Mysteries. Ideas uncovered. Strange creatures. Forbidden words, used anyway. Ideas that scare us, make us angry, wistful, ashamed. The importance of a tiny, electric moment. All this pulled into the light, revealed by the imagination and bravery of these writers. They bring to life the sound of an act of charity; the delicious strut of a woman the day after taking a new lover; the one person in university halls who notices the stealth details of a cheating couple.
The stories and poetry here - some long and unfolding, others short like heart glugs of vodka - honour these unsung moments. They also showcase the voices of the habitually unseen - writing of fear translated into bigotry; tribalism and the violnce it causes; the patient suffering of a drag queen, watching his mother deny him to her death bed; the racist imprint of a father on a daughter's love life. The importance of finding the right voice and language. The colloquial, the vernacular, the dialect, the accents. The 'bad' language.
Welcome to "The Unseen". We hope it illuminates you
I have an odd relationship with short stories and articles - I've read huge amounts that I've massively enjoyed, but when in a bookshop it's unlikely that I'll pick any up - my mind always more drawn to engrossing myself in a long-form novel, or delving deep into the pages of a weighty history book. However, Fincham Press - the publishing house part of the University of Roehampton were kind enough to send me a copy of "The Unseen" - their latest collection of short stories, flash fiction, poetry and non-fiction, and settling down to read I found myself blown away by the staggering amount of content and talent on display in this collection.
I'd underestimated just how transportive a collection of short writings like this could be - but the volume of content means that the reader is rapidly transported from place to place - be it the American Desert or University Halls. The tone rapidly differs from piece to piece, with stories ranging from dark and macabre through to light and funny - ensuring that the reader is kept on their toes and engaged at every turn of the page. However the main thing I was impressed by was the sheer quality of these stories - the writing is at a level that's consistently high - and impressed me far more than many collections of writing I've read by established authors. It's clear that the University of Roehampton has a remarkable creative writing department, and Fincham Press is well placed to promote and share their work. It's always exciting to read genuinely new and original writing, and I have little doubt that some of the authors featured in this collection of "The Unseen" will go on to remarkable things in the years to come.
A diverse, haunting and humorous collection of short fiction, Simon Van Booy offers a collection of stories highlighting how human genius can emerge through acts of compassion. With characters ranging from an eccentric film director, an aging Cockney bodyguard, the teenage child of Nigerian immigrants, a divorced amateur magician and a Beijing street vendor, Tales of Accidental Genius takes the reader on many, incredible journeys, and conveys more in a few pages than many authors would struggle to do in a whole novel.
I’m a fan of Simon Van Booy – I read his most recent novel, Father’s Day whilst on holiday, and found myself moved, surprised, and impressed by his clear, unfussy prose. Whilst that was a fantastically engrossing read, his true talent shines out even more in this collection of short stories – most very short, but all inhabiting completely different characters with huge amounts of skill. It’s hard not to be moved – The Goldfish almost had me in tears, a simple tale of devotion and duty, it tugs at the heartstrings without once slipping into sentimentality, and the other shorter stories manage the same thing too – evocative and moving, but never too much or too overdrawn, perfect in their quiet simplicity
However, Van Booy saves the best for last – as he changes style completely, and transports the reader to Beijing for the second half of the book. Here the reader is told a story in traditional Chinese fable style, and it’s one that I will remember for a long, long time – one about family, love, luck, money and happiness that I’m eager to read again as I found myself completely transported – taken far from smoggy London and deep into Beijing and the Chinese countryside, rooting for the characters to succeed more than I have in a very long time.
There is a huge amount of skill involved in crafting these stories so perfectly – all perfectly formed and ready to eat like a delicious morsel of food, Simon Van Booy is a true master, and one whose work I’m very eager to sample more of in the future. Huge thanks to the publisher for the copy.