A woman and man, parted a quarter of a century, reunite in a bar in New Orleans as the St Patrick’s Day parade goes by. A divorced suburban dad helps his daughter pick out a card for her friend who’s moving away. A group of friends in late middle age, all once promising, reunite for dinner when one of their number loses her husband, but the gathering splinters when bitter revelations about their shared past emerge. Two teenage boys sit in a drive-in, the air thick with the scent of gin and popcorn and longing. A visionary collection of luminous landscapes, of great moments in small lives, of the people we carry with us long after they are gone, ‘Sorry for Your Trouble’ takes disappointment, ageing, grief, love and marriage and silhouettes them against the heady backdrop of Irish America in the past and present.
George Saunders guides the reader through seven classic Russian short stories he’s been teaching for twenty years as a professor in the prestigious Syracuse University graduate MFA creative writing program. Paired with stories by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol, these essays are intended for anyone interested in how fiction works and why it’s more relevant than ever in these turbulent times. Saunders approaches each of these stories technically yet accessibly, and through them explains how narrative functions; why we stay immersed in a story and why we resist it; and the bedrock virtues a writer must foster. For the process of writing, Saunders reminds us, is as much a craft as it is a quality of openness and a willingness to see the world through new eyes.
Anita Sethi was on a journey through northern England when she became the victim of a race hate crime. After the event Anita experienced panic attacks and anxiety. A crushing sense of claustrophobia made her long for wide open spaces; the Pennines – the ‘backbone of Britain’ – called to Anita with a magnetic force. Although a racist had told her to leave, she was intent on travelling freely and without fear. Anita’s journey through the landscapes of the North is one of reclamation, a way of saying that she belongs in the UK as a brown woman, as much as a white man does. Her journey transforms what began as an ugly experience of hate into one offering hope and finding beauty after brutality. Every footstep is an act of persistence. Every word written against the rising tide of hate speech is an act of resistance.
Rami Elhanan’s license plate is yellow. Bassam Aramin’s license plate is green. It takes Rami fifteen minutes to drive to the West Bank. The same journey for Bassam, down the same streets, takes an hour and a half. Both men are fathers of daughters. Both daughters were there, before they were gone. Rami and Bassam’s lives are completely symmetrical. Rami and Bassam’s lives are completely asymmetrical.
A debut collection of stories that brings together over fifteen years of work, Benjamin Myers lays bare the male psyche in all its fragility, complexity and failure, its hubris and forbidden tenderness. Farmers, fairground workers and wandering pilgrims, gruesome gamekeepers, bare-knuckle boxers and ex-cons with secret passions, the men that populate these unsettling, wild and wistful stories form a multi-faceted, era-spanning portrait of just what it means to be a man.
In her stunning debut, Souvankham Thammavongsa captures the day-to-day lives of immigrants and refugees in a nameless city, illuminating hopes, disappointments, love affairs, and above all, the pursuit of a place to belong.
One summer following the Second World War, Robert Appleyard sets out on foot from his Durham village. 16 and the son of a coal miner, he makes his way across the northern countryside until he reaches the former smuggling village of Robin Hood’s Bay. There he meets Dulcie, an eccentric, worldly, older woman who lives in a ramshackle cottage facing out to sea. Staying with Dulcie, Robert’s life opens into one of rich food, sea-swimming, sunburn and poetry. The two come from different worlds, yet as the summer months pass, they form an unlikely friendship that will profoundly alter their futures.
A young woman walks into an employment agency and requests a job that has the following traits: it is close to her home, and it requires no reading, no writing – and ideally, very little thinking. She is sent to a nondescript office building where she is tasked with watching the hidden-camera feed of an author suspected of storing contraband goods. But observing someone for hours on end can be so inconvenient and tiresome. How will she stay awake? When can she take delivery of her favourite brand of tea? And, perhaps more importantly – how did she find herself in this situation in the first place? As she moves from job to job, writing bus adverts for shops that mysteriously disappear, and composing advice for rice cracker wrappers that generate thousands of devoted followers, it becomes increasingly apparent that she’s not searching for the easiest job at all, but something altogether more meaningful.