I love works made up of micro fictions. There are some great examples of this, such as David Eagleman’s book Sum, Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman or Sarah Salway’s Something Beginning With. It’s tricky to get right, since it’s easy to sound glib with such short stories.
Robinson’s book consists of stories responding to photographs of W12. Obviously, I love this because the combination of text and pictures is what we do in the Not for the Faint-Hearted workshop. Robinson has some outrageous tall tales, doing a great job of describing and enchanting the city. You might describe this as a work of psychogeography, if we still used that word.
But it’s even better than that! It has an index. There aren’t enough works of fiction with indexes (JG Ballard once wrote a short story in the form of an index in his collection War Fever and it’s one of the best short stories ever). Robinson has cross-references between the stories too, recalling Geoff Ryman’s book ‘Internet novel’ 253.
I’d always loved the idea of writing microfictions about Brighton. But this book describes London so well that I don’t think I could write such stories about an urban area anything like as well.
As if there was no enough to love about this book already, Jack Robinson is a pseudonym. Tim pointed me towards an interview with the actual writer, Charles Boyle. He runs CB Editions, Robinson’s publisher, and there are several other writers on the list that are also Boyle’s alter-ego.
I can’t believe I hadn’t read Robinson before. These sort of discoveries are so exciting, as they suggest the possibility of other equally-thrilling books waiting somewhere for you. And I was so sure that the Glass Hotel would be my book of the year.
For the last six months I’ve been working on my South Downs Way project, a large project made out of short stories. It’s not the only such project I have ongoing. Since 2014, I’ve been working on a slow-burning project called Lovecraft in Brighton. It’s a collection about an alcoholic who is haunted by the ghost of HP Lovecraft: basically Kitchen-Sink Cosmic Horror.
The booklet has been for sale on my online store. Every time someone buys a copy, I write a new story and the price goes up by 10p. When I finish the volume, it will be compiled into an e-book and sent to all the people who have bought it.
As bad as I am at self-promotion, people rarely see the store and buy a copy. But someone recently bought one so I had to write a new horror story. Which took ages. Writing doomy horror is a lot less fun in the current situation.
I’ve taken it off sale for the time being, but will re-add it when I feel more in the mood. This is a long-running project, and I am alright with that. Once I’ve done a few more volumes of the South Downs Way I will put it back on sale. At this rate, I will probably finish this in my 50s. And that’s OK.
My friend Amy spent six days working as a tour guide before being fired. I sneaked onto a couple of her tours and loved them.
She’d passed the interview without knowing much local history. She made things up instead, pointing out the park where circus performers wintered; she would praise the annual cake-making competitions in the Pavilion. She told people bus conductors were first introduced in Brighton and were so-named because they led the passengers in communal sing-songs.
Amy didn’t last long. The night she was fired, I toasted her work, but it didn’t cheer her up. “Can’t they see that my version of the city was better?”