Waving at the Gardener: The Asham Short Story Collection, ed Kate Pullinger
Sunday 25 October 2009
It was not long ago that the short story was little sister to the novel, but lately there has been a transformation. With major-league prizes such as the National Short Story competition, the short story is coming into its own again. Claire Keegan and Lorrie Moore have made their reputations on shorts alone; Alice Munro and Ali Smith have made it a highly regarded and popular form.
The Asham Award is solely for short stories written by unpublished women: the names above, though, would suggest that it's hardly necessary to raise the profile of the female short-story writer. One of the best short-story writers in the English language was a woman: Katherine Mansfield. Possibly there remains a prejudice that small equals feminine, which is why women are good at this art form (and men who are good at it are teased into writing novels instead).
This collection mixes writers from the Asham competition with A-listers such as Margaret Atwood, but the Asham entrants stand up well. The winner, Jo Lloyd, tells a beautifully compact, profound tale of mother's boy Wil, falling for Edie, who has come to help out at their B&B. Edie is a temporary fixture, but whether Wil can take a risk with his life is questionable.
Wil may be poised on the cusp, but many other stories are more traditional, about moments that go beyond that threshold: in Nora Morrison's "All for the Best", two girls ruin two lives, without meaning to; in Hilary Plews' "Lily's Garden", a little girl's relationship with her parents is destroyed; Alison Dunn depicts a teenage shooting in "Omi's Ghosts". Crucial moments that change lives for ever: in that respect, the Asham is not so unusual or innovative, seeming to welcome a traditional form of the short story. The variety in subject matter, though, is what makes this volume sparkle.
BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital moveTV
Final Top Gear reviewTV
FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets
Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
- 2 Russian officials ban yoga because it's too much like a religious cult
- 3 German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
- 4 Ginger Pride festival to take place next summer, organisers say 'time of bullying gingers is over'
- 5 Facebook rainbow profile pictures likely being tracked by social network
Glastonbury 2015: The best bits you missed from Lionel Richie and the Dalai Lama to The Libertines' secret set
Glastonbury 2015: The picture of a man crowd surfing in a wheelchair is brilliant, but it wasn't taken at Glastonbury
Fifty Shades of Grey author EL James' Twitter Q&A didn't exactly go as planned
Guillaume Tell gang-rape scene causes uproar at the Royal Opera House
Glastonbury 2015: Shocking scenes of rubbish left strewn across campsite as clean-up begins
The moment a Queen's Guard soldier lost it and drew his gun at annoying tourist
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Pentagon accuses Russia of 'playing with fire' over nuclear threats towards Nato
They are neither a 'state' nor 'Islamic': Why we shouldn't call them Isis, Isil or IS