January short stories and other reading

I’ll start with a cartoon book because I’ve used the cartoon I talk about as a header image.

Rattling the Cage****

This is a book of cartoons by Bob Starrett and includes the cartoonist’s explanation of how he came to produce them and the significance of the various cartoons. I’ve had the book since I was working on some anti-racist educational materials and had to ask Bob’s permission to include one of his cartoons. He gave it gladly and it’s still the one that stands out for me. A comedian is shown on a stage saying, “And there was this thick Paddy,” whilst the walls behind him are papered with posters advertising the works of Yeats, Joyce, Wilde, Shaw, etc. I had forgotten, or had perhaps never read (?) the accompanying text – life was very busy at the time – and it was interesting. However, most of the cartoons in the collection were very dated as they related to British politics pre-1990. He is currently drawing cartoons related to the pandemic which are worth researching.

Short stories

The excellent

Ring in the new by Charlie Cochrane. *****

A bittersweet story of a hopeful new year – 1914 – for the Cambridge Fellows, Jonty and Orlando. I enjoyed it, but having read the books that deal with the aftermath of the war, I wanted to cry. Recommended but you’d need to know the series to appreciate it.

The Holiday Collection by Beth Laycock****

Two very pleasant and well written holiday themed novellas: Miracle on Three Kings’ Day, where Lev and Alex meet in Spain (which celebrates Epiphany more than Christmas) and Thrown by Love in which Charlie goes to pottery classes to make a secret santa gift and meets tutor Josh. I read them, appropriately for the first, round about January 6th, and for the second was immediately reminded of The Great Pottery Throwdown which we are watching.

 The poor

Criminal Shorts**

This is the UK Crime Book Club’s anthology in aid of Red Kite, a special school charity. I’m a member of the FB group/club and in any case, did not grudge the price because it all went to charity. However, I didn’t enjoy the book. The standard was mixed, as is the case in most anthologies, but almost all the stories were told from the point of view of the criminal. It’s not something that appeals to me, however good the writing is. I wouldn’t even recommend the collection to anyone who does like that angle – the writing, while mostly competent, was nothing special and none of the stories was memorable apart from one (actually told from a police viewpoint) set in rural Ireland, and that wasn’t sufficient to justify a recommendation.

And other things

Two recipe books which I was given for Christmas.

I expected to be more interested in the Persian one, having been to Persian restaurants, but in fact preferred the Palestinian book.

Palestine on a Plate by Joudie Kalla****

A fascinating account of Palestinian family cooking. I found myself bookmarking a lot of recipes and will be trying some of them this year. There were interesting snippets of information on how things that are popular throughout the Middle East either originated in Palestine or have been subtly altered there.

From a Persian Kitchen by Atoosa Sepehr***

A very beautiful book with gorgeous photographs of ordinary life in modern Iran, taken by the author. The recipes were not as inspiring though I want to try a couple that make liberal use of pomegranates. Too many began: ‘this is not traditional’ or ‘this is how I do it in London’ or ‘my English friends like this’. There were references to Iran but some of those recipes were basically just instructions on how to cook e.g. steak and add a few herbs or spices. There is a recipe for rice that sounds incredible but I won’t be experimenting. It ends up with a crust at the base but doesn’t say how many saucepans you wreck before you achieve perfection.

2 thoughts on “January short stories and other reading

  1. What a kind thought! But no – although I admire short stories I really only enjoy them when they’re either part of or in the ‘world’ of a series (like your Ring In The New). I prefer to have at least a novel’s worth of character development! I only bought the Crime Club anthology because, like you, I’m a member of the group and because I liked the charity and was happy to donate the price of a book. Good stories would have been a bonus. I’m not averse to short stories – I’ve even written some – but my enjoyment isn’t so great that it would be worth the postage! All the same, thanks for the thought!

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