The five shortlisted stories the BBC National Short Story Award have now all been read out on Radio 4.
Just a quick post tonight to let you know about Lionel Shriver’s Prepositions which was read out on Wednesday.
It told the story of a woman whose husband had died on September 11th 2001. It contrasted her subsequent life with the life of her friend whose husband had died in September 11th.
This was very different from Tuesday’s seaside-set Barmouth. It was more intense, direct, angry. At first I didn’t like. It was a bit… relentless.
But as I carried on listening, I realised it had to be so. This story was saying that not everyone who died in September 11th was a hero. But they are treated as such. While other people who died at the same time are not remembered in the same way. It’s not a comfortable message, unlikely to be popular and so takes bravery to set down on paper.
I thought about how different this American stance was from the four other English stories from this week.
To sum up the catch up:
Monday’s story was about a woman who turned into a fox. It was too weird for me and I gave up after 10 minutes.
Thursday’s was written from the point of view of the spirits living in a house. It was an intriguing idea, and unfolded charmingly, but the actual substance of the story was a little thin.
Friday’s story was read by Claire Skinner, whose range I admire every time I see her: as the dungaree clad teenager in Life Is Sweet; as the harrassed mum in Outnumbered; the tense middle aged woman in Stephen Poliakoff’s Perfect Strangers. Reader aside, I was disappointed with the actual story. It was a sort of parallel musing on war, space and the disintegration of a marriage and went straight over my head, like one of the meteorites in it.
Of the five stories, my favourites are Barmouth and Prepositions. Barmouth is more emotionally rounded and fulfilling. Almost nourishing. But Prepositions is more searing, more intellectual. And 100% more memorable than any of the other stories, which made me think of this discussion about the Booker Prize opening up to non-British authors
I do like quirky British stuff, don’t get me wrong. But do we shrink back too much from creating art that is daring, visionary and single minded? Should we look towards other cultures for inspiration and try to learn from them, or is this just another form of globalisation that will result in one homogenous pasty mess?
All the BBC short stories and author interviews are available here:
(Images are Creative Commons licensed. Click on picture to see original.)