Sunday, 19 March 2006

Granta 87

Listening to:

Cole Porter’s Always true to you in my fashion, sung by Ella Fitzgerald.

Just read:

Granta 87: Jubilee (contents)

This edition of the Granta celebrates its 25th anniversary by being slightly fatter than normal, with a rich collection of new pieces by some of the writers who helped makes[sic] its reputation. Grammar on its back cover notwithstanding, there is some good stuff in it too.

The first piece is a miniature biography of a strange guy called Benjamin Pell, who has made a career of rooting through celebrities’ rubbish, finding interesting stuff and selling it to newspapers. Pell has had to fight a number of court cases as a result, and has a nerdish obsession with his cause, and the court system in general. He (or Tim Adams’s portrayal of him) rather reminded me of the unhinged Miss Flite from Bleak House.

I also liked Early one morning by Helen Simpson, which is a short story about a mother driving her nine-year old son to school, also picking up some of his friends on the way. Not knowing anything about it for sure, it still comes across as a very genuine-sounding reflection of modern parenthood. Nothing really happens, but it is an affecting window onto a world, that though fictional, feels quite real.

The photo essay charts the progress of the Granta river from spring to sea, passing through Cambridge on the way, through territory that’s pretty familiar to me. The final piece is also one of my favourites: by Graham Swift, it reflects on Swift’s father’s life, from birth in the 1920s, to being a pilot in WW2 and beyond.

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