Welcome to Wales Arts Review’s inaugural Summer Fiction Issue, a collection of brand new short stories from some of the most vibrant and compelling authors that are currently at work today.
The opening piece, ‘Dark Room’, by Anna Metcalfe (who recently became the first unpublished author to be shortlisted for The Sunday Times Short Story Award), is a powerfully poetic story that grapples with the passing of time as seen through the prism of a son and his photographer father. Jon Gower follows with ‘Extract from The Storyist’, an English translation of the opening of his recent, Welsh Book of the Year-winning, Y Storïwr. Tania Hershman (author of My Mother was an Upright Piano) contributes the haunting ‘War Games’, concerning the ever-timely subject of the dire plight of children in war zones. Rhys Davies Short Story Prize-winner, Gee Williams, meanwhile, draws on the life of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in the UK, in the typically intriguing RE.
Lauren Oyler’s tale of shoplifting and squatting, ‘A Short Story About Identity’, takes both a witty and a highly perceptive look at what it means to be young in a crumbling 21st Century, First World economy. (Oyler writes about fiction for Dazed and Confused and is without doubt a new writer to look out for.) Thinking along similar lines, Joel Smith, (fiction editor of the innovative Arizona-based publisher, Spork Press, and established author in his own right), takes us into the garish world of Kubla Khan’s, a fast food diner set in Xanadu Meadowlands, ‘the largest mall in America’, and a place that the central protagonist worryingly thinks would be a good venue to propose to his fiancé in. American novelist, poet and essayist, Noah Cicero (Go to Work and Do Your Job. Care for Your Children. Pay Your Bills. Obey the Law. Buy Products) gives us two incantatory, almost Whitman-esque poems, ‘A Way Somehow’ and ‘Say it to me Now’, that are each as bruised and bewildered as the other. Órfhlaith Foyle‘s (Red Riding Hood’s Dilemma) deeply impressive, deeply disturbing, ‘How I Murdered Lucrezia’ is taken from her forthcoming short story collection, Clemency Browne Dreams of Gin. ‘Fiesta’ by Somerset Maugham-prize winner, Mark Blayney, is the sad-eyed, expertly crafted, story of a break up.
This issue also features a photo essay, entitled ‘Prayer’ by the Welsh artist and editor, Ric Bower (who has previously exhibited at the Royal Academy and the National Portrait Gallery.) ‘Prayer’ is a series of portraits that attempts to infuse the mystical ritual of prayer with the familiarity and accessibility of a household object. (See also this page’s banner images.)
Summer Fiction draws to a close with three pieces by Wales Arts Review’s own writers: Craig Austin’s ‘Dry’, Gary Raymond’s ‘And in Living Colour’ and John Lavin’s ‘Marzie Stardust’. In Austin’s witty, world-weary ‘Dry’, he tells the story of the booze-soaked Fielding and his regretful wife Emily. Crackling with rich dialogue, Raymond’s ‘And in Living Colour’ skilfully re-imagines a shocking true event in American television history from 1974. In ‘Marzie Stardust’, meanwhile, Lavin tells us about the intertwined lives of the alcoholic narrator and his Aunt ‘Marzie’, a woman with many ‘songs of darkness and dismay.’
Instalment no. 3 of The Gregynog Papers is Douglas Iwan Dafis‘ treatise on Kyffin Williams – A Welsh Artist in a British Art World.
Before we begin our usual review section we look ahead to this weekend’s Fictional Map of Wales event at Caerleon Festival, with three short interviews with the authors taking part: Jon Gower, Francesca Rhydderch and Joao Morais.
In the realm of Live Events, Gary Raymond was in Great Llancayo Upper Wood to see the much-anticipated NTW production of Owen Sheers’ Mametz. Jon Gower, Adam Somerset and two of Wales Arts Review’s newest writers, Amelia Fae and Michou Burckett St. Laurent, were all at the recent Dinefwr Literature Festival and report back accordingly here. Steph Power reviews Edgar Allan Poe: Getty and Debussy at Welsh National Opera. Chelsey Gillard found much to admire at the Cardiff International Performance Festival while Jemma Beggs also found much to praise at Alternative Routes at the Millennium Centre.
In Books, Bethan Tachwedd is not completely convinced by Matthew Francis’ latest novel, The Book of the Needle, while Georgia Carys Williams is thoroughly entranced by Tony Kendrew’s Scattered Feathers in the Wind.
We conclude with a review of Into the West at the Ceredigion Museum Aberystwyth by Adam Somerset.
Banner image: ‘Prayer’ by Ric Bower.