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"There were wolves in the park. Don't you remember?",
This review is from: Granta 123: Best of Young British Novelists 4 (Granta: The Magazine of New Writing) (Paperback)
Another decade, another catalogue of the Best of Young British writers. They are all, I think, worthy of inclusion here, but I sympathise with those who have turned 40 and can't be admitted, particularly the more adventurous and less conservative ones, such as China Mieville, who is mentioned with the regret that he just missed the age deadline. Yet the judges have made exceptions in the past, and here on other grounds. Not that I resent the inclusion of any of these writers, of course, it just seems unfair to have rules that are bent for some and not others.
My favourite of the examples of work given here is Sarah Hall's 'The Reservation', a story fragment with wolves. Her writing is, as always, exceptionally fresh, sensual and evocative. Another favourite was Ross Raisin's 'Submersion' a wonderful account of a flooded town, during which two brothers see their father fast asleep in his armchair, carried along with the flood. Raisin is able to evoke the natural world even in a bizarrely unnatural viewpoint, with such a steady, engaged and sympathetic eye.
Of the others I especially liked Helen Oyeymi's piece, 'Boy, Snow Bird' which has an off-beat, wry humour. I have always wondered why judges seem to prefer serious and studiously literary values over the wit and mischief of say, Tom Rachman, who is mentioned in the introduction as having, at one time during the judging, a "groundswell" in his favour. It didn't outlast more sober considerations unfortunately. 'Arrivals' by Sunjeet Sahota was the most memorable of all the pieces; it's subject was the cruelties and unfairness of the shifting fortunes of a group of male immigrants. The piece was not long enough to for me to decide whether I would want to read more, since it mostly told of a desperate and often hostile and unforgiving community of men, a theme used much more subtly and successfully in David Szalay's far more engaging excerpt: 'Europa'.
I also liked the pieces by Kamila Shamsie, Evie Wyld, and Ned Beauman. I might have liked Steven Hall's excerpt from his novel 'The End of Endings', if I'd understood it better. Unfortunately others eclipsed it with their ease of access and I am not keen on the gimmickry of upside-down black pages. I'm afraid I found Adam Thirlwell's foreshadowing of short paragraphs irritating and the excerpt wasn't long enough for me to decide whether I might grow to appreciate it. But on the whole, this is a very credible and creditable selection.