Another review for Live Show

IMG_2391Sabotage Reviews is a website established in 2017 ‘to provide dynamic commentary and reviews of small-scale and ephemeral literature that might not otherwise receive critical and public attention’.

Reviewing Live Show on the 31st of August, Joshua Lambert says: ‘it’s the characters rather than any particular snatches of writing that stick in the mind. I have a few minor niggles, perhaps – I didn’t buy the children, for instance – but by and large, Grut’s talent for character is phenomenal.

Children aside, not a single character appears in these pages without provenance, motivation, desires, flaws, and obsessions. This may sound like a given, but it really isn’t; short story writers could learn a lot from Grut.

‘The story which left the biggest impression was undoubtedly the last, ‘Into the Valley‘, a beautiful story about a woman staying by her in-law’s bedside in her last few days before death. What’s most striking about it is the sheer messiness of it all. There’s no romance, no literary acceptance, no thematic resonance in death: it is just awful. The mother-in-law suffers through delusions and night terrors, afraid of death and unwilling to face it head-on, prompting an equally raw reaction from the main character:

“At some ridiculous level I find myself disapproving of her tenacity, as if it’s a kind of greed, a lack of acceptance. I don’t think I’d struggle this hard, not even at the age I am now. Perhaps I don’t love life enough. Perhaps I’ll feel differently when I get to eighty.”

Grut’s tenderness and understanding, present throughout, shines like a halogen bulb here.

Shortlisted for Edge Hill

The news came in this morning via twitter. I’m on the shortlist for the 2019 Edge Hill Prize, the only UK-based award that recognises excellence in a single author short story collection. I am so honoured to be in the company of such wonderful writers. The full list is as follows:

Wendy Erskine – Sweet Home (Stinging Fly)
Vicky Grut – Live Show Drink Included (Holland Park Press)
Chris Power – Mothers (Faber & Faber)
David Szalay – Turbulence (Jonathan Cape)
Simon Van Booy – The Sadness of Beautiful Things (Penguin)
Lucy Wood – The Sing of the Shore (4th Estate)

Longlisted for Edge Hill Short Story Prize

I’ve just discovered my name on the list for the 2019 Edge Hill Prize. So honoured and pleased to be in such great company. The prize website says: ‘The twelve strong longlist represents an exciting range of new writing from UK and Irish writers’. The longlist in full is:

Leila Aboulela – Elsewhere Home (Telegram/SAQI)
Michael Conley – Flare and Falter (Splice)
Wendy Erskine – Sweet Home (Stinging Fly)
Clare Fisher – How the Light Gets In (Influx Press)
Mia Gallagher – Shift (New Island)
Vicky Grut – Live Show Drink Included (Holland Park Press)
Rosemary Jenkinson – Catholic Boy (Doire Press)
Chris Power – Mothers (Faber & Faber)
Lionel Shriver – Property (The Borough Press)
David Szalay – Turbulence (Jonathan Cape)
Simon Van Booy – The Sadness of Beautiful Things (Penguin)
Lucy Wood – The Sing of the Shore (4th Estate)

A short list will be announced by September 2019, with the winner of the £10,000 prize announced at a ceremony in London in November.

The judges of this year’s prize are Elizabeth Baines (writer and short story expert), Tessa Hadley (Winner of the 2018 Edge Hill Short Story Prize) and Sam Jordison (writer, journalist and co-founder of Galley Beggar Press).

 

Two New Reviews

Two very favourable reviews of ‘Live show, Drink Included’ came out this month (May 2019).  Writing in the Glasgow Review of Books, Lynda Wardle says: ‘the stories open with characters jogging away on the treadmill of life, and then—deliciously for us—something is tweaked;’ […]’Her descriptions catch both the sense of twenty-first century living and the nuances of emotion that give these stories their humanity.’ […] ‘the story that fittingly closes the collection, ‘Into the Valley’, stands above the others in its refusal to deliver [a] neat punchline. This collection should be bought and shared for all the pieces, but most especially for this last one.’ Full Review here.

Reviewing the book on the US Amazon site, writer and translator Olga Núñez Miret, says: ‘This is a great collection of short stories. The author has a talent for being able to create a vivid background for her stories and she also gives us a good insight into who her characters are and what makes them tick. I am mostly a reader of novels, and I am aware that sometimes, even after reading a whole novel we still don’t have a clear sense of who these characters are, so this is a skill I particularly appreciate. The stories are beautifully observed; we get to see what is going on through the heads of the characters and also the situation that develops around them.’ And: ‘I was impressed by the quality of the collection and this is an author I intend to keep a close eye on in the future.’ This review has been reblogged by many US bloggers so I’m hoping that will generate sales in the States. Full review here.

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The Word Factory Christmas Party

On Thursday 6th December I was at the warm and wonderful Word Factory Christmas party in Bloomsbury. I met so many lovely people and was lucky enough to be one of the five readers picked from slips of paper in the Santa hat. Here I am reading from the story ‘Saucers of Sweets’ in Live Show. Word Factory apprentice Ushi told me afterwards that she’s been reading my work since the Asham Anthology, which came out in 1999: she even remembered the last line of that story. It’s so heartening to know that these stories do find readers, even though I might not meet them for twenty years or so.

Reading at Brick Lane Books

I took part in a reading organised by the Mechanics’ Institute Review team on November 17th at the gorgeous independent bookshop Brick Lane Books in London’s East End. There were seven of us reading work from the current issue of MIR15, and Julia Bell, course director of the Creative Writing MA at Birkbeck, came along to give us a preview of her cycle of autobiographical poems Hymnal. Wine was drunk and nothing spilled, friends were made and many books sold. A lovely evening. Mechanics’ Institute Review 16, which will be published in 2019, is now open for contributions.

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Book Launch: 11 October

The launch of Live Show, Drink Included took place on Thursday 11th at the October Gallery in Bloomsbury and more than sixty friends, family, former colleagues and students came along to join in the celebrations – even Alexei Sayle stopped by. I read extracts from two of the stories and Michelle Williams did an impromptu translation into British sign language, which added a lovely touch; 47 books were sold. Many thanks to Bernadette and Arnold of Holland Park Press for organising the whole thing.