Why Short is Good – a review of “The Edible Anarchist”

Edible Anarchist cover for sharingIf a story is good, does it matter how long it is? Author, Peter Bendall has made me think that maybe it’s time I questioned how and what I read.

I’m not wooed by size, but a big fat work of fiction can provide a crude sense of achievement when its end is reached. A long book can flood the brain with a plot for weeks; a novel can span years of story; and characters can develop and play their part over generations. Some stories come in a series – I am told that authors approaching publishers these days need to convincingly pitch also for book two, three and even four.  We consume fiction as we do the television box-set.  Stories have to be long, and almost as ongoing as a soap opera.

And yet paradoxically, we are also transfixed by the brief.   Our lives are quick and fast.  We need information and entertainment that wastes no time. A 10 second Youtube clip will thrill us.  For our wisdom we read memes, not religious books or essays by philosophers.  We tweet 140 characters rather than writing a letter.

I have to confess that, unless it’s a racing car, speed is not my thing. I actually *like* box-sets, thick books (especially non fiction ones), taking weeks to make an oil painting, long slow walks (not runs), and to cook and eat a lengthy meal with friends rather than snatch a quick take away.

Which leads me to “The Edible Anarchist“.  This book has forced me to break my habits.  Previously I may have associated “brief” with inferior, “short” with less good -slapdash even. When I first heard of the genre of “flash fiction” I thought it a fad and a sad reflection of our times. However Peter Bendall has proved me wrong.  Every single one of his ultra short stories has been carefully crafted, he is like the painter of a miniature, or a skilled watchmaker.

His stories may be brief – most not more than a page long – yet the clear craft in their composition demonstrates a commitment of time in the writing. Not surprising, the writer is a English language expert – a teacher and publisher of grammar texts – his love of language is clear.

The back cover of the book asks, “Can an anarchist be edible?  Is it possible to apprehend yourself? Do radiators contain universes? Can irony kill?”  Bendall’s work is at the same time witty, playful, tragic and deliciously twisted at times.  Two stories that have been shared online are “A Sunny” and “At the Seaside” – one presents itself almost as a quirky grammar exercise, the other defining the end of a relationship – and yet both clearly written by Bendall’s hand.

The Edible Anarchist surely is edible, but despite the brevity of each story, I would recommend it is sampled in courses, and savoured slowly, like the poetic set of dishes that it is. This book of flash fiction is not to be rushed.

The Edible Anarchist is available in paperback priced £7.99 and on Kindle for £1.99

A Sunny

It was a sunny. A short bald strolled along the busy, whistling a popular and peering into the well-stocked. He had an almost irresistible to buy some delicious and had to impose his iron to quell it. His charming had told him to do something about his podgy: up to now they had had a blissful, but she didn’t want to marry a rotund. She wasn’t so keen on wedding a hairless either, come to that. She could almost see herself in his shiny when he bent down to pick up his false, which were always falling out, for some unaccountable. As if that wasn’t annoying enough, he frequently bruised her delicate with his rough. And he had a rather rasping, not to speak of a horselike when he ate. But she would forgive all of this if only he didn’t look like a stuffed. Had he been privy to her inmost, he might have lost faith in her undying, but being a straightforward uncomplicated he never had the slightest of her critical, apart from her frank about his wobbling and double. And now here he was on the way to a modern well- equipped, which would get rid of the superfluous in no time and turn his tubby into a lean. Before he got there, however, he choked on his chewing and collapsed onto the hard unforgiving. A gaping gathered and a qualified tried to resuscitate him, but it was too late.

After a decent, his former married a muscular and lived happily ever after.

This short story was written by Peter Bendall  A Sunny is one of over a hundred very short stories published in “THE EDIBLE ANARCHIST – and other sentimental tales” – visit the webpage to buy a copy.

Mince Pies, Hot Wine & Readings at Plurabelle Books

We had a lovely evening on Tuesday.  With many thanks to Michael Cahn of Plurabelle Books for being a gracious host, Hilary Cox and Hugh Chapman for reading so well, to author DJ Wiseman for answering some tough questions and to everyone who came along – nice to meet new friends, despite the mid winter chill! Happy New Year everyone!hugh chapman

Author DJ Wiseman listens to Hugh Chapman reading from The Subtle Thief of YouthHilary Cox

Cambridge artist, Hilary Cox reading the part of Vicki Gardnerplurabelles moment bw

Text & Context?  The best Christmas tree in Cambridgeteenage fictionCaught in the act. Teenager, Billy Botha “hates books” – but Plurabelles inspired a search.

A Different Way of Looking at the World

Standing outside Cambridge railway station at seven in the morning seemed like a good idea the night before over a glass of wine.  When the alarm bell sneaked into my dreams and I dressed in darkness my enthusiasm waned a little.

Askance Publishing was set up over a year ago.  It has been an interesting journey – one I never expected and one which I fell into almost by chance. Having a father as a brilliant writer has been the main catalyst for making Askance work.  His talents are unsigned by the mainstream publishing world – not through rejection but choice.  Last year he told me he simply doesn’t have the time to spend months sending manuscripts to publishers.  We knew there were other writers out there who felt the same and were put off.  My father’s first novel sold well over 1000 copies without any mainstream backing and when he approached me with ideas for a second I was ready to help.  Between us we had design, layout, proof reading, editing and marketing experience and what we didn’t know we learned. My father was always someone to approach things differently, and it was an idea of his that took me to Cambridge train station this morning.

18 months since Askance began and we have worked with over 20 writers and artists from all over the world. We have looked at a wide range of work from poetry, travel stories to conceptual art. Some we have published, to others we have offered developmental advice and as I write there are people putting pen to paper or wrestling with layout software.  For some we were putting their work into print for the first time, but not for all.  We chose the slogan, “a different way of looking at the world” to echo our interest in promoting non-predictable writing and art, but also to challenge the arduous publishing process and making it a pleasurable process for all concerned –  even if it involves waking early on cold November mornings.

Most inspiring for me is the community that Askance appears to have inadvertently generated.  At the launch of Positional Vertigo last week, seven authors attended.  It was a real joy to see them excited with the project, swapping contact details and even embarking on an impromptu reading – suggested by one of the visitors at the event.  We have also made friends with local businesses (like the pub!) and charities. We are small enough for this to still feel like a family and broad enough for that not to be too stifling.

This morning was fresh and as golden light crept into the sky, my dad handed me a wad of carefully crafted booklets each bearing the words, The Subtle Thief of Youth accompanied a picture of a ghostly looking girl.  His idea was to share the first chapter of his new mystery novel with commuters.  Free literature.  If they liked it they might buy the whole book or come along to the launch on Tuesday – or come and hear him talk at Waterstones, Plurabelles or one of the other events we have organised.  At the very least they might be entertained. My enthusiasm was quick to return and donning my Subtle Thief t-shirt, I began the task of handing them out.

I hope those who took the first chapter of The Subtle Thief of Youth on their journey today not only enjoyed the read and the suggestion of murder so early in the day, but also appreciated that Askance is not about mainstream mass marketing – it is about a love of words and a wish to share them.  It has a different way of looking at the world – just like my father.

If you missed us at the train station, but would like to download your free first chapter click here

Launch of Positional Vertigo

On 6th November seven of the 16 authors gathered with friends and supporters for the launch of the Askance 2013 short story anthology, Positional Vertigo, at The Hopbine in Cambridge.  Presentations were made to the winner and runners up of the 2012 short story competition, and an impromptu reading session was instigated by a friend of one of the authors.  Askance would like to thank all that came to celebrate and all that contributed to the book.  Look out for the 2013 competition!

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