Well-known for its football team and its well-spring of musical talent, Manchester is little recognised for its its hotbed of authors. This anthology is a major gathering of fiction from the city, featuring original stories from such writers as Tim Willocks, Jackie Kay and DJ Dave Haslam.
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"Of course in Manchester it rains all the time and the people here have a split personality to accommodate it," writes Jackie Kay. "The bleak, rainy personality and the surprised, sunny one ..."Manchester's infamous grey climate sets a melancholy atmosphere throughout these 25 stories, a dark side previously documented by Joy Division and The Smiths. In fact, few British city's have had so many words written about them. Yet until recently, little fiction had been set in the city. Manchester Stories attempts to redress the balance.
Despite the writers' diverse backgrounds, common themes emerge, one being childhood memories. Andrea Ashworth's "Morietti's Super-Swirl" creates wonderfully nostalgic imagery of ice-cream vans, nit nurses and Jehovah's Witnesses. Michael Bracewell's childhood portrait of "Blackley, Crumpsall, Harpurhey" is curiously "re-mixed" by Jeff Noon. Meanwhile, P-P Hartnett, Karline Smith and Cath Staincliffe document contemporary childhood--a boy discovering his sexuality in the gay village; a black girl obsessed by Manchester United; a vicious girl-gang mugging students.
Another re-occurring theme is loners--from a lonely office girl to an ex-serviceman's desolate routine. Tim Willocks explores the city with Billy Micklehurst, a homeless wanderer, describing it as "a city of outcasts stacked tall with broken majesty." The downbeat feel is compounded by the depressing account of elderly siblings on a run-down estate by Shelagh Delaney, author of "Taste Of Honey".
Yet Mancunians have a knack of combing misery with humour-- read Nicholas Blincoe and David Bowker's contributions. Perhaps a Manchester literary style is emerging--one that fuses rainy city melancholia; twisted humour; post-Pulp- Fiction violence and the linguistic influence of generations of immigrants. Editor Ra Page describes it, "buried Irish lilt, mixed with Lancashire obstinacy, with more than a pinch of Afro-Caribbean swagger, Jewish argot and Asian colour ..." --Sarah Champion
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