The Canadian artist and photographer Karen McRae recently contacted me with a brilliant idea – she had taken a series of eerie pictures of trees, wrapped against the winter frost, and would I like to create a piece of writing in response. I said yes immediately – I loved the imagery, the strangeness of seeing these warped, bound forms against a barren landscape. The result was ‘The Plantation Loop’, which you can read on her excellent blog, next to her images. Read/view here.
I hope they pair well, and are appropriately creepy for this thin moment of the year.
It’s the season of Umbrella Death Weather in Glasgow now, and if the climate is anything like the last time I lived here, we’re in for this for the next few months. The wind whips up, the rains lash, and umbrellas succumb, crowding the bins and sides of the street along with the golden leaves slowly turning to mush. It’s a time to be indoors, reading, writing, cosying up with a creepy film, adjusting your excursions to limit them to work and back, with a stop on the road home to get supplies. It’s the Hallowe’en lull, before Christmas indulgence and shopping cranks into gear (also in the time of Umbrella Death, because there is never much snow here). For now, I don’t resent the weather breaking out. This past Summer and early Autumn have been unusually kind, balmy even. But towards March it will be a different story. But, for now, the novelty of terrible weather.
I have a little news – I am now reading submissions for Necessary Fiction. I’m glad of it. I’ve enjoyed the opportunities I’ve had in the past to read slush – the sense of discovery, a chance to appreciate other writer’s approaches and sharpen my eye – so I’m really grateful and glad to be involved now. Send send send! And obviously, read the site’s fiction feature to get an idea of what appeals (and also because it’s important to know that you like reading the stories Necessary Fiction publish, and that you’d be thrilled to be picked for such company).
Back to work for me – listening, I can’t hear the wind any more. Just the old pipes and the white noise of the dehumidifier.
Work, reading, chill, slush of the leafy and writerly sort.
Very chuffed to say that a flash from On The Edges Of Vision is up on Vol. 1 Brookyln’s Sunday Stories. Pour yourself a coffee and look out the window at the lashing rain, and dip in:
Grace unscrews the white lid and pulls out the dripping tiplet and applies the polish to one nail after another, then holds the drying almond surfaces up to the light. Fleck and aura of colour, against the ceiling, the slow chop of the ceiling fan. Tonight’s the night, though it’s not tonight yet. There’s music on shuffle: a mix called MISANDRY+PINK GLITTER. She doesn’t know what misandry means, but it sounds tough and cool, and Grace very much wants to be tough and cool.
I’ve decided that for my Endless Reads project 2015 I am going to read as many novellas as I can. Slim little pieces, tender weird harrowing classic innovative bright calloused intriguing lyrical stark books under 150 pages long (though I’d prefer around the 100 page mark). I have read shamefully few novellas, and having just written one and hoping to write more, I really ought to know the territory a little better.
To that end, I’ve started a new shelf on my Goodreads called Novellarama – if you aren’t friends with me already and you are on Goodreads, please send a request! That way you can recommend books to me (which I shall try to buy from places other than Amazon, to mildly scupper its having snaffled up Goodreads recently).
I’d love as many recommendations as you have to offer – that way I can pick and choose for a whole year. Top of the list so far are:
Four Novels, by Marguerite Duras, The Diving Pool by Yoko Ogawa, Toni Morrison’s Home, Ordinary Love and Good Will by Jane Smiley, a collection of novellas by Deborah Levy, and Ottessa Moshfegh’s McGlue. There are many more on the list. Donations welcome, if you happen to have them lying around (or want to swap books with me).
Novellarama will start on the 1st of January and hopefully result in a spate of equally tiny reviews for you to enjoy. If anyone else is joining in I will link to your blog periodically and peer at what you’ve enjoyed.
The new issue of Wyvern Lit, entitled ‘Haunted’ is out, and my piece ‘The Mistress of the House on the Machair‘ from On The Edges Of Vision can be read there.
So he goes and makes a gin and syrup for the ghost, and a tea for himself. He puts the gin drink in the fridge with a daisy in it. Daisy for her, though he forgets – is a daisy toxic or not? He imagines her struggling to raise the glass to her lips, the constant threat of spill. It’s a long time between now and dusk.
In other news, my witchy novella ms Villain Miriam received an honourable mentioned in the last Civil Coping Mechanism Mainline contest of the year. It’s such a fun contest, with publisher Michael J Seidlinger reading all entries in a single five day period (!) and deciding CCM press will publish. He has described the contest as a ‘mosh pit’ for books. I’m looking forward to reading the books that won, and I feel it’s a bit of a boost for the novella that even though it’s so short, and a strange hybrid of flash and narrative, it could make an impression in the midst of all that lively jostling. The ms is still out with a few publishers who might (hopefully) be interested in pushing it out into the world.
A submerged, dark feeling to Glasgow early this morning.
Some things swirling around my brain right now:
1. The gothic on the internet.
- Creepypasta (what is it? How about some examples?)
- A book review tinted by grief (it’s gothic really because the site is)
- I never grow bored of funereal food rituals
- That gum you like is going to come back in style
2. Gothic in real life
- The Feminist Book Club meets on the 18th of next month in Glasgow to discuss all manner of gothic tomes (and films I think)
- I mean, park district in general providing the perfect gothic background to life
3. This assured, clear-eyed, excellent essay on issues of abuse and consent (hugely relevant to the online literary community at the moment, and to the wider world always, always)
4. Finishing Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner – on the trap of being an upper-class spinster and expected to be an unpaid reliable type with no needs or private life of ones own and how one woman escapes this by becoming a witch, and, in the most politely English of ways, selling her soul to Satan. Really quite odd in its structure heavily weighted towards the background of becoming trapped by society’s expectations, slowly being ground down, then all at the end in a flurry Satan and awkward dance party black Sabbaths and gentle hikes through calm rural landscapes rather than action.
5. A month of watch ghost films (which I post about on Twitter). I am trying to be spooked, to see where that takes my imagination for the next project.