Well, here at TLC towers, we are all very proud of Issue 6 and the quality of the brilliantly edgy prose and poetry inside. Many thanks to our contributors for their support and patience (very late, we know!). Without you, The Literary Commune would not exist. Submissions for Issue 7, our anniversary issue, are now open and close on 18th September. As mentioned before, much as we love the submissions we regularly receive from our USA contributors, we would love to read more work from British writers. Get sending!
If you are a fan of the often quite quirky pieces we like to publish in TLC, then I would like to introduce you all to a fantastic book I have recently had the pleasure of reading. Einstein’s Beach House is a fascinating collection of short stories written and put together by renowned and often controversial US writer, physician, lawyer and licensed New York City tour guide, Jacob M Appel.
Einstein’s Beach House, named after one of the stories therein, is a straightforward and highly readable, yet, at the same time, richly complex and extremely clever collection of shorts that stayed with me long after I finished reading. The book’s intense mix of edgy modernity, magical realism, humour and, often, sadness is a prime example of why the short story form should never again be seen as the novel’s poor cousin.
In ‘Paracosmos’, we meet Leslie and Hugh, worried when their daughter, Evie, socially isolated by her unconventional, scientist father, adopts an invisible friend. Determined to persuade their daughter away from her fantasy, the couple soon find themselves drawn into Evie’s world, a whole fantasy family soon becoming a source of escapism for all of them. In ‘Sharing the Hostage’, a 42-year-old enjoying the first stages of a new relationship finds himself involved in a battle between his girlfriend, Maddie, and her ex as they fight over custody of Fred. The twist? Fred is a tortoise, loved and agonised over by his parents as much as any child might be. And, in the heart-breaking ‘The Rod of Asclepius’, 6-year-old Lauren grows up with a father determined to get revenge on the medical team who caused his wife’s death.
My favourite story in the collection, however, has to be ‘La Tristesse des Herissons’ in which we meet a young couple, both emerging from fragmented backgrounds, as they attempt to create the ideal family on which they have both missed out. He wants a dog, she wants a baby, so, in the end, they compromise, adopting a hedgehog whose subsequent battle with depression soon causes substantial cracks to appear in the foundations of this unusual family set-up.
If Raymond Carver and Isabelle Allende had a child, Jacob M Appel could be it. Throw in Franz Kafka, Chekhov and Gabriel Garcia Marquez as influential role models and Einstein’s Beach House is the result. This collection contains the kind of stories that will have most writers thinking 'I wish I could write like this' and, as a writer myself, I will definitely be exploring Appel’s work further. Einstein’s Beach House is available now from Amazon and other stockists. If you love short stories or simply want to improve your own writing, buy it. You won’t regret it.