The cover immediately appeals to me. Being a cricket fan, the sight of teenagers playing cricket by the roadside brings back fond memories. Memories of growing up, of playing the game on various grounds, fields and the roadside even. It is no stretch of imagination that the picture was taken in a South Asian country - probably India (the motorcycle in the background is suspiciously similar to the one I owned through my high school and undergrad years).
I am also a fan of short stories, having devoured Roald Dahl, Jeffrey Archer, Guy de Mauppasant, Chekov, Saki, O. Henry, Gerald Durrell, Ruskin Bond, and a whole host of others all through my life. I occasionally dabble in writing short stories myself.
Hence, it is with nostalgia and fond memories that I pick up "The Red Anthology of hitherto unpublished writers". Everything led me to believe that this book would be a worthwhile read, and it did not disappoint.
Ok. This is a book of short stories. If you are not a fan of short stories or anthologies of short stories, well, then you should be. Given that an idea, a storyline, a feeling a, an emotion, a chill or a philosophy must be presented to the audience without the luxury of length or the chance to have an intricate build up of events that usually surrounds novels, the short story brings out the best in an author. While almost all of the above authors have written excellent novels and longer books, their real skill and craft is evident in their short stories.
This anthology starts well - the first story is titled "A Christmas Letter" and it is written by one J T Townley. It is a humourous, well-written satirical take on Christmas letters that families usually send out to their family and friends. Written by a suburban housewife who suspects her husband to be cheating on her and who wins a contest for a date with a soap-opera heartthrob, it manages to make you chuckle as you read her machinations and schemes to get her husband to admit to cheating.
From Christmas letters to train rides in a snow-covered countryside, from death, self doubt and suicide to a grown woman trying to revisit her childhood, from lakes in the head to farmers growing muscles (yes, that's right, muscles!), and many many more places and ideas, the stories abound with imagination, crazy ideas, self-pity, sadness, delight and even fantasy. We are taken through a roller-coaster ride which sometimes dips into slaughter houses, sometimes into an Orwellian future, while sometimes showing you how someone can calculate and plan to fall in love.
"Organ Donation" by Miles Newbold Clark is an interesting story that has a first-person narrative from organs harvested from an accident victim. It intertwines storylines and has an way of surprising you - if organs could think, perhaps this might be how they do it. Andy Darley's "I'm here to make you smile" shows an English suburban newspaper columnist trying to come to terms with the sordid nature of youngsters and what might be the future of humanity. Most of the stories make you reflect, at least a little bit.
One interesting feature of the book is the imagery. The book is filled with images and photographs that may or may not have anything to do with the story at hand, but it does change the way you read the story. In a subliminal way, the images seem to fashion your responses to the stories that you read. This is the first short-story anthology that I have read which uses seemingly unrelated images to shape your moods while the text does its work at furthering the event-line.
Commendable of course, is the attempt to present unpublished authors a chance at breaking into the mysterious world of publishing. Hopefully this will inspire them and bring them into the limelight and they will go on to great success in the publishing world.
A good read, all round.
- A Christmas Letter by J T Townley
- The Brevity of Snow by Jared Roscoe
- From the Fear of Contagion by Carl James Grindley
- Helen and the Wolf by Ross Lehman
- Seventy-Eight Days in the City by Sarah Todd
- The Farmer's Story by Abby McMillen
- Flesh by Christopher ole
- Organ Donation by Miles Newbold Clark
- Snow by Emily Isovitsch
- From Song Book by Richard Tock
- A Piece of Mind by Cassandra Taylor
- Love by the Numbers by Cynthia Closkey
- From I'm Here to Make You Smile by Andy Darley
- Contingency-Design Part B by Charlotte Paladine