Apologies for the blog’s partial dormancy. I’m pretty busy at the moment, and will be for a while. But let me put up a long overdue advertisement. The most recent issue of McSweeney’s – number 26 – contains a short story by my good friend Rob Sears (one of the Ideas Brothers’ halves). It’s called ‘Death and Burial Among My People’ – and is, I should perhaps stress – fiction. I mention this because when I saw Rob give a reading of the story, he was approached afterwards by a kind representative of the Arts Council who wanted to know more about Rob’s people’s rituals. So let me be clear: Rob’s people’s rituals are nothing like those described in the story.
I won’t try a proper description. But the story fits pretty well with the McSweeney’s house style, I think; and it also reminds me a little of Hilary Mantel’s recent work. Like Mantel’s remarkable 2005 novel ‘Beyond Black’, Rob’s story is set in the England of tabloid newspapers; the Daily Mail’s England, given chill flesh. Mantel’s world is one of “perjured ministers and burnt-out paedophiles”; while Rob’s people are threatened by “other cultures such as asbos, binmen, chavs, reality TV… the new toffs have begun dying in ways that are sort of modern, from cancer, clogged arteries, or general old age.”
Like Mantel, also, Rob makes this landscape strange by giving it a spiritual dimension that is already sort of there in the weird subterranean pagan world of day to day English life. For Mantel it’s tarot cards and spiritualism. For Rob it’s the misimagined rituals of his narrator’s gypsy community. I should quote a bit more – but it’s a short story. So just go buy; or, better, steal – because McSweeney’s costs twenty fucking pounds, and who can afford that, in this day and age?
You can also read some of Rob’s earlier work on the McSweeney’s website: here’s a story called ‘A Man Dines Alone’. [Somewhat dumbed down by the McSweeney’s online staff, I should add… The monosyllabic spree?]