Friday, 16 September 2005

Hidden histories

Listening to:

The sound of World of Warcraft in the background: crashes, bangs, and the wails of virtual creatures as they are brutally taken to bits by a troll rogue. (Nerf rogues!)

Just read:

Granta 85: Hidden Histories (contents)

Intriguing title notwithstanding, this issue of Granta doesn’t really seem to have any particular theme. There’s still some good writing to be enjoyed though. Among the collection, there was lots of good non-fiction. I particularly liked Diana Athill’s memoir of an unexpected pregnancy in the 1940s or ’50s; Giles Foden on the historical events that inspired The African Queen (a German warship on Lake Tanganyika, and the British response); Geoffrey Beattie on growing up poor in Northern Ireland; Brian Cathcart tracking down the fate of a guy (like him, also from Northern Ireland) with the same name; Daniel Smith on surgical “cures” for obsessive-compulsive disorders; and Jennie Erdal: very amusing on being a ghost-writer for an incredibly vain wannabe novelist with no real talent.

Of the fiction, I liked J. Robert Lennon’s Eight pieces for the left hand, eight cute miniature stories all set in a small country town in the US, and Jonathan Tel’s Put not thy trust in chariots. The latter, set in modern Israel, is simultaneously intense and inconsequential. It does a great job of conveying the humdrum realities of lives led under a combination of normal everyday pressures and the thought that innocuous Arab colleagues might really be terrorists.