Review: A Short Affair ed. Simon Oldfield

“An anthology of original short fiction from Pin Drop”

Genre: General fiction

Similar to: Nothing really. This is a totally unique project.

Could be enjoyed by: Anyone who enjoys short literary fiction and is looking for something a bit different. 

Publication date: 12th July 2018

You might not have heard of Pin Drop so I’ll start with some background; they’re a kind of amazing literary/visual arts mash up that started with authors reading out their work in art galleries and evolved into performance pieces that aim to create living, layered books live – right in front of your eyes. A Short Affair brings together many of the writers who have been involved with the project and includes some big names (Lionel Shriver, Will Self) as well as newly discovered authors via the Pin Drop Short Story Competition. There’s only audio files available but if you follow the link here you can hear Stephen Fry reading “Mrs Featherstone and the Beast”, a story featured in the collection by Bethan Roberts. Because, you know, Stephen Fry’s voice 😍😍😍. I could literally listen to him reading a telephone directory (do those things even exist any more?) but this is actually an excellent story.

I love the idea of these stories being performed live with accompanying artwork (there’s also a podcast available which I assume is the audio recordings of the performances). As far as the anthology is concerned, each story has an accompanying image associated with it (which would probably translate better in hard copy – I read this on my kindle with varying degrees of success) but which I thought added a really interesting extra dimension. 

For me, the anthology was bookended by it’s two best stories: “On Heat” by Elizabeth Day (the shocking conclusion to a marriage crippled by adultery) and “How They Turned Out” by Lionel Shriver (an ageing pop star reflects on her college roommates and how their lives turned out). Honourable mentions go to Claire Fuller for her story of a brutal stepfather in “A Quiet Tidy Man”, Barry Walsh for his tale of a young girl reflecting on a childhood accident in “Under the Waves” and Joanna Campbell for “Brad’s Rooster Feed”, a complicated story about love in all it’s forms, as witnessed by a woman feeding her neighbour’s chicken.

The only thing I would criticise is the cover. There are a number of talented artists involved with the project so why make the book look like it’s been self published by someone who only had access to stock images?

Overall, I loved having this anthology to dip in and out of when I knew I had a spare ten minutes or I knew I was likely to be interrupted. All of the stories featured were of a really high standard and I LOVED the idea of accompanying each with a different piece of artwork. I thought that the whole Pin Drop project sounded amazing and I’d be thrilled to have the opportunity to attend one of their live performances. One day!

Rating: Four “I’m reading, you answer it” out of five.

Short, intriguing fiction from both established and up-and-coming authors with thought provoking artwork adding an extra dimension.

Please note that I read this book for free via Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks Netgalley! 


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