Tag Archives: Ewan Morrison

Tales from the Mall – Ewan Morrison

Do you ever feel like the fates are telling you to read a certain author? I ask because a few weeks ago I felt I was bombarded with subliminal, well not so subliminal that I didn’t notice them, messages that I should read Ewan Morrison. One was a conversation with a friend about a new-to-them author called Ewan Morrison who I really should read, a few days later an advance copy of ‘Close Your Eyes’ by Ewan Morrison (with the quote ‘If Ewan Morrison was a woman, Close Your Eyes would be destined for the shortlist’) popped through the door. Then at a meeting with Waterstones Deansgate I was asked if I would like to host an evening of the literary salon ‘Bad Language’ with guess who as the headline act… Ewan Morrison. (It is on tonight.) I took the hint and so soon enough ‘Tales from the Mall’, the book he will be discussing, arrived. Having read it I am thrilled everyone was ‘book pushing’ Ewan Morrison on me as it is something quite quirky, different and rather brilliant.

Cargo Publishing, paperback, 2012, non-fiction & fiction, 336 pages, kindly sent by Waterstones Deansgate

The title of ‘Tales from the Mall’ sort of sums up just what this book is about, well, I should highlight the sort of. This is not your conventional collection of short stories as with ‘Tales from the Mall’ Ewan Morrison gives his readers a mixture of short fictions, historical facts and the retelling of stories from real people, what these all have in common is they centre on the cultural phenomenon of malls (or shopping precincts as some people might call them) and the people who work in them and frequent them.

I really enjoyed how the book worked with this mixture of the real and the fictional. One minute you might be reading the fictional tale of women threatening to kill other women over a pair of shoes, separated families using the mall as a ‘middle ground’, etc, then you find yourself learning about the history of malls and how they came to be, then you will read Morrison’s retell, almost journalistic and fictional, a member of staff’s stories of cross dressers in the car parks or attempted suicides. There are also pictures thrown in along the way too and it all comes together to make the fictional seem real and the factual seem rather surreal. They say real life can be stranger than fiction don’t they? It all merges into a wonderful blend.

I had an inkling that I would like the short stories because of the subject matter; I didn’t expect them to be quite as affecting as they were. In each short story I found myself getting full immersed in each of the characters worlds. ‘Redacted’ is a short story, though I enjoyed every single one, is a short story that will really stay with me for a very long time because of the way it twisted and turned and I followed its narrator feeling everything he felt. I am being a bit cloak and dagger as I wouldn’t want to spoil it and with short stories you can invariably end up writing something as long as the story you want everyone to read.

On top of Morrison’s brilliantly written tales you also get these facts and ‘true life tales’. I was fascinated throughout. Who knew I would be interested in why malls ended up where they did, what ‘The Gruen Transfer’ was and why they are the shapes that they are… but I did. I also found the retold tales of staff throughout these malls (from both the UK and America) really fascinating. I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t want to know all the bonkers and bizarre things that real people actually do and get up to. It’s like being in the CCTV room yourself, and if you are as nosey and fascinated by other humans behaviour as I am it proves an absolute treat. My only slight quibble is the lay out. I loved the idea of a map, like a mall, at the front (as shown above) and all the pictures but sometimes it seems quite crammed and I started to get an occasional sense of information overload. But then that’s like a mall isn’t it? And I don’t think this book is designed to be read in one greedy gulp, though I sort of wanted to because of its bite size nature. I know that’s nothing to do with Morrison’s writing but I had to mention it.

‘Tales from the Mall’ is a quirky and rather unusual read but all the better for it. The way that fiction, facts and real people’s real stories retold merge creates this wonderful mix of the real and surreal and captures humans and the way that they behave. I haven’t encountered a book that does this in quite this way before. It’s fascinating, funny (often darkly) and at times really affecting. I am really glad that people pushed me in the direction of Ewan Morrison, now I am hopefully going to be pushing him on you.

Have you read any of Ewan Morrison’s other books? I had ‘Menage’ once but discovered it was the third in a trilogy so didn’t read it, oops. As I mentioned I have ‘Close Your Eyes’ on the TBR and I will be reading that very soon. I also wondered if any of you have read other collections that merge fiction, facts and true tales. I would love to read more books that do this, so please let me know of any recommendations.

Advertisements

7 Comments

Filed under Books of 2012, Cargo Publishing, Ewan Morrison, Non Fiction, Review, Short Stories

Latest Incomings

Now before you all baulk at how many books have arrived you might want to pop and see an explanation of how such a backlog developed, there could actually be more that have simply vanished. The latter part of that sentence doesn’t bear thinking about. So here are what delights (though I took out quite a few cricket and celeb books – again see above post for my thoughts on those) have arrived in the last month, I have even organised them into two groups for you…

The Hardbacks and larger books…

  • Dom Casmurro – Machado De Assis (printed specially from OUP for my Reading for Brazil thing, too kind)
  • By Midnight – Mia James (a young adult book set in Highgate Cemetery)
  • Stories to Get You Through the Night – Various (have started this, its great so far)
  • The Invisible Bridge – Julie Orringer (not heard of the author before have you?)
  • Dona Nicanora’s Hat Shop – Kirsten Dawkins (another kind send for Reading for Brazil)
  • God Says No – James Hannaham (hadn’t heard of this but sounds very, very me am itching to start this one)
  • Ilustrado – Miguel Syjuco (I know nothing about this but adore the cover)
  • The Lost Books of the Odyssey – Zachary Mason (they also sent me a copy for my Mum who is a classicist which was very kind)
  • Repeat Today With Tears – Anne Peile (most annoyed this was delayed as wanted to go to the launch but as hadn’t read it didn’t feel I could)
  • The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas – Machado De Assis (another book printed specially from OUP – again too kind)
  • Beatrice and Virgil – Yann Martel (I loved The Life of Pi but am going to try not to compare them when I read this one)
  • The Radleys – Matt Haig (Vampires as next door neighbours sounds fun, mind you might hold out on this one a while before I get vampired out)
  • Tony & Susan – Austin M. Wright (a book I would never have known was being republished – or had indeed been published – after many years, which has a book within a book sent to a woman from her ex-husband, sounds intriguing. We read the book as Susan does.)
  • Grace Williams Says It Loud – Emma Henderson (a tale of love and the life after of two people in a Mental Institute, an interesting debut)
  • Inheritance – Nicholas Shakespeare (have never read him but always liked the idea of doing so)

And onto the Paperbacks…

  • Cousin Phyllis and Other Stories – Elizabeth Gaskell (I have never read Gaskell and so want to and short stories might be a nice way in)
  • Dear Mr. Bigelow – Frances Woodford (I think this will be an unsolicited joy. Woodford and Bigelow never met but wrote to each other from 1949 to 1961. I cannot wait to read these letters.)
  • The Book of Fires – Jane Borodale (Too late to try and get done before The Orange First Novel Award but one I am looking forward to no less.)
  • Tender Morsels – Margo Lanagan (a modern fairytale receiving very mixed reviews around the blogosphere, wonder which camp I will be in – love it or loathe it?)
  • Jezebel  – Irene Nemirovsky (I am one of the few people who didn’t love Suite Francaise maybe a short novel with such a tempting title will do the trick?)
  • Ménage – Ewan Morrison (never heard of him but sounds like he has quite the cult following)
  • The Kindest Thing – Cath Staincliffe (another one I have never heard of but “a love story, a modern nightmare” sounds like it might be just up my street)
  • City of God – Paulo Lins (another book for Reading For Brazil that the publishers kindly sent)
  • The Lady in the Tower – Alison Weir (I am a little obsessed with Tudors and Anne Boleyn in particular, so this will be a great summer non-fiction read – I have a mate who works at Hever Castle, maybe I should read it there?)
  • Little Gods – Anna Richards (am super chuffed this one arrived as I saw it in Kew Bookshop and just wanted it from these words “an adventure, a black comedy, a fairy tale of sorts and a romance” that sounds my perfect book, let’s hope the blurb isn’t lying!)
  • Remarkable Creatures – Tracy Chevalier (love, love, loved ‘Falling Angels’ and this is Victorian again, ladies on the hunt for fossils doesn’t sound thrilling but I have been recommended it is by lots of people)
  • A Death in Brazil – Peter Robb (a historical study of Brazil looking at the country after slavery was abolished)
  • Henry VII: Wolfman – A. E. Moorat (as much as I am unsure about the Jane Austen zombie books this could be fun, and the next on ‘Queen Victoria; Demon Hunter’ I am going to beg for)
  • Troubles – J.G. Farrell (the Lost Man Booker winner which instantly made me want to read it and hoorah now I can)
  • The Scouring Angel – Benedict Gummer (another part of history that fascinates me is The Black Death and the plague years so this is perfect. Sounds like have some great long non-fiction for the summer months)
  • The Blind Side of the Heart – Julia Franck (I know nothing about this and, from the cover or the title, I am not sure how me it will be but is good to give new things a whirl)
  • Stone’s Fall – Iain Pears (I didn’t like ‘An Instance of the Fingerpost’ very much but have heard this is a cracker, has also been chosen for The TV Book Clubs summer reads)

So that’s all of them. Have you read any of these? Are they on your radar or your TBR? Have you read anything else by any of the authors? Which ones would you like to see me read first and hear about?

27 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts