Literary Event: Graham Swift and K.J. Orr

Graham Swift

Impromptu decisions can often be the best ones I find, especially when an evening out is concerned. This was certainly the case for me this week. A browse of the Daunt Book Website , one quick phone call later and I had a ticket booked for an evening with Graham Swift and K.J.Orr, at my favourite Marylebone branch of Daunt.

It was a sticky evening, the kind where even the briefest of movements seems to induce clammy hands and a dampness in the small of the back. The shade provided by floor to ceiling book shelves, a glass of cold sparkling water and Graham’s calming tones were the perfect antidote.

Graham Swift is well known for his novels but maybe not so well known for his short stories although short stories, he reminded the audience is how he started out all those years ago. This collection started as a trickle two years ago, but once  started they came thick and fast so he that quite soon he realised they were going to form something. Although he wasn’t initially clear what this ‘something’ was, it  went on to become a cohesive collection called ‘England and Other Stories’.

J Orr was once an employee of Daunt Books. She has gone onto become a very successful short story author in her own right. She was clearly very familiar with Swifts latest work and as a short story expert herself prompted really interesting questions and discussion with Graham.

Graham Swift described his writing as giving a voice to things or people that may not usually have a voice. He hopes that ‘England and other Stories’ does just this by being a book about people who have not spoken previously but through these stories are allowed to do just that.

It was abundantly clear listening to Graham discuss his writing that despite his many years of writing he is still completely entranced by his art. Graham said that all his stories start as nothing more than a ‘mere flicker’ As he begins to write this flicker will sometimes grow and take on a shape and life. He is a very instinctive writer and he spoke of the utter surprise he feels every time this flicker becomes something. That a few words can become paragraphs and then pages of writing is something he never takes for granted. I love this humbleness in an author who has so much experience and success .

I have attempted  short stories myself in the past (with little success I might add). There is a real art to being able to create something so compact and perfectly formed. Being able to cut out the waffle and hone a piece of writing to contain only the necessary is not something I’m always good at (as you may have noticed). However, the ability to write well often comes from the ability to read well. So maybe it is time I turned some of my attentions to short stories. I have been meaning to read Alice Munro’s latest collection for some time. I think I should add Graham Swifts ‘England and Other Stories to that list too.


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