Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Short Review Authors News

Double congratulations to Susan DiPlacido, whose collection, American Cool, was the runner-up in the Romance category of the 2008 Beach Book Festival, and semi-finalist in the Erotica category of the Independent Publisher Book Awards. Short Review of American Cool.

Short Review authors Cristina Henriquez and Etgar Keret are the subjects of Thomas Beller's New York Times article, Foreign Exchange.
Both Keret and Henríquez weave their characters' difficulties into those of the larger society around them, but the results of this process are quite different.

And the winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction has just been announced: Jerry Gabriel’s collection, Drowned Boy, chosen by judge Andrea Barrett. Drowned Boy will be released by Sarabande Books next year. A future Short Review author, we hope. Congratulations!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Criticism's vocabulary of cruelty

Thanks to Short Reviewer Mark for drawing my attention to this fascinating article by Molly Flatt on The Guardian's Book's Blog. Entitled "Criticism's Vocabulary of Cruelty", her premise is that reviewers seem to find it easier to write "funny negative" book reviews than, in the words of one critic she quotes, to "praise interestingly". She notes that online reviews tend to achieve more popularity if they tend towards the funny negative; generous and positive reviews do not get cited so often. But, she cautions reviewers, would you say everything you write in a review to the author's face? If not, perhaps you might want to rethink.
Despite our native savagery, surely there is nothing quite so pleasing as a balanced, sensitive and generous review that manages to capture the spirit of a beloved book? Maybe the problem is that the texts that really touch us engage our emotions and our passions, so that in describing them we must also reveal something of ourselves, whereas a clever slating distances us through self-consciously crafted irony and wit.

Food for thought for any reviewer. The full article is here.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Short story collection news: Libris prize and Edge Hill shortlist

Short stories can be lucrative: D. Hooijer has won the 2008 Libris Literature Prize for her short story collection The Daily Grind is a Predator. This is the first time the prize, worth EUR 50,000, has been awarded for a short story collection. The jury commented that
In her stories she has managed to strike a delicate balance between story and narrative style, between content and form. Hooijer succeeds in making her stories surprising, moving and humorous.
We will have to wait until they are translated into English!

For more on the Libris prize click here.

The shortlist for the second Edge Hill Prize, worth £5000 to the winner, was announced on Saturday 10 May, at the climax of the Oceans of Stories Conference, hosted by Liverpool John Moores University and Edge Hill University. Author Helen Simpson presented the shortlist, which was selected by three judges: author Hilary Mantel, BBC Producer Duncan Minshull, and Prof. Rhiannon Evans.

The shortlist in full is:

Tiny Deaths by Robert Shearman (Comma Press)
The Separate Heart by Simon Robson (Jonathan Cape)
Walk the Blue Fields by Claire Keegan (Faber and Faber)
The People on Privilege Hill by Jane Gardam (Chatto and Windus)
Old Devil Moon by Christopher Fowler (Serpent’s Tail)

Congratulations to all those shortlisted - winner announced in July.

More on the prize here.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Self-published short story collection on Frank O'Connor Longlist

As reported in the Guardian:

This year's 39-strong longlist for the €35,000 Frank O'Connor international short story prize sees a runaway American bestseller vying with an almost unknown, self-published author.Jhumpa Lahiri's latest collection, Unaccustomed Earth, recently topped the US book charts and has been immediately pegged as the frontrunner. But the prize for the year's best short story collection in English has a record of rewarding new talent over established names - so Mary Rochford's self-published volume, Gilded Shadows should not be written off too quickly.

This is a very interesting piece of news from the point of view of The Short Review. Self-publishing is a tricky topic for reviewers. We currently do not accept any collection for review that was self-published or whose author is involved in running the press that published it. Why? Good question. There are terms I could bandy around, like "quality control" etc... But frankly, I've read some dreadful collections published by "mainstream" press. I guess what most concerns me is that some unnamed "floodgate" will be opened if we accepted self-published books that would overwhelm us. But surely the point of The Short Review is to celebrate all published short story collections?

There was a very interesting blog post on this topic recently on the Vulpes Libris blog, by novelist Anne Brooks. She starts by saying:

Hello, my name is Anne and I’m a self-publisher. Yes, I thought I ought to get that out of the way at the beginning, partly because it’s true and partly because it’s sometimes akin to admitting you’re an alcoholic. Not done in polite circles. And once you’ve admitted it, people laugh nervously, fall silent or drift away. Often all three. Or perhaps that’s because I’m no good at small talk. It’s hard to say.

Half of my books are published by the small press and half are self-published. The latter is something I’m proud of, and am becoming more so as the years progress.

She and three fellow writers set up their own press, Goldenford Publishers. They have encountered difficulties getting their books into bookshops, but this is not something unique to self-published books - local authors, for example, are finding it harder and harder to get shelf space in their local bookshops. Interestingly, Anne found that "other shops, such as delicatessens, vineyards, and even museums, are more open to stocking self-published books and also arranging events".

She sums it up by saying that

One encouraging aspect of self-publishing is the openness of online books reviews to small- and self-published books.... In the online world, there’s an encouraging openness in giving critique to non-traditional books which is regrettably absent from the traditional hard-copy reviewing press. ... perhaps it’s time for the Times Literary Review and other such publications to wake up and smell the roses: self-published books are eminently readable and people need to know about them too.

This is all food for thought for me as the editor of The Short Review. I would be very interested in hearing other opinions: for reviews of self-published collections or against?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Genre in fiction 1: Mundane Sci Fi?

As editor of the Short Review, one of my tasks is to assign each collection that we review to one or more categories on the Find Something to Read by Category page. I decided from the outset that books could appear under more than one category heading, because it didn't seem to make sense to confine them to only one: Horror, say, or Mystery. There are funny gritty stories, quirky horror, magical realist crime stories, anthologies that contain a whole wealth of different types of writing.

Recently this has led me to think about "genre" fiction: what is it and why do we need this distinction? I am new to science fiction - having been a fan of Star Trek as a kid - but reading two books for review, the Logorrhea anthology and Kelley Eskridge's Dangerous Space, have opened my eyes to what the genre is and what it isn't. It isn't necessarily aliens, starships and space wars. It is often highly imaginative, magical and what some would call "literary fiction" (another genre... more on this in a later blog post.)

On this topic, I was delighted to read this in today's Guardian Books Blog:

OK, I admit it, sci-fi is boring. After endless Star Trek re-runs, innumerable badly scripted Hollywood movies and a thousand video games with pixel-deep narrative, the once wondrous ideas of sci-fi have become yawn-inducing. Fortunately for me, beyond the world of tedious mass media sci-fi, lies the exciting world of literary science fiction or "SF" constantly producing new ideas to satisfy my hunger for wonder. Now a radical sect of SF writers and critics claim that SF needs to abandon all those wondrous ideas, and concentrate instead on the everyday and the mundane. All hail the Mundane Revolution!
This "radical sect" has a blog: Mundane-SF, which has actually been in operation since 2004 (the website it initially pointed readers to seems to have disappeared). The blog is comprised, in great part, of reviews of what it calls "mundane science fiction", science fiction which, in the words of Guardian blog writer Damien G Walter, eschews
powerful myths like faster-than-light travel and alien civilisations, myths that have been much overused and have no basis in scientific fact ... in favour of scientific realities like biotechnology or environmental change.

This is pertinent to the world of the short story because, says Walters,
Where literary fiction has long since abandoned the short form in favor of the fertile intellectual territory of Waterstones 3 for 2 tables, SF has continued to value short fiction as the arena where the genre innovates and evolves.
Readers will now have a chance to judge Mundane Sci Fi for themselves: the latest issue of British sci fi magazine Interzone, due in shops on May 8th, is the first Mundane SF special issue. But the most important point, for me as a reader looking simply for great short stories, is Walters' summing up of these stories:
The effects of climate change and the potential wonders and horrors of bio-technology loom large, as does the impact of the internet on politics, society and the individual. But very real, very human emotion lies at the heart of these stories, conveyed with a sense of literary style that puts most literary fiction to shame....A wave of technology promises (or perhaps threatens) to effect such enormous change that the next 20 years will make the last 100 look positively sedate in comparison. Mundane SF is the literature exploring how those changes will change our lives, and for all of us living through them it should be essential reading.

The point is - these are not just "science fiction" stories for fans of the "genre" - these are great pieces of writing for anyone who loves short stories. Why should SF fans be the only ones to enjoy them? Step outside your "genre" box, readers, and get stuck in to some great stories. The Fix's review of the Mundane SF special issue is here.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Frank O' Connor Short Story Prize - longlist announced

The Frank O'Connor Short Story Prize, one of the most prestigious in the short story world, with an annual award of 35,000 euros to an author of a short story collection, has just announced their 2007 longlist. Congratulations to all the authors below, a wonderful achievement. I am delighted to say that many of the authors whose books are longlisted have been reviewed by The Short Review, or are in the process of being reviewed, so do go and check out the reviews (links below) and find one or two you might like to read.


IRELAND (5 authors)

  1. Mary Rochford (IRELAND)
    Gilded Shadows
    Tia Publishing, Birmingham, UK
  2. Mary O’Donnell (IRELAND)
    Storm over Belfast
    New Island, Dublin, Ireland
  3. Gerard Donovan (IRELAND)
    Country of the Grand
    Faber & Faber Ltd, London, UK
  4. Anne Enright (IRELAND)
    Taking Pictures
    Jonathan Cape – The Random House Group, London, UK
  5. Roddy Doyle (IRELAND)
    The Deportees and other stories

    Jonathan Cape – The Random House Group, London, UK

BRITAIN (14 authors including 8 authors from Salt Publishing)

  1. James Waddington (BRITAIN)
    Ogo Press, Honley, Holmfirth, UK
  2. Clare Wigfall (BRITAIN)
    The Loudest Sound and Nothing

    Faber & Faber Ltd, London, UK
  3. Niki Aguirre (BRITAIN)
    29 Ways to Drown
    Flipped Eye Publishing, Manchester, UK
  4. Wendy Perriam (BRITAIN)
    Little Marvel and Other Stories
    Robert Hale Limited, London, UK
  5. David Gaffney (BRITAIN)
    Aroma Bingo

    Salt Publishing Ltd, Cambridge, Uk
  6. Carys Davies (BRITAIN)
    Some New Ambush

    Salt Publishing Ltd, Cambridge, Uk
  7. Elizabeth Baines (BRITAIN)
    Balancing on the Edge of the World
    Salt Publishing Ltd, Cambridge, Uk
  8. Padrika Tarrant (BRITAIN)
    Broken Things
    Salt Publishing Ltd, Cambridge, Uk
  9. Linda Cracknell (BRITAIN)
    The Searching Glance
    Salt Publishing Ltd, Cambridge, Uk
  10. William Guy (BRITAIN)
    The I Love You Book
    Salt Publishing Ltd, Cambridge, Uk
  11. Vanessa Gebbie (BRITAIN)
    Words From a Glass Bubble
    Salt Publishing Ltd, Cambridge, Uk
  12. Richard Bardsley (BRITAIN)
    Body Parts – The Anatomy of Love
    Salt Publishing Ltd, Cambridge, Uk
  13. Robert Shearman (BRITAIN)
    (Writer of the Dr Who series and a contemporary of David Walliams at Reigate Grammar School, has worked with Alan Ayckbourn and had a play produced by Francis Ford Coppola)
    Tiny Deaths
    Comma Press, Manchester, Uk
  14. Adam Marek (BRITAIN)
    Instruction Manual for Swallowing (Short Review coming soon)
    Comma Press, Manchester, Uk

AUSTRALIA (4 authors)

  1. John Clancy (AUSTRALIA)
    Her Father’s Daughter
    University of Queensland Press, St. Lucia Queensland, Australia
  2. Susan Midalia (AUSTRALIA)
    A History of the Beanbag
    Uwa Press, Crawley, Australia
  3. Kathryn Lomer (AUSTRALIA)
    Camera Obscura
    University of Queensland Press, St. Lucia Queensland, Australia
    The Boat (Short Review coming soon)
    Canongate Books Limited, Edinburgh, UK

NEW ZEALAND (4 authors)

  1. Tim Jones (NEW ZEALAND)
    Random House New Zealand Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand
  2. Sue Orr (NEW ZEALAND)
    Etiquette for a Dinner Party
    Random House New Zealand Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand
  3. Elizabeth Smither (NEW ZEALAND)
    The Girl Who Proposed
    Cape Catley Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand
  4. Witi Ihimaera (NEW ZEALAND)
    Often regarded as the most prominent Māori writer alive today, his novel, The Whale Rider, was made into the very successful film of the same name.
    Ask The Posts Of The House
    Raupo Publishing Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand

USA (8 authors)

  1. Jhumpa Lahiri (USA) WINNER
    Unaccustomed Earth
    Alfred A. Knopf Inc., Random House Inc., New York, Usa
  2. Wanda Coleman (USA)
    Jazz and Twelve O’Clock Tales
    Black Sparrow Books, Boston, Massachusetts, Usa
  3. Benjamin Percy (USA)
    Refresh, Refresh
    Jonathan Cape – The Random House Group, London, Uk
  4. Janet Kauffman (USA)
    Trespassing – Dirt Stories and Field Notes
    Wayne State University Press, Detroit, Usa
  5. Jim Shepard (USA)
    Like you’d understand, anyway
    Alfred A. Knopf Inc., Random House Inc., New York, Usa
  6. Marianne Herrmann (USA)
    Signaling For Rescue
    New Rivers Press, Moorhead, MN, Usa
  7. Don Waters (USA)
    Desert Gothic
    University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, Usa
  8. Donald Ray Pollock (USA)
    Harvill Secker Editorial – The Random House Group Ltd, London, UK


  1. Alison MacLeod (CANADA)
    Fifteen Modern Tales of Attraction

    Hamish Hamilton, London, UK


  1. Wena Poon (SINGAPORE)
    Lions in Winter: stories
    MPH Group Publishing, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia


  1. Egoyan Zheng (Qian-Ci Zheng) (TAIWAN)
    Urn’s Bottom Village Stories
    Press Store Publishing Co., Taichung City, Taiwan


  1. Tubal R. Cain (NIGERIA??)
    Dandaula and Other African Tales
    Precious Styles Nigeria Limited, Jebba, Kwara State, Nigeria
For more about the prize, click here.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Issue 7 is here and Spring means a redesign

The Spring issue of The Short Review is here, and with it a new look: goodbye Courier, hello Gentium. Leave a comment let us know what you think of the new design! (To see it properly you need the Gentium font, which you can download here.)

Ten new reviews of short story collections:

Bang Crunch,
Neil Smith's debut collection

Invisible Cities, the Italo Calvino classic

Phobic, Comma Press' anthology of horror stories that did scare our reviewer!

Sophie Hannah's Fantastic Book of Everybody's Secrets

Perverted by Language: Fiction inspired by The Fall

William Trevor's latest collection, Cheating at Canasta

For The Relief of Unbearable Urges,
Nathan Englander's award-winning debut collection from 1999

Dangerous Space, Kelley Eskridge's sensual feminist science fiction stories

Crimini, the Bitter Lemon book of Italian Crime Fiction

Jason Brown's follow up collection, Why the Devil Chose New England for His Work

As always, we've asked authors to talk to us about their books. This month, Jason Brown, Neil Smith, Kelley Eskridge, Cristina Henriquez and Sophie Hannah, reveal how they feel about people reading their books and what the word "story" means to them. Author interviews are here.