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You are Here: The Redbeck Anthology of Contemporary Short Stories

Various

"He closed his eyes and listened to the thundering of hooves landing in turf, and tried to picture himself, arrow-punctured, fallen, captured, the three shafts pointing emphatically at him – You are here! You are here! You are here!" 

Reviewed by Chelsey Flood

Edited by Bill Broady and Jane Metcalfe, is a collection of thematically and stylistically varied short stories. With shorts ranging from just a couple of pages to a more epic thirty pages long, this anthology is full of eccentric and broken characters, with deluded celebrities, courting pensioners and the ghost of Jack Kerouac littering its pages.

In their introduction to You Are Here, Broady and Metcalfe write that there’s only one thing that sells less than a short story collection, and that’s a short story anthology. This introduction highlights the fact that the short story remains largely overlooked by the majority of readers, publishers and booksellers, but also the fact that whether profitable or not, the short story remains a popular form of writing that won’t be easily dismissed. And there are many examples of new and established writers reworking, experimenting and excelling within this often under appreciated medium in this anthology.

With such a varied selection of writing and such a small space to write about it, perhaps the best way to proceed is to flag up a couple of the most effective pieces of writing within the book. Gerard Woodward’s story, You Are Here is, quite deservingly, the anthology’s namesake. A genius short in which the protagonist, having been set upon by multiple longbowmen, risks his life rather than reveal his injuries to a stranger, it stresses the level to which social embarrassment can warp a person’s logic, and in effect, destroy their life. The story portrays Jake’s world concisely and thoughtfully, with humour and sensitivity, scratching itself on to the reader’s mind the way that only the very best shorts can. A perfectly shaped piece, it holds the reader’s attention until the very end, with the unexplained strangeness at the root of the story never detracting from the impact that it has.

Emma Unsworth takes a totally different approach with her story Care. Unfolding for the majority of the time in a residential home for the elderly, Care explores the dynamic between young and old, drawing a parallel between the aged Maude and the youthful Caroline, and pointing subtly towards the inevitability of death and the ultimate end of all relationships, significant or otherwise. Written with honesty and compassion, Care is an effective portrait of two women whose lives are equally static, though stagnating in vastly different ways. Unsworth explores the space between being with somebody out of love and out of loneliness, and whether or not this division is important in the end. The sense of completion and fulfilment that resounds after You Are Here is absent from this work, but Unsworth’s more enigmatic ending reflects her theme, continuing like the irrepressible cycle of life that her character struggles to find meaning in. 

With many more original stories from a wide spectrum of writers, including David Rose and Angela Lambert, You Are Here is a brilliant book to dip in and out of, whether you are a fan of short fiction or not. Featuring established and new voices, this anthology presents various styles of writing, covers numerous subjects, and deals with a multitudinous range of themes, proving with its vitality that rich, red blood still pulses through the veins of this often overlooked art form, the short story.

 

Chelsey Flood has had short fiction published in various literary journals and magazines including Riptide and White Chimney Magazine. She also writes theatre and book reviews for Stranger Magazine, Eyewear and The Small Press Review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Editors: Bill Broady and Jane Metcalfe

Publisher: Redbeck Press (Redbeck Press, 24 Aireville Road, Frizinghall, Bradford, BD9 4HH)

Publication Date: 2006

Paperback/Hardback?Paperback

First anthology?: Yes

Authors: Gerard Woodward’s first poetry collection, Householder, won the 1991 Somerset Maugham Award. His novel I’ll Go To Bed At Noon, was short-listed for the Booker Prize in 2004. Emma Unsworth’s short fiction has appeared in the anthologies Bracket and Comma, both edited by Ra Page.

 

If you liked this book you might also like.... :

Gwendoline Riley "Tuesday Nights and Wednesday Mornings"

Miranda July "Nobody Belongs Here More than You"

A L Kennedy "Now that you’re back."