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Welcome to The Literary Pig's blog - a safe haven for all those afflicted with
the unbearable urge to write.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Discovering new voices

What was my excuse for not blogging throughout August? I think it was a good one. Post completing the novel I needed to rest and re-energise my fraying thought strands - for me the best way to do this is by READING. And I had permission from MA dissertation tutor to 'forget about writing' and go read for a couple of months (she actually said 12 weeks! Wish I'd asked her to write this down as proof for hubby that I was under strict instructions). As my dissertation is a quartet of short stories (each one based around a character from the novel) she suggested a reading list of short story collections - 35 different writers in total! After picking myself off the floor I did feel a little chuffed that I'd already read many on the list and had their collections on my shelves. Great story writers such as: Helen Simpson, Adam Marek, Jhumpa Lahiri, Alice Munro, Raymond Carver and Alison MacLeod etc. But there were a whole bunch of names I knew and hadn't read, and some totally that were new to me. I can get a bit stuck in a rut with my reading, staying with familiar names I know who'll deliver the goods. But I headed off to the campus library (University of Chichester) to check out as many of these new names as I could. Weeks later I'd like to share the revelations I've discovered. These are a sample of the new voices I've fallen in love with. Well, they're new to me ...

Come to Me: Amy Bloom

After reading Amy Bloom's debut collection I am now a committed fan. Character driven stories all set in the US. Loved how several stories connected together. Her psychiatric/mental health background shows through in the problems her characters have to deal with, but all the stories were absorbing. 'Sleep walking' touches on a very taboo subject and will haunt me for some time. For lovers of short stories I highly recommend this collection. (I'm now reading her second, 'A blind man can see how much I love you', and it's living up to expectation.)

Fascination: William Boyd
I particularly enjoyed how Boyd experimented with form and structure in this collection. There are only a handful that follow a traditional narrative form and I liked that. He accurately captures the male voice in a time of mental, and usually mid-life, crisis, both with humanity and humour. There is a truly sinister story of spiritual possession, 'A Haunting', in this collection, which is a close rival to Penelope Lively's story: 'Revenant as typewriter'. A couple of these needed a second read from me due to their complexity, but they always improved on further reading. I'm determined to read more of Boyd's short stories and novels. The televised drama of his novel 'Any human heart' was heart-breaking and I really should get on and read the original book.

Birds of America: Lorrie Moore
Only just started on this collection, but 3 stories in and I'm hooked on her voice and characters. Very accessible reading. Comedy and pathos knitted beautifully together. In one story ('Which is more than I can say about some people') a mother and daughter take a road trip to Ireland from the US, with the ultimate goal of kissing the Blarney stone and boosting the confidence of the daughter for public speaking. At times this is very funny, yet also achingly sad when Moore shows the truth behind their relationship.

There were, of course, other writers that I didn't fall for. All well respected short story writers, but they just didn't do it for me. I'm not going to tell you about them because we all have such varying tastes and I like to focus on the writing/stories I do enjoy.

I also have been reading 'off-piste' as it were and have discovered even more new great voices in the short story universe. More on them later ...


  1. Some wonderful story collections here, Tracy. I am planning to read the Lorrie Moore soon and am looking forward to it very much.
    It's such a good idea to take time to read and absorb without rushing off to write as well. I believe that's when, without us being aware of it, our new ideas develop and begin to take shape for future writing. xxx

    1. Hope you enjoy Lorrie Moore, Joanna. I'm enjoying the humour in her collection - always a treat to find a short story writer who's not afraid to use comedy. And I love your comment about reading and absorbing - wish I'd said this :)

  2. Great to hear of recommended collections, Tracy - I'm sure it's just the rest you needed from studying while refilling your own well!

    1. Thank you, Rosemary. My well is still in drought mode at present, but rainclouds are gathering (metaphorically I hope).

  3. I've never got the hang of William Boyd, but the other two recommendations are new to me, too.

    1. Do try them, Julia. Boyd is a marmite writer. I feel the same way about George Saunders ...