Helen Oyeyemi was born in Nigeria in 1984 and moved to London when she was four. She is the author of The Icarus Girl, The Opposite House, and most recently, White is for Witching, which won a 2010 Somerset Maugham Award. Her story My Daughter the Racist was shortlisted for the 2010 BBC National Short Story Award.

Short Story Collections

Mr Fox
(Picador, 2011)

reviewed by tessa Mellas

Interview with Helen Oyeyemi

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

Helen Oyeyemi: Two years, give or take a couple of months.

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

HO: On and off I thought of Witold Gombrowicz's Bacacay, Incidences by Daniil Kharms, and The Collected Works of Dorothy Parker, though that includes her brilliantly unruly book reviews and theatre reviews, so maybe it doesn't count strictly as a short story collection.

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

HO: The narrative alternates between the short stories and scenes from Mr Fox's "real life", and each short story seems to me to reflect the mood of the 'real-life' scene just before it.

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

HO: A series of events, or at times a single event, with its own particular sensibility, rules and meanings.

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

HO: Always. A reader who is neither frivolous nor serious, who lives in books with all their heart, reads things not always for the tale itself but for the way it's told, and frequently falls in love with or wakes up convinced that they are Holden Caulfield, or the Lady of the Lake, or someone like that.

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

HO: Do you think Mr Fox gets let off too easily?

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

HO: Oh, er...

TSR: What are you working on now?

HO: A novel.

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

HO: Boule de Suif and other stories by Maupassant, The Woman with the Bouquet by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, and I'd Like by Amanda Michalopolou. The first story in The Woman with the Bouquet is tremendous, and I recommend getting the book just for that.
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Find out what other authors, from Aimee Bender to Sana Krasikov, said about their collections, what the word "story" means to them, and how it feels to know that people are buying your books! More interviews >>>