’t tell my publisher that)
If you missed our first 5 issues, check out the fifty reviews we've already published, by book title, author, category. Pop in and find something to read.