Profile Books £5 each
Ox-Tales: Earth, Air, Fire and Water, various authors
Sunday 05 July 2009
To raise money for its charities and celebrate the impending world domination of its second-hand bookshops, it seems appropriate that Oxfam has published this collection of four books of short stories. Not because they draw attention to Oxfam’s good work - mostly, they ignore it. But because one comes away from them as one comes away from a good second-hand bookshop: baffled by riches and with a ballooning reading list.
Divided quite arbitrarily between the four elements – Earth, Air, Fire and Water – the beautifully packaged little books act as an admirable showcase for contemporary talents. Each begins with a poem by Vikram Seth, and ends with a sobering true story, elegantly written by an anonymous Oxfam contributor and showing that life can be stranger, sadder and more hopeful than fiction.
A roster of big-hitting authors has given up work for free: Lionel Shriver's story "Long Time No See" is taken from her abandoned "novel #6.5", which she wrote before We Need to Talk About Kevin, and whose subject of terrorism she now feels it is safe – or rather, vital – to return to.
While it seems brutal to single out any stories above others, those by Marina Lewycka and Hanif Kureishi, in Earth, are a beautifully odd juxtaposition of styles – hers folksy Ukrainian ("we have a saying in Ukraine: 'Keep your head cool, your belly hungry, and your feet warm, and you will live a hundred years...'"), his journalistic and spare – but both are about parents, and forgiveness. DBC Pierre's "Suddenly Dr Cox", which begins with the "baroque" image of butterflies crushed on a road, is so weird that it can only be true. And Ali Smith demonstrates her stunningly eccentric mastery of the short-story form with wit and panache in "Last".
Kamila Shamsie's "The Desert Torso" evokes the nomadic, global qualities that made her novel, Burnt Shadows, such a success. "A man walks through the desert carrying a stone torso," it begins. If that intrigues you, go to our website to read the full story.
To read Kamila Shamsie's story "The Desert Torso" and find out more about the Ox-Tales collection, go to independent.co.uk/ox-tales
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Arizona shooting: Gun instructor accidentally killed by nine-year-old girl with Uzi
- 2 Paul Scholes: Manchester City were so good against Liverpool I felt like turning the television off
- 3 Notting Hill Carnival: Woman shares selfie after being ‘punched in face for telling man to stop groping her’
- 4 Homer Simpson has taken the ALS ice bucket challenge because of course he has
- 5 Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
Great British Bake Off, episode 4, review: Heat gets turned up – and Iain goes into meltdown
Doctor Who lesbian kiss sparks Ofcom complaints over 'weird lesbian-lizard perv trip'
Nicki Minaj suffers wardrobe malfunction during MTV VMAs performance with Ariana Grande and Jessie J
Emmys 2014: Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and Steven Moffat win big awards for Sherlock
Homer Simpson has taken the ALS ice bucket challenge because of course he has
Exclusive: We share blame for creating 'jihad generation', says Muslim strategist
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Arizona shooting: Gun instructor accidentally killed by nine-year-old girl with Uzi
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
- < Previous
- Next >