Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Relief. Proofs.

I have read some really excellent New Zealand fiction this year, including work by Mary McCallum, Sarah Laing and Emily Perkins, and I have just added to the list with Anna Taylor's short story collection Relief. At her best, Taylor's writing throws up the atmosphere of Kirsty Gunn's stories and the inventiveness with language of Anne Enright's. An example: "... he looks tired, his head small and pale like a peeled egg." That image stayed with me a long time after I'd finished the story.

I read the book from start to finish, and while some of the stories didn't work quite as well for me (mostly due to a slight heavy-handedness in aforementioned atmosphere and inventiveness) on the whole, I thought it was a remarkable achievement. The stories remind me of the kind of stories I used to try (and fail) to write before giving up and concentrating on novels; in other words, I wish I had written them.

In other news, the proofs for Magpie Hall have arrived. You often hear writers talking about how exciting getting the proofs is, because that is when your new baby is all laid out like a real book. I am making way through them slowly (too slowly probably) and so far haven't come across any howling mistakes.

I have a real, human, new baby to look after, and having something like this to look over is really nice; it keeps me from falling head-first into total domesticity.