Categories
Introducing Breve New Stories

Writer’s Blog: Laurie Raye – How not to read a book

When approaching a book which contains stories it would be natural to assume that the purpose of the book is to read it. This is, after all, what most people do when faced with a book.

Edward Dimock, distinguished professor of South Asian languages, when his attempt to get access to an old and valuable Bengali text finally succeeded, discovered that all but one of the 360 pages were completely unreadable due to three centuries’ worth of worship with unguents and powders.

He only wanted to read it, but what a fool he was to think that all books were for reading.

So why ruin a good book? Because the texts themselves tell you to. Books can command their own destruction, and if you ignore their instructions you do so with the understanding that you have not experienced the book to its full potential.

“Before you read me, cover me in powder!” They say, and you do, because you want to do right by them.

When they can no longer be read, you pass it on by word of mouth. You tell your children what the book wants, long after it can tell you itself.

The oral tradition isn’t so far away from the written tradition after all. What could be more of a clear example of ergodic literature than a book that doesn’t want to be read.

Further reading on self-destructive books: Popular Buddhist Texts from Nepal: Narratives and Rituals of Newar Buddhism by Todd Lewis, The Role of Narrative in Nepalese Buddhist Vrata Literature by Laurie Raye.

Categories
Introducing Breve New Stories

Writer’s Blog: Laurie Raye – Being Visible. The idea behind “The Secrets We Wear On Our Skin”

Laurie Raye talks about what inspired their flash fiction ‘The Secrets We Wear On Our Skin’ published in Breve New Stories Issue Three.

I got my first tattoo yesterday.

A leaping reindeer, flying through the sky with the face of an eagle and antlers bedecked with flowers.

It is the oldest tattoo design known to humanity. Well, that’s not entirely true. It is the oldest design which seems to be for no discernible medical purpose. Not an acupressure mark like on Otzi the ice man, this was just one of the many flying and frolicking animals painted on the skin of the Pazyryk ice maiden. Her body is a canvass of motion and colour, still alive so many millennia after her death. Despite everything, she is still visible to us.

Being non-binary, I exist within the margins. Neither this nor that nor here nor there. It is hard to categorize me, to label my experiences with definitive, limiting words. Dating is a minefield of ‘But what is between your legs?’ and ‘But what are you really?’ and ‘Wow, I’ve never kissed a transgendered (sic) before’ and, unfortunately, the inevitable ‘You are either a man or a woman u confused bitch!! Fuck off and die!’ whenever I try to date beyond the queer community bubble.

I have met my fair share of Lucys, and I have been my fair share of Morgans.

But slowly, slowly, I’m beginning to wear my heart on my sleeve and ink my secrets onto my skin for all to see. I’m not interested in being invisible. I’m not walking into the ocean, I’m walking into the tattoo parlour and asking for my reality to be made manifest. I will continue to make my true self visible.

That is why I wrote this story.

Categories
Authors/New Voices Tom Heaton

Writer’s Blog: Tom Heaton – Decline and Fall. The idea behind “The Last Roman”

Tom Heaton talks about what inspired his short Story ‘The Last Roman’ published in Breve New Stories Issue Three.

In times of great political, social and cultural upheaval, it’s vital to maintain the supply of serio-comic short stories.
In our own apocalyptic moment, I took it upon myself to shoulder that burden.
Surveying the rubble of a collapsing civilization, I thought it might be helpful to get the viewpoint of someone who had been there before. So I resurrected a Roman. A Roman, I thought, would at least have first-hand insight into declines and falls.
Unfortunately I got the wrong sort of Roman. I’d hoped for a statesman, an intellectual, someone used to the cut and thrust of politics, a meditative and observant actor in the great events of the day. Instead I got Marcellus, an insignificant centurion posted to the very edge of the empire. A self-regarding, small-minded nonentity, blind to the great changes that were happening around him, uninterested in politics: sentimental, petty, fickle. Someone it turned out, who would fit right into our contemporary crisis.
And then Marcellus took over the story. I’d thoughtlessly placed him in a world that he could not begin to comprehend. His mind was stuck on boyhood memories and love affairs from millennia ago. He was static while everything changed around him, a man adrift on time. And there were things he needed to reconcile within himself. Aspects of his character. Regrets. Even after two thousand years, Marcellus still had unfinished business. With himself.
So I failed to write the great short story that would enlighten these dark days for democracy and liberalism. I’m sorry. Instead I give you Marcellus, who will be around long after you are gone, listening to the hum of his glass case, rotating his head, watching and not comprehending.

Categories
Authors/New Voices Introducing Breve New Stories Notes of Inspiration

Writer’s Blog: Trudy Duffy-Wigman – A New Language

In her last blogpost Trudy Duffy-Wigman, author of My New Best Friend published in Breve New Stories Issue Two, describes her experience on writing in her second language.

The fact that I am using a language that is not my own has a huge bearing on my writing. It brings challenges; like finding the right expression to convey a concept or an emotion. A benefit is that I am acutely aware of the workings of a language; the fact is that some words, feelings or expressions just cannot be translated. This has an effect on what you -what I- write. I find myself drawn to language that is pared down to its essential core- simple and sparse, devoid of flowery additions. Strangely enough, writing in Dutch is all but impossible nowadays. Though Dutch friends and family compliment me with the fact that I still speak Dutch without a trace of an accent and use the correct sentence structure I have found out that when I try and write something in my mother tongue, I throw it aside in disgust. Clunky and clumsy, not in tune with what I wanted to say.
Some twenty years ago I lived and worked in Russia for a while. Waiting for my part of the project to start, I filled the time with teaching Dutch conversation at the University of St Petersburg. One of the professors of Dutch of the university was incredibly accomplished in Dutch; not an easy language to learn. He had no trace of an accent whatsoever. The only way you could spot it was that he used archaic expressions; expressions not used for the last thirty years. He had never been abroad, which made it even more of an accomplishment (and indicated he had been trained by the KGB!).
It saddens me, not being able to be playful in my own language anymore. Perhaps you have to be surrounded and immersed by a language in order to be able to write in it.

Categories
Authors/New Voices Introducing Breve New Stories Notes of Inspiration Writing/Reading

Writer’s Blog: Hamish McGee – Writing from History

In his last post, Hamish McGee, author of ‘Doubting Thomas‘ published in Breve New Stories Issue Two, reflects on his passion for history.

What interests me? Well, that too is easy – just about everything I study interests me. I find if I care to delve into any subject it becomes interesting, and what interests me makes for a good story. So almost everything interests me … except maybe reality television.

People and history interest me. We can learn a great deal of value by studying people who have gone before us. Some we learn to follow; others we might choose to abandon.

The events and historical backdrop to the emergence of Christianity is a period that fascinates me because the events that played out two thousand years ago reverberate to this very day and ate likely to do so for millennia yet. I have a particular perspective on those events and the characters that shaped human history so profoundly and irrevocably informed by biblical research.

This is my project, my historical novel. It excites and fills me with fear in equal measure. It will be the best or worst writing will have done. Will others understand what is so clear to me? Will I be true to the characters I seem to have come to know so well?

We’ll simply have to wait and see …

Categories
Authors/New Voices Introducing Breve New Stories Notes of Inspiration Writing/Reading

Writer’s Blog: Trudy Duffy-Wigman – Notes of Inspiration

Trudy Duffy-Wigman author of ‘My New Best Friend’ published in Breve New Stories Issue Two, talks about the authors who inspire her.

 

Being Dutch, I grew up with Simon Carmiggelt. Carmiggelt died in 1987, aged 74. He is famous in the Netherlands for his daily writings in the newspaper ‘Het Parool’. His short stories, which he signed off with ‘Kronkel’ (Kink) are observations of daily life, often melancholic, sometimes sombre but always with a great insight in the human psyche. Like few others, he was able to sketch big ideas with a minimum of words. He wrote flash fiction before the genre was invented. Some of his work is translated but I doubt whether he translates well as he is so very, very Dutch.
Another inspirational author is Godfried Bomans. Bomans died in 1971, when he was 58. Hardly any of his works – and he was a very prolific author – have been translated. He wrote short stories, essays, criticism, fairy tales and political satire. As an admirer of Charles Dickens, he founded the Haarlem branch of the Dickens Fellowship and became its president. Bomans was very media savvy and appeared regularly on (black and white) television. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that his literary peers regarded him with a measure of suspicion and disdain: he never received a literary prize, nor is he mentioned in scholarly overviews of Dutch literature, despite the fact he was widely read. Like no other he could describe what a character was about in just a few words.
A more contemporary source of inspiration is the collection of short stories written by Jhumpa Lahiri. Her work possess a quality that makes me want to stop and contemplate what I’ve just read, rather than going on to the next page. Her prose is understated, her language quiet and precise, resonating long after finishing the story.

Categories
Authors/New Voices current issue Introducing Breve New Stories Notes of Inspiration Writing/Reading

Writer’s Blog: Hamish McGee – Notes of Inspiration

Hamish McGee, author of ‘Doubting Thomas‘ published in Breve New Stories Issue Two , talks about the authors that inspire him.

I have known a number of inspirational individuals. Like many of you I suspect, my day and Sunday school teachers were dedicated people who shaped my love of the written and spoken word. They introduced me to the likes of Nell Harper Lee, James Leslie Mitchell (Lewis Grassic Gibbon) and William Golding; all instantly recognisable names.

William Golding taught me the meaning of ‘fable’. “Lord of the Flies” was a revelation. A story with layers of meaning? Suddenly a whole new world opened before me, beckoning me, inviting me to saturate my intellectual senses. Others such as “The Spire”, “The Inheritors”, “Pincer Martin”, “Rites of Passage” and “Darkness Visible” all, in my opinion, great works, left an indelible mark on my psyche. Mann-Booker and Nobel prizes both well deserved.

James Leslie Mitchell’s “A Scots Quair” also made a lasting impression on me. Mitchel’s writing evokes the sometimes-suffocating, sometimes-intriguing but always extraordinary atmosphere of Scottish village life. Writing as Mitchell was about a woman’s experiences of life, I was filled with wonder that a man could have such a profound understanding of a woman’s perspective.

Similarly Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” told a great story about the darkness, frailty and resilience of human nature, while simultaneously capturing the soft undulations of the Southern accent. I defy anyone to read that book without hearing the Deep South drawl and an aching in the heart. What a shame she published so little.

Hamish McGee

Categories
Authors/New Voices current issue Introducing Breve New Stories Notes of Inspiration Writing/Reading

Writer’s Blog: Trudy Duffy-Wigman – The Idea Behind ‘My New Best Friend’

Trudy Duffy-Wigman talks about what inspired her flash fiction ‘My New Best Friend‘ published in Breve New Stories Issue Two.

Do you know that awkward moment when you hop on a bus or a train and you notice something is out of kilter? You hear the collective intake of breath by your fellow passengers and slowly realise that you are trapped – someone wants your attention, and you are going to give it, like it or not.
That is the inspiration behind this story. After decades of using public transport in every form and shape I can honestly say that overheard conversations, observations and interactions on tram, train or bus is where a lot of my ideas come from. Like the time I got on a tram in Amsterdam that happened to be full of drunken football supporters. Like the time we took the train from St Petersburg to Moscow armed with wet towels because criminals were gassing compartments to steal passengers’ credit cards. And like the time I got on a night bus in Glasgow and heard a lament from an inebriated, lonely soul.
And what do we, being sober and upright citizens, do in such situations? We don’t want to be involved. We turn away, afraid that eye contact means we are stuck with this person for the duration of the journey. We tune out the lament; blame it on the drink or the drugs. We forget this person is someone’s son, someone’s friend, a human being.
That is what the story is about. It comes not from one particular encounter; rather it is an amalgamation of several observations; I think most people will recognise it, having been in a similar situation. It is a story that needs to be told and it doesn’t need a lot of words.

Categories
Authors/New Voices current issue Introducing Breve New Stories Notes of Inspiration Writing/Reading

Writer’s Blog: Hamish McGee – The Idea Behind “Doubting Thomas”

Hamish McGee talks about what inspired his short story ‘Doubting Thomas‘ published in Breve New Stories Issue Two.

What inspired “Doubting Thomas”? Let me think. Mmm … In fact, that’s pretty easy.

I was brought up in a small Scottish village where I met one of the most wonderful men God created. He changed my life in ways I am still discovering today. He is the inspiration. He was the village greengrocer and he did run the local Gospel Hall. He did give me my first Bible and he was truly wonderful.

When the time came for me to leave the village and make my own way in life, we corresponded throughout the years. No matter where I was, a few miles away or the other side of the world, no matter what I was doing, he was constant. Every letter I wrote him was answered promptly in his beautiful, handwritten script. I opened the envelopes slowly, prolonging the anticipation of the inner contents, reading each page so often that I could recite them from memory. Even if his descriptions of what was happening in the village were, to others, banal in the extreme, to me they were gold dust in my impoverished world, the sweetest wine in my desert life, a veritable feast sustaining and nourishing my lean existence. Every word resonated with beautiful imagery. I could all but hear that lilting accent.

Only once did he fail to reply. I knew immediately but refused to accept, that he had died. The mould was broken.

Hamish McGee

Categories
Authors/New Voices Notes of Inspiration Writing/Reading

Writer’s Blog: Michael Bloor – The Love of Reading

In his last post, Michael Bloor author of ‘The Aberdeen Kayak’ published in Breve New Stories Issue One, reflects on his love of reading and its roots.

I’ve loved reading all my life and ten years ago I found out why. The clue lay a few miles north from my home, in a building in the hamlet of Innerpeffray, in rural Perthshire. There you can find Scotland’s oldest free public library: www.innerpeffraylibrary.co.uk, founded in 1680. IMG_1630

When last I saw it, on rare warm day of early spring, the ground of the little wood beside the library was smothered in snowdrops, and the last of the winter snow could be seen clearly, glinting on the hills above Crieff. Inside the lovely old building there are many rare volumes, but the real treasure within this house of treasures is surely the Borrowers’ Register which goes back to 1747. Overwhelmingly, the readers are the rural poor: William Morrison – roadman, James Bronsler – cooper, Peter White – shoemaker, Ebenezer Clement – dyer, Peter Comrie – miller, John Drummond – mason, James McInnes – brickworks foreman, James McDiarmid – carpenter, and the rest.
Jethro Tull’s ‘Husbandry’ and Hill Burton’s ‘Emigrants Manual’ were popular items, but many borrowers seemed to read for more than self-improvement. On April 28th, 1859, Peter Comrie, the miller, borrowed ‘Fable of the Bees’ and ‘Ship of Fools;’ he was back on May 12th to borrow Scott’s ‘Witchcraft’ and Middleton’s ‘Letters;’ and he was back again on May 26th to take out Burton’s ‘Anatomy of Melancholy.’ Shortly after that he was reading a history of the French Revolution. These readers were autodidacts, snatching brief hours of leisure, peering at pages ill-lit by primitive cruisie lamps. They trekked to Innerpeffray from tenant farms and servants’ bothies to drink the sweet waters, to sample the only art and beauty that was available to them. They had fed on honey-dew and then would accept no other.
Me too, I’ve been feeding on that honeydew for sixty reading-years.

Michael Bloor