erasing clouds

Book Review: Bracket: A New Generation in Fiction, edited by Ra Page

by anna battista

Italo Calvino would have liked to collect in one volume short tales made up of only one sentence or one line, following the example of the master of short prose Augusto Monterosso whom he admired. But writing a tale in just a line or in a few words can be quite difficult: writing short tales is indeed a beautiful but challenging art, as the anthology Bracket proves. This is the third anthology of short stories penned by young and emerging writers published by Comma Press, a non-profit publishing group.

Like the previous volumes Comma (2002) and Hyphen (2003), this new collection is edited by Ra Page, who introduces the reader to twenty of the best writers, all of them graduates or undergraduates of creative writing MA courses. You could argue that this literary experiment isn’t that new, since anthologies featuring emerging authors from creative writing courses are mushrooming, but Comma Press was among the first to publish this sort of anthologies.

This unthemed collection contains stories for all the tastes: tragicomic ones such as “Shooting Jelly from a Shotgun” by Adam Maxwell, about paradoxical accidents happening on a building site, or simply sad ones such as “Redemption” by David Lambert, a tale of abuse, murder and sin. All the stories have ordinary characters verging on surrealism, among them a war news addict (in “Do Something Good” by Tom Palmer) and a husband who finds more repulsive the position in which he finds his dead wife, rather than death itself (“The Disfigurement” by Patrick Belshaw). Annie Kirby’s “Revelations of Divine Love” featuring a pretty and mysterious girl who looks like one of the ethereal female figures in Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s paintings and Sarah Tierney’s “Five Miles Out” that follows the adventures of a girl camping and trying not to think about her anorexic sister in hospital, stand out as two of the best tales.

In the introduction, or rather in the ‘No Introduction’ - since the authors of this anthology need none because they are pretty unknown - Page writes, “Short story heroes hardly win themselves over. They discover little, confirm nothing, and never feel at home, even at home. Where the novel is a high-walled country retreat of an art-form … the short story … is a hotel room, occupied by that ubiquitous, urban oddity, the individual.” Bracket, is the sort of project Calvino would have encouraged and possibly liked. This collection is for everyone who likes reading well-crafted short stories.


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