Sunday, January 24, 2016

Tim Love reviews Used to Be

Tim Love's review of Used to Be, based on his previous blog notes, is on Everybody's Reviewing.

He begins:
The Mandaeans of southern Iraq had a demon called Dinanukht, half man and half book, who "sits by the waters between the worlds, reading himself". This demon could be the patron saint of Bainesland, where characters interpret symbols that seem to belong to the external world, but turn out being part of the character's past.

I'm gratified by his grasp of what I'm trying to do in these stories. 'Explicitly or otherwise,' he says, 'the characters are story-makers, reassembling their life-arc from stirred memories.'  He discusses three of the stories in particular, and lists as his favourites three stories earlier versions of which happen to be online: the title story 'Used to Be', 'Falling' and 'Tides, or How Stories Do or Don't get Told'.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

An interview in the Didsbury Community Index

Before Christmas, on the publication of Used to Be, Deborah Grace came to interview me for the Didsbury Community Index magazine. She asked me about the themes of the book, which include memory, and got me spilling some very early memories of my own. Read the interview here.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Review of Used to Be on A Life in Books

The New Year (well, the working New Year) kicks off for me with a great review of Used to Be on the A Life in Books blog. The poet Gillian Allnutt once said to me, 'It's so wonderful when people understand what you're trying to do', and that's just my reaction this review by Susan Osborne, in which she says that the collection 'niftily overturn[s] apparent certainties, often in a series of small revelations and delivering the occasional killer punch.' After considering several of the stories, she concludes:
There are several quotations I could have picked in which Baines neatly sums up her theme but here’s my favourite:  ‘your life might go one way, or a completely different other’. Most of us like the idea of certainty – it makes us feel safe – but as this thoughtful collection reminds us there’s precious little of it in life, although sometimes – as in fiction – that makes it more interesting.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

New chapbooks from Nightjar

It's a while now since I was delighted to receive from Nicholas Royle the latest production of his Nightjar short story imprint, and at long last I have the time to write about it here. Two beautifully produced chapbooks, as ever, smartly typeset and printed on lovely silky paper, in limited signed editions, this latest pair sporting jackets in differing tones of lush purple. Nightjar is of course dedicated to the weird or strange, and neither of these stories disappoints on that score, although they each, in their individual ways, differ in tone from most of the books in the series which tend toward the spooky. John Rutter's 'Last Christmas' has indeed something of a Punch-and-Judy feel: set at an eye-opening family Christmas dinner, it's a metaphoric treatment of ageism and the notion that the younger we are the bigger the space and attention we take up, and the older the less. Leone Ross's 'The Woman Who Lived in a Restaurant' is a kind of fairytale that is also a love story, and has a lushly haunting quality.

If you collect these editions - and I know many people do - then better rush and order these two before they sell out, as several in the series already have.

Friday, January 01, 2016

I'm thrilled to be involved with this project, a collaboration between Galley Beggar Press and Salt, intended to provide refuge for those in need. It's a collection of short stories on the subject of Refuge by such wonderful writers as Marina Warner, Toby Litt, Stella Duffy, Nicholas Royle and others, and I'm proud that my little piece 'Home' (which previously appeared in Fragments from the Dark, a book produced by Hafan, the Swansea Asylum seekers support group) rounds off the collection. Do please download it: you'll get a wonderful read as well as be supporting those so sadly in need.