|Cover design by Steven Cherry|
The book in question is Austin Collings's The Myth of Brilliant Summers, a collection of prose poems and very short stories that felt a bit like the work of Dennis Johnson if he'd grown up in Manchester during the dark, dreary Thatcher years. The book is interspersed with appropriately gloomy or surreally amusing photographs, and opens with two sketches by artist Chloe Steele, which capture scenes of nature encroaching on the urban (or the other way around?) full of silence and a little suggested menace. (Click to enlargenify.)
In an era when a lot of excellent small presses (including my own) have to rely on print-on-demand technology to produce their books, Pariah have gone the other way, with a lovely textured cover and quality paper stock.
I also have to quote Collings himself, from an interview, where he makes a point about the endless series of big, 600+-page novels that get churned out by publishers, usually after a ludicrous 6- or 7-figure advance has been handed over. "The publishing industry remains in thrall to the archaic idea of length; the great Victorian novel that weighs the same as an obese newborn. Far too many books are padding around one or two—sometimes not even that—ideas. It is hard to notice what you see everyday—the world we see in our heads and the world we see daily – but the short story can work as a powerful representation of this universal dilemma by being urgent, subtle and concise." This is very much on the money, and a perfect summary of what is so good about Collings's own work: short, perfectly worded and edited pieces that give a pure literary kick that 100 pages of cod-Dickensian rambling about the social stratifications of New York (as featured in around 3,000 novels published in the past 12 months) can not.