My excuse for going to Manchester yesterday was to go to the book launch of ELLIPSIS 2 in CornerHouse Cafe (a lively place consisting of layers of bars, a bookshop, and a gallery).
ELLIPSIS 2 is published by Comma press and is the second volume of experimental theme-linked short stories and in this book were the works of Jane Rogers, Polly Clark and Zoe Lambert.
I was invited to the event by Jane (on the right) and she was the first to read. The publisher who introduced her said that her characters are isolated. I think this isolation comes over, in part, because of Jane's style which is sparse and unflinching. In the story that she read (THE ANATOMIST'S DAUGHTER) the setting (the Australian outback) was evoked with just a few deft words - and like the pen strokes of a skilled cartoonist this was all that was needed. The story concentrated on the relationship between two sisters and their father. It was a riveting tale and the whole audience listened intently.
Familial relationships is the theme running through the rest of Jane's six stories in the anthology which I read on the train going home. I enjoyed all of them but I think my favourite was MY MOTHER AND HER SISTER which questioned a lot of things including the perception of happiness. It was first published in the MAIL ON SUNDAY's magazine.
Zoe Lambert, a writer based in Manchester (on the left), read her magnificently-titled story THESE WORDS ARE NO MORE THAN A STORY ABOUT A WOMAN ON A BUS which was mainly based in Lithuania. It was written following the author's visit on holiday when she visited an ex-KGB museum (formerly a prison) which featured photographs of people who had died fighting the Soviet occupation in the 1940s and 50s. Zoe's writing was described by the publisher 'as an antidote to cynicism' and she took me with her into imagined world of occupied Lithuania. Zoe has one of the famed MAs in creative writing from the UEA.
Whereas Jane's theme was family, Zoe's theme was absence. She says that buses link them too.
Polly Clark's stories are linked with the theme of relationships between couples and just for balance I read one of her stories on the train home (she was unable to be at the launch). Her title for the story, RECONCILIATION, is a clever one with a double meaning. The story itself is startling and unusual - which I always like.
All three writers have distinct voices but they seem to marry together in some way in this very well produced anthology.