• Bigging up the Short Story November 2008 www.theshortstory.org [column width="47%" padding="6%"] Talking up the short story is an admirable enterprise, especially in Britain. The short story has been having a hard time, with outlets for publication shrinking and collections barely able to reach an agent’s desk. The idea of short stories making money has become as quaint a notion as travelling by commercial balloon. It is therefore quite right, and compatible with the national instinct, to support the underdog. We take the side of the short story and try to big it up. One way of doing this, which short story enthusiasts will recognise, is to suggest that a story is as challenging to write as a novel. Each line

    Nov 23,
  • Visitors to this year’s Rugby World Cup will notice, at least during daylight hours, that the natives are speaking a foreign language. This is the first tournament hosted by a non-English-speaking nation, and in its rugby vocabulary France insists that the game is more than muscles and bish-bosh, even at scrum-time. Le scrum is not a word that rugbymen across the Channel decided to adopt. They could have done so, alongside le drop, but for the heart of the battle they revived instead la mêlée, a word last used in a competitive context in the 11th century. In the medieval period la mêlée was used to describe collisions of courtly knights in mock battles. Plus ça change. In rugby, too,

    Sep 11,
  • I’ve been trying to remember what happened on the school’s first overseas rugby tour, to France in 1984. And despite serious effort and middle-aged habit, I can’t honestly claim that things were better in the old days. Spending a week in a disused police barracks outside Toulouse was not many people’s idea of fun, even then. Nor do I imagine, back in the twentieth century just as now, that many nutritionists or tourist board officials would have approved our welcoming dinner of boiled horse. There was also the challenge of braving deepest French rugby country with masters-in-charge who were experts in English and Chemistry. Perhaps it was linguistic confusion, then, which had us playing local youth teams for whom everyone

    Jun 26,