This week’s Unsung Letter is from Helena Roots, on an intense book satirising relationships with food, American culture, and other bodies:
I have a tendency, particularly as the days shorten and the cold tightens its grip, to reach for books that warp my own ideas of normality. If I go off-radar in the Autumn and Winter months, and I often do, chances are I’m wrapped up in a blanket, being chewed up and spat out by books just like this.
Read more here…
Subscribe to The Unsung Letter to receive a weekly essay by a different writer / book lover on a book they think is underbeloved and worthy of praise. The archive is available too, if you’d like to have a browse.
Side note: Vol 1. Brooklyn wrote a piece on the rising popularity of Jeff Goldblum and covered my small book which you can pre-order for early December if you haven’t already for the modest sum of £5 (via the link to 404 included in the article).
Now available to pre-order is a book I did not expect to write: The Goldblum Variations. Here’s the cover, from 404 Ink:
The idea came from a prompt from writer Gillian Best for The Paperchain Podcast. I wrote a short, absurdist collection of microfictions for the podcast, then went on to write a whole book of them, including such chapters as:
Past Lives of Jeff Goldblum
Bingo Goldbingo (Jeff Goldblum Bingo)
Fragments of Jeff Goldblum
Checking in with Jeff Goldblum on Alternative Earths
and many more.
I promise a joyous, weird experience rich in Jeff Goldblumness. At only 40 pages, it makes the ideal stocking stuffer for Christmas too.
Pre-order it here (only £5 + £1 postage)
The first story of Mayhem & Death (March 2018, 404 Ink) is up in Joyland today:
It was now high morning on a bright day in late March, the kind of day when the earth begins to release scents it has kept pursed all winter long, and it seems as if, finally, the year shows a little fight. Up in one of the red sandstone tenements a woman was plumping the cushions of the window-seat in an otherwise empty room. Frances: A study in sallow blotches against white, puffy, slept-in skin, pale hair knotted at the nape of her neck, a jumper tucked in heavy black folds into a red skirt, under which rumpled winter tights, no shoes. She was at that moment kneeling on the hardwood floor.
Uncharacteristically, this is a full-length short story (though, in keeping with many other of my stories, there is a tea-drinking scene). It follows Frances as she journeys from Glasgow to Mallaig to the isle of Skye and the aforementioned souterrain, carrying a dream-journal written by her daughter, entitled Mayhem & Death. The daughter is a character who reappears in the novella at the end of the collection, but you’ll have to wait until it comes out to learn how her story plays out.
Read the full story here. Tea (or other hot beverage) optional.
404 Ink, started by Heather McDaid and Laura Jones, are the publishing house behind the excellent essay collection Nasty Women and surreal, hilarious short story collection Hings by Chris McQueer – so I am utterly thrilled to say that they are also going to be publishing two books by me!
- My debut story collection, On the Edges of Vision, came out in 2015 and won the Saltire First Book of the Year. The press who originally published it have since shuttered, but 404 have taken it up and are going to shepherd it back into the world.
The collections are coming out in March 2018, so you’ve not too long to wait!
Here’s the full announcement from 404 Ink.
As an aside, I went for a photoshoot with 404 Ink and photographer Sinéad Grainger – the pictures she took are great and you can see a couple via the link. Here’s my favourite, and new author photo:
credit: Sinéad Grainger
Come and join Gillian Best, Ever Dundas and me for a morning of debut fiction in Dundee. We’ll be singing siren songs about our novels, answering your bookish questions and signing your newly bought or proffered books. It’s a rather bargainous £3, so less than the price of a fancy cup of coffee. What better way to spend a Saturday morning?
From the Dundee Literary Festival website, here’s what you can expect:
In Flesh of the Peach, Scottish First Book of the Year winner Helen McClory paints a beautiful and painful portrait of a woman’s unravelling, combining exquisite, and at times experimental, prose with a powerful understanding of the effects of unresolved loss.
The Last Wave by Gillian Best is a wholly authentic, tragicomic portrait of family life as it is buffeted by sickness, intolerance, anger, failure and regret, soaked in empathy and salt water.
Ian McEwan’s Atonement meets Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth in Ever Dundas’s extraordinary debut Goblin, an utterly beguiling historical tale with an unforgettable female protagonist at its centre.
When: Saturday 21st October, 10am
Where: Bonar Hall
Tickets: £3, concession £2
Still unsure? Check out some Goodreads reviews:
The Last Wave
Flesh of the Peach
In August I appeared at the Edinburgh International Book Festival alongside Meena Kandasamy – we spoke about Flesh of the Peach, When I Hit You, violence, womanhood, identity, feminism in the west and in India – and had some brilliant questions from the chair, Lee Randall, and the audience. If you didn’t get the chance to attend, or just fancy listening again, you can now hear it here (on itunes) or here (on the main EIBF site)
I have a kind of a companion piece to the personal anthology of flash that went up the other day: an essay on how to read things that we don’t think are for us, including flash fiction (which plenty of people struggle to read, I’ve found, and not wish was something else)
Here it is: You know what you like. You read a particular type of book, but you won’t venture into certain territories, because they are boring, or they are Not For You. You don’t “get” poetry. You only get poetry of a certain type. You only read macros on Instagram. You don’t see the point of flash fiction. Short stories are fine (but you haven’t read any all the way through in a few years). Harry Potter inspired your adoration for reading, but nothing has lived up to that thrill.
It’s basically a love song to the joys and rewards of reading indiscriminately but attentively. Check it out here. If it makes even one person take a breath and read something new and challenging, I shall be happy.