Friday, August 06, 2010
New books: short shorts, werewolves and babies
The three new Manchester books this go-round have very little in common. If they were people, you'd definitely never catch them at the same party. But they're all good in their own very different ways.
First up is Nik Perring's book of short stories. Not So Perfect (Roast), is a little thing, a pint-sized but reassuringly thick book. The stories are also on the more diminutive side of short, but pack a lot of punch into their smaller word counts. One of them, The Angel in the Car Park, first appeared in Rainy City Stories, the Manchester creative writing website I edit, so I was already a fan of Nik's writing. And, as expected, I really enjoyed the book, full of offbeat characters and stripped-down, almost anecdotal narratives that are like short stories boiled down to their most concentrated essence.
And now for something completely different:
Tom Fletcher's book The Leaping (Quercus). It starts out among a gang of friends who share a house in Manchester and work at a mind-numbing call centre, living out their post-uni lives in scenes that'll be very familiar to many of the readers of this blog. Then the action moves up to The Lakes, and that's when things get very weird indeed. Yes, this is a werewolf novel, and a very good one too. It scared the bejeezus out of me, probably because Fletcher never resorts to schlocky horror gimmicks but approaches the material in a new way. It's hard to explain, but if my experience is anything to go by the book unravels into your head like some kind of psychedelic trip. It gets under your skin and creates an altered reality, a real sense of otherness and a way of life that is utterly alien and completely convincing.
Sheesh, I'm getting scared just remembering reading that book. So let's move swiftly from freaky psychedelic werewolves to babies. Yes, babies. Manchester babies, to be more specific, as the third book I want to recommend is the new edition of Babies in the City, Manchester's own where-to-go-and-what-to-do guide for Mancunian childwranglers. Their first book has been indispensable since my daughter's arrival a couple of years ago, and the revised edition has thoughtfully added in more options that will appeal to older kids.
It's all here: obscure-but-cool museums on the fringes of Greater Manchester, parks and walks, indoor play areas, classes, kid-friendly eats in the city centre, baby-friendly movie screenings... the list goes on. Only occasionally do I disagree with the reviews of the writers, and mainly because I think I'm a lot more picky about food than they are (yes, Heaton Park cafe, I'm looking at you.) But that's really my only small gripe. If you know someone with a new baby, this is an ideal present.