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VINE VOICEon 31 December 2011
Granta's transition from a definitively English literary tradition to a more American focussed publication continues with issue 117, entitled 'Horror'. US heavyweights Don DeLillo, Paul Auster and Stephen King are wheeled out by the (newish) editor, John Freeman (also American), in what is his strongest offering since the departure of predecessor, Alex Clark. The 'horror' of the title largely eschews preconceptions of zombies and ghosts, instead detailing the very human horrors of the modern world and ordinary life: butchery in Sudan, the death of a mother, Peru's dirty war, life-threatening illness.

Some of it is excellent: Will Self's account of a nasty blood illness, Paul Auster on losing his mother, Santiago Roncagliola on Peru, the cover design by the superlative Chapman twins. King's short-story is enjoyable but far from his best work and DeLillo delivers his customary excellence. The only bum note was a short story by Rajesh Parameswaren, which recounted a tiger's predatory instincts from the animal's perspective; the sort of badly conceived idea one would expect from a sixth form creative writing class rather than a literary magazine that is regaining its lustre.
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on 21 July 2014
Generally, very disappointed by this collection. Whilst the idea of exploring the horror in daily life is intriguing, most of these pieces fail to deliver. Many are simply dull and pretentious. Indeed, it is difficult to comprehend that these were all written by different authors - the overall effect is one of dull homogeny, as if we are hearing one single authorial voice.

Worst of all is the Will Self opener - his aim seems to be to drop in as many long and obscure words as possible - a deplorable 'look at me showing off' style - truly nauseating. What a pretentious bore! Many other pieces just seem downright pointless and fizzle out without leaving any impact. Paul Auster's account of his mother's death feels interminable and extremely indulgent, as do many others.

There are three engaging contributions. Sarah Hall's tale of a woman's encounter with a sinister canine on an African beach is genuinely atmospheric, whilst Stephen King's The Dune is fairly interesting.

However, the one redeeming feature of this collection is the outstanding 'Infamous Bengal Ming' by Rajesh Parameswaran. This tale of a tiger on the rampage is truly terrifying, yet heart warming and intensely human at the same time - even though it is told from the tiger's viewpoint. I experienced a roller coaster of emotions reading this. A brilliant gem in a lack lustre collection. The story also appears in Parameswaran's collection 'I Am Executioner' which I intend to checkout. A better bet than wasting time on this Granta volume.
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on 28 December 2015
They should call the magazine Garbage instead of Granta!

This edition pretends to explore the horror genre but all it produces is a book full of horrifically pretentious and soul-crushingly boring stories.

Will Self’s False Blood prattles on about his heroin addiction with ridiculously verbose language – hey, lookit me, I’m edumacated, I has a degree an’ everthing! Paul Auster’s Your Birthday Has Come and Gone is Auster posturing yet again. He drones on about this and that, nothing really, in the second person no less, and it’s awful to read. I don’t know what I saw in him before but my only excuse is that I read him when I was a dumb teenager!

Don DeLillo’s The Starveling is about a man who spends his days watching films. DeLillo has got to be the most overrated author alive. His prose has the startling ability to be forgotten as you’re reading it. Roberto Bolano’s The Colonel’s Son is a lengthy description of a fictional b-movie – seriously.

The other stories, all by unknown writers, show why said writers are unknown. They read like bad creative writing assignments written by students. Oh, the horror of a man losing his wife. Oh, the horror of losing a relative. Oh, the horror of… er… being a tiger!

The only writer who gamely makes an effort is also the most famous name by far in the collection: Stephen King – and I say that as a guy who doesn’t like King all that much anymore! His story, The Dune, is about a haunted dune which sounds like a parody of a King story but that's just the kind of stuff he writes. It’s not great and it’s got a campfire ending but it’s the only story that feels like it’s trying – the others were just concerned with wanking each other off.

I’ve never read an edition of Granta before and, after this atrocious book, I’ll never feel the urge again. Granta 117: Horror is a steaming pile of wannabe-literary turds. Avoid!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 30 November 2011
In a bracingly revealing opening article Will Self tells of contracting polycythaemia vera and explains: "A disease that sounded like a Greek goddess spliced with an East End pub landlady, a disease that resulted from a single gene mutating and instructing your bone marrow to indulge in a mindless over-production of red blood cells." His is much the best factual piece in this issue being rebarbative, `Self-ish', though devoid of self-pity and giving a bleak picture of his past as a drug addict. But it is not so much horrific as horrifically clinical, and it gives way to a aesthetically fitting metaphor in connection with his current medical treatment: "...this professional needlework was the appropriate Karmic comeback for all that amateur embroidery."

Joy Williams' short story leaves a pleasurable echo but is not, now (an evening away) in any way memorable. Don DeLillo's fiction was effusive in comparison with some of his sparer work but never became quite confessional or human enough. DeLillo continues, to my mind, to write readable fiction, but always manages to evade the living, breathing, messy and intimate world of fictive truth within which the best practitioners often effortlessly launch and float their work. Of the fiction in this issue, my favourite was Sarah Hall's She Murdered Mortal He, a story about lovers breaking up and a stray dog - a perfectly proportioned yet utterly unpredictable work of poignancy and depth.

I also loved Rajesh Parameswaran's The Infamous Bengal Ming which managed to be both blackly funny as well as full of moments of genuine horror. Horror aplenty too with Santiago Roncagliolo's piece about the Picsi jail in Chiclayo, Northern Peru. "No-man's-land was the first sign we were entering hell." This is titled Deng's Dogs after the dogs hung from lamp posts in the early 1980s in Lima, wrapped in posters that said: DENG XIA PING SON OF A B****.

Interesting that all the conventional staples of the horror genre (Zombies, Vampires, Werewolves, mass murderers, etc.) are absent from this issue but there is more than enough horror of the genre-less kind to go around. `Weakest Horror' prize must go to Stephen King, whose contribution is simple-twist lit - not worthy of his past genius, though encompassing his sense of humour. Horror resides here in what it is to be loved by a tiger (the Bengal Ming), or Julie Otsuku's gently diminishing list of moments that accompany the failure of memory at the end of life, in her graceful and terrible story Diem Perdidi.

With both the cover art by Jake and Dinos Chapman and the elaborately coloured and lavishly structured work of a new artist Kanitta Muchaubot in the central pages, yes, there is horror, but it wears its beautiful mask with some insouscience.
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on 11 December 2014
Describes my condition and its treatment perfectly. Unfortunately, I can't share this one with my Mum.
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on 3 August 2014
I've never dipped into a "Granta" I didn't enjoy.
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