Sunday, April 15, 2012
A trip, a reading, a new magazine and some story chapbooks
Some bits and bobs - which is about all I can manage at the moment: I've had a lousy cold for over a week and am feeling pretty washed out. I spent Easter in Berlin, and the very first afternoon began to feel low and chilled; I thought maybe it was just the weather, which was very cold and drizzly-damp, but no, by next day I had a fully-fledged cold and a chest infection so bad that from then on I had to sleep partly propped up. But I had never been to Berlin before, and I wasn't about to miss out on anything, so I kept on going through the cold - the day we visited the horrendous former Stasi prison, it was blowing snow and hail - but once we got back to the UK I completely succumbed and have been good for nothing since. (Just hope I didn't give it to too many people on the plane).
As for Berlin, apart from the overwhelming history, there were some striking literary resonances for me: Hans Fallada's Alone in Berlin is a book that left a great impression on me when we read it for the reading group, and it turned out that Jablonskistrasse, in which the protagonist lives, was only two streets away from the friend's flat in which we were staying. I felt spaced out the whole time not only by a virus but also by the stunning intersection of past and present and fiction and reality.
I hope also that I didn't give anyone the cold on Thursday evening, as I wasn't going to let it stop me going to a significant event at Blackwell's Manchester University Bookshop: Salt publisher Chris Emery launching his striking new poetry collection, The Departure, and reading with Ian Duhig and Michael Symmons Roberts. Superb readings compered by Fat Roland in inimitable style, and a great meet-up with some familiar figures - writers Adrian Slatcher, David Gaffney, Sarah-Jane Conlon, Edmund Prestwich, Eleanor Rees, Steve Waling and Ian Pople - and introductions to poet Lindsey Holland and novelist Tim Shearer. A convivial drink in the Salutation afterwards, when I learnt from Adrian of his exciting new venture, a new literary magazine for innovative fiction - called 'New Magazine' - for which he is seeking material. And then, before anyone else, I left and stumbled back home to bed.
Every so often an envelope comes through my door containing the latest publications from Nick Royle's Nightjar Press - chapbooks, each containing a single uncanny story - and another came not long before I went away, this time two stories by Claire Massey. The uncanny needs sophisticated handling, not least to avoid that less-than-uncanny descent into the over-literal and the sensationalist presentation of macabre event either insufficiently or over-explicitly yoked to psychology, and in a whole imprint dedicated to the uncanny the results are therefore inevitably variable. But the idea of lovingly publishing short stories in a way that concentrates the attention on each one individually - the way they should be read, in my view - is a good one, and the chapbooks are indeed fine objects.