I picked this up solely because of the cover blurbs. Doris Lessing calls it 'talented, lively writing' and I figured she ought to know what she's talking about.
Ironically, though, it seemed to be the poets George Szirtes and Ruth Padel whose reviews really seemed to be on the money, at least with regard to the poets - Lessing I suspect must have dipped in and out of the prose at random and lucked out with some of her selections. Don't get me wrong the prose is good,and while I'd agree with previous reviewers about Stewart and Harris, it was Larissa Lai and Rebecca Fortey who really stuck out for me.
But my criticism would be while some of these writers are genuine inovators - Tim Jarvis comes to mind - some, like the Indian writer Neel Mukherjee, seem happy to dwell as pseudo-innovators whose prose control and style doesn't quite carry off their often intriguing conceits yet. But, one hopes, that will come with time. Novellists Siddons and Vandermerwe have a mature prose style that sees them write as though working on their fifth bestseller and it is, perhaps, inevitable therefore that some of the other writers suffer for their proximity to this level of writing.
It might also be because of the scale of the projects many of the prose writers seems to be involved with that some, though by no means all, fair badly when compared to the script writers and poets in this anthology. There is a clarity and precision in the scripts and poems, that sometimes eludes some of the prose writers: they seem flabby, or in need of paring down, by comparison. And this can in no way be solely because of their length. Paul Auster's novels, for example, have a richness BUT ALSO a control of language some of the prose writers might do well to look at. Alternatively they should look instead to their companion poet and playwrights.
The radio writer included here, Joy Taylor, spins a tightly contolled web of intrigue in just a view pages of dialogue and narration; yet we learn more in those pages than some professional novelists manage in a whole chapter. John Tully and Paul Farrell are both clearly screenwriters writing for that slightly 'off mainstream' audience that critics, award givers and cinema goers love. And they do it with style: I would not be surprised to see either name on the big screen in time.
The poets too, though to difering extents, exhibit a fine stylistic and linguistic control that for once does deserve the blurb you find on the cover: 'Not a word is wasted' says Ruth Padel, and this time I really do believe. True, Graham Clifford seems to want to resign himself to the antagonistic Lad-lit world of poetry; when he occasionally shows real sense of emotion and feeling he snaps out another adroit aboutface that leaves you reeling but also dissappointed. Clifford should listen to his inner voice more, take an example from his co-contributors in the volumne. Lal, for example, has a sense of the ephemeral and transient that enlightens your view of the world, whilst being neither childlike nor inconsequential. Ford, Toman and Herdman follow in the footsteps of the post-confessional poets who allow you in only so far before holding you at arms length making you see the world from where they want position you. A neat and hard trick well done here.The young poet Ian McHugh, by comparison, drags you into his arms - there is no innocent bystander in his poems: your presence as reader implicates you as much as his own presence as narrator.
This is a group of young poets and scripwriters who (and this, perhaps, IS partly because of the form they work in) dwell much more convincingly in the world than some of the characters of the prose pieces manage to do. I would not want to feel love and loss they way Thomas Warner can communicate them in his poems and yet I did. I would not want to walk through playground in the world of Kris Siefken without looking for concealed gunman, but I can here, safe in my armchair; I can sit on trains with poet Kristina Close and study the bald heads of departing men with the strange clinical mix of compassion and remove seen in cancer nurses and visit Lawrence's (an auspicious name) greengrocer's to hear him put the world to rights with a serious comedic note.
Where this volumne sings, whether in the scripts, prose or poetry, it does with a clarity of voice that is astounding in writers still at the beginnings of their career; perhaps I should excuse them then the occasional sharp (or flat) note.
At 15% thinner this volumne would have been a clear 5+. Yet even with my already expressed reservations I would have to give it a four and a half.
A gread read and full of names to watch.