After the last day of the Small Wonder short story festival, I can now:
a) Tell you what the facts are behind the Helsinki Roccamatios.*
b) Confirm the legendary arrogance of our greatest (British) short story writer”.** I think he thought I was an idiot to choose ‘Sleep With Me’ as the book to get signed, but I didn’t get a chance to tell him it was the only one I didn’t already have. I still like the bastard, and his kids seem normal enough. They were helping at the book signing table.
After the accompanied reading, which was superb, one of them (about 5) asked a question from the front row of the audience, and the presenter brought him up onto the stage. The question was, ‘Was that about me?’ It was very sweet, and beautiful I thought. The other two kids asked questions as well, the youngest was last. The story was about him.
c) Tell you all about sex and death in women’s short story writing. Apparently it’s either all vicariously ranting at some unnamed ex while pretending only to be watching slasher movies for research purposes, or writing commercial serial-killer crap and trying to pass it off as serious writing by quoting your university degree.
The biggest “hit” was William Trevor on Saturday. More people bought his books, a huge line of people.
Yann Martel seemed a bit of a cold fish. Very controlled, terribly intelligent and intellectual. Dropping philosophers’ names. He tried to tell us why he liked the short story, and I’m not sure if he realised it or not but he ended up telling us why he didn’t like at all really. I don’t think he’d know a real short story if it bit him on the arse. I didn’t notice any rush to buy his books afterwards.
*In “The facts behind the Helsinki Roccamatios”*** by Yann Martel, the narrator urges the idea of co-writing a book on a friend who is dying of AIDS, and to further bore him and us, decides that a good way of doing this is to choose one fact from every year of the twentieth century, a mythical family and a location. Within that framework, they are to write something worthwhile. It’s not enough to die of AIDS, without being tortured in this way, apparently. His next book is going to be about “The Holocaust”. Perhaps he will take 1 fact from every month of the war, a fictitious family and location, and take it from there.
***He wrote hundreds of short stories, he says – mastering the art, y’know – but this book only contains four, longish short stories. The creme de la creme – rich and thick.****
****Samuel Beckett lectured at Trinity College Dublin for a year, and described its intake as “the cream of Irish society. Rich and thick.” [Apocryphal. Ed.]