Saturday, April 22, 2006

Odds and ends

The Tart of Fiction gives a good and eloquent take on the Short story contest that I mentioned previously. I hope its not a one-off post, but another addition to the literary bloggers scene. She, (I'm assuming), will probably be equally angry about the UEA's "New Writing Partnership", another scheme to "help" new writers. I use the word "help" advisedly here. It costs £15 to enter, but clearly anybody who cares about short fiction would have set word limit higher than a paltry 3000 words. Yes, of course, there are good short stories under that length, but "Hills Like White Elephants" apart, there's not that many. I've often wondered why it is we are given a choice between a marathon (a novel - if you want to get published) and a sprint (if you want to win one of these spurious prizes.) You're excluding a lot of good middle distance runners there - "The Great Gatsby", "The Quantity Theory of Insanity", "A Rose for Emily", "Winesburg, Ohio," "The Dead", most of Borges, "Brokeback Mountain." I could go on. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to enter to get on their "mentoring" scheme, a well worked extract, or a story cut short at the neck? I think, going back to the Tart of Fiction, that the BBC/Radio 4 etc., like Nesta, "Save our Short Story", and all these other "well meaning" schemes have nothing to do with literature, and a lot to do with self-aggrandisement. Radio 4 likes news items, it likes traditional fiction - it has no interest in literature; and that, I'm afraid is what all of these initiatives are like; they have no interest in literature. Anyone who has ever gone for some of the BBC's northern exposure initiatives knows that you're given a straitjacket every time you want to enter - and next year its a totally different one. Good writing requires commitment, and commitment to the form as well as anything else. There's always the sneaking suspicion that the novelist slumming it as a short story writer thinks its a little extra earner between novels, a bit like driving a taxi on weekends to make ends meet. Those of us who like the short story - and, yes, even write them - have to just continue with them. Literature is what happens when the official version is looking elsewhere. I couldn't get published in Loot these days, but for those with a more optimistic bent, the links on the left of this page are a good place to start. Which neatly brings us to this following Monday's Verberate, where an alumni of Lamport Court, (with a fine, long short story called "The Quarry"), Max Dunbar will be amongst the readers. I'm also looking forward to Thursday and a 2-country internet broadcast simulcast thingy, debating "alternative media as social space."

2 comments:

Fiction Bitch said...

I'm not sure what I think of this UEA scheme. You're right that it's never the actual FICTION that these schemes are focussed on; it's too often the author, and let's face it, authorial YOUTH! This scheme seems to make a point of avoiding ageism for once, but it's still the old thing of NEWNESS. 'Emerging writers' are not in fact the ones who need 'help'in this age in which publishers' main passion is The Next New Thing and mid-list authors are getting dropped left right and centre for their disgusting lack of dewy youthfulness.

Fiction Bitch said...

PS There's also something potentially sinister about the notion of a Development Programme. Could excellent contestants (and therefore their work) get passed over as less likely to benefit from 'development'? One always get the impression that the real agenda is other than literary: such as providing ways of spending grants etc...