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David Constantine is an award-winning poet and translator. He has written 7 collections of poetry, a novel and a biography. This is his third collection of short stories, the previous being Back at the Spike (Ryburn) and Under the Dam (Comma).

Short Story Collections

The Shieling
(Comma Press, 2009)

reviewed by James Murray-White

Back at the Spike

Under the Dam (2005)

Interview with David Constantine

The Short Review: How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?

David Constantine: Three years or so.

TSR: Did you have a collection in mind when you were writing them?

DC: No. I write one at a time and never, after each, know when or even whether I'll write another. But in the end, if I am lucky, there are enough for a book - and they make up a collection only because they are all by me on such subjects as I can write about.

TSR: How did you choose which stories to include and in what order?

DC: They are all the stories that I was happy enough with. I did give some thought to the order, bearing length in mind and how one might work coming after and before another.

TSR: What does the word "story" mean to you?

DC: It's akin to a poem but something exceeding or otherwise unsuitable for a poem. The story itself - as plot - is less important than the images. Or, better, the plot is itself an image, an extended metaphor, of the story's concerns. I don't, on the whole, like naturalistic fiction and I really don't like stories that tie things up neatly at the end. I detest the idea of "closure".

TSR: Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?

DC:  I think of certain people, a few, who, I know, would read them attentively.

TSR: Is there anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?

DC: I'd always be glad to know what people who read attentively think.

TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?

DC: It's a contact, and I like that. I've been very struck by how differently people read the same stories, and how widely their preferences vary. As with poems, once stories are published they don't really belong to the author anymore (even if they ever did). That is perhaps the loveliest thing about poems and fictions - they are for somebody else.

TSR: What are you working on now?

DC: Another story. Apart from that, I am translating a novel from German and waiting, in hope, to write poems again.

TSR: What are the three most recent short story collections you've read?

DC: Collected stories of William Trevor and Elizabeth Bowen. Before that A.L.Kennedy's Indelible Acts.
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