Writing On Literature

  • 2008 National Short Story Prize Shortlist  1. DENIAL Make it unreservedly clear, as an elected member of the European Parliament, that nothing shameful could possibly have taken place.  Rumours must be dismissed as unfounded and malicious, as per approved guidelines for measures to cope with disgraceful and other events.  You could, for example, deny using your office expense allowance to set up a Russian citizen with no work permit in a studio apartment on the Quai Rouget de Lisle in Strasbourg (which does not, because you have never been there, smell intensely of incense and pillows).  You have never slipped across the river between midday resolutions and an afternoon meeting of the All-Party Committee Against Corruption.  If necessary, you can

    Jul 12,
  •  Published in Prospect Magazine and New Writing 15 Heathrow Airport is one of the few places in England you can be sure of seeing a gun.  These guns are carried by policemen in short-sleeved shirts and black flak-jackets, alert for terrorists about to blow up Tie-Rack.  They are unlikely to confront me directly, but if they do I shall tell them the truth.  I shall state my business. I’m planning to stop at Heathrow Airport until I see someone I know.  In the busiest airport in the world this shouldn’t take long, and I expect to be home before Ally leaves for work.  It is 6.43 a.m.  My gaze slides between so many faces that I instantly forget everyone I

    Jul 12,
  • Monday morning and another long journey to the site, the unspoken anger from last week just below the surface, John and Bob on opposite benches of a swaying and jolting pre-dawn tube train, hard-hats on the floor between their feet, when suddenly - Bob. - John. - Fuck. - What? A moment of expectation though with traces, possibly, of the familiar resignation, an acceptance of other Mondays not so dissimilar: always different, always the same. - Lunchbox. - Again? - Fucking lunchbox. - You stupid, absent-minded pillock. Seemingly mad at his own forgetfulness, furious teeth over the top of his stubbled lower lip, and only the one remorseless word (apparently) in John's emptied and unreliable mind. - Fuck fuck fuck

    Jul 12,
  • from Granta 88 Winter 2005 This is one of those stories about she and you. She is the mother-in-law. You are the man who duped her daughter, or the woman who ensnared her son. Or stole or deceived or sidetracked, or diminished or corrupted or hardened, depending on how stereotyped either you or she find the relationship to be. Two women appeared before King Solomon, dragging between them a reluctant young man. ‘This good-for-nothing promised to marry my daughter,’ said one. ‘No! He promised to marry my daughter,’ said the other. ‘Bring me an axe,’ the king said. ‘I shall chop the youngster into two pieces, and you shall each receive a half.’ ‘Sounds good to me,’ said the first

    Dec 12,
  •   You will need three English coins of the same denomination, preferably silver and minted in the same year.  Heads, our Queen, is warp. She is light, warm, strong, rigid, active, odd. Tails is weft: dark, cold, supple, passive, restful, and even. Although weft is weak and warp is strong, there is strength in weakness, and weakness in strength.The English Book of Changes is an oracle that responds to sincere meditation on any given situation, exploring both its correctness and its consequences. The wisdom of the Book is based on ancient texts handed down through generations, their origins often lost. They take into account your present circumstances, analyse possibilities for action, and frequently refer back to your past. The ideal

    Jul 12,