Isn’t it funny how things work out in the world of reading sometimes? There I was working my way through my Flash Clash reading challenge – a challenge first inspired by the publication of Nik Perring’s debut flash collection, Not So Perfect – and up pops Nik himself with a personal recommendation for Tania Hershamn’s The White Road and Other Stories (Salt Publishing). Never one to turn down a strong recommendation from anyone I picked the book up (or at least I have now), and I’m ready to dive into it. Before I do take the plunge though I want to present my initial forethoughts on a collection which was commended by the judges of the 2009 Orange Award for New Writers as standing out for it’s remarkable quality.
As usual though I’ll kick off the proceedings with a run through of the official cover blurb:
What links a cafe in Antartica, a factory for producing electronic tracking tags and a casino where gamblers can wager their shoes? They’re among the multiple venues where award-winning writer Tania Hershman sets her unique tales in this spellbinding debut collection.
That’s the blurb and well it doesn’t really give away a lot does it, except for maybe dropping a hint at the uniqueness of some of the story settings. And it is perhaps the story settings, and the stories themselves, which make this collection as a whole, rather unique. You see Tania Hershman is something a little different from your run-of-the-mill author. She’s a scientist, and she spent 13 years of her life as a journalist, writing for many top science publications, before pointing her pen towards fiction. And apparently, in this her debut story collection, Hershman’s scientific background comes to the fore as the stories themselves all come with a flavour of the scholarly about them. This for me is the real intrigue of the collection, not just because I’m interested in finding out just how well a bone-fide scientist can write short fiction, but also because I want to see whether a scientifically trained mind actually helps the storytelling process i.e it brings something vibrant and exciting to the table, or if it hinders it i.e. a scientist’s analytical way of thinking presents a prose which is too stuffy and technical (yeah I know it’s never as black and white as that, but for the argument I’m making it so ).
You know, as a huge fan of the short fiction form I’m surprised that I hadn’t come across Tania Hershman before Mr. Perring mentioned her to me. Not only is she a voracious short story writer (I hadn’t noticed before but her stories keep turning up in all sorts of prestigious publications, both online and in print), but she is also the founder and editor of The Short Review, the Internet’s primary portal for reviews of short story collections and anthologies. And if you want further proof of Tania’s undying passion for the short story form, then she can also to be found on the judging panel for short fiction literary prizes such as The Bristol Short Story Prize. A very busy woman indeed (and even more so given she’s also the writer-in-residence in the Science Faculty at Bristol University, where Arts Council England have given her a grant to write a collection of short stories inspired, in part, by a 100-year-old biology book. Wow!).
So coming with such credentials in the writing, promoting and judging of short fiction, I’m really am excited to be working my way through Tania’s debut collection. With her harbouring so much passion for the form it would be difficult for that love not to be projected into her stories, and so I’m really on the edge of my seat here in anticipation of the thrilling journey that lies ahead. That journey will of course be the same as it always is, with me reading and reviewing each story as it comes, before delivering final thoughts on the collection as a whole. To aid both you and me in keeping track I’ve also listed the contents of the collection below, and I’ll provide links to the mini reviews as I complete them.
Have I anything more to say for now? I don’t think so, so let the reading begin!
Contents of The White Road and Other Stories
(links lead to individual reviews of each story, once posted)
Salt Publishing | September 2008 | £8.99 | PAPERBACK | 144 PP | ISBN: 9781844714759
Find out more about Tania Hershman:
- Visit Tania’s official website.
- Read Tania’s personal short story collection/anthology reviews on The Short Review website.
- Visit Tania’s writing blog – TaniaWrites.
- Read Tania’s latest published online story, The Perfect Egg, on the Nature Journal website.
- Read Tania’s story, Vegetable, Mineral on the Pank Magazine website.
A note about forethoughts
‘Forethoughts’ offer an insight into what my initial thoughts and impressions of a book are before I begin reading it. Informal, and largely written as a stream-of-consciousness exercise in a single sitting, my ‘forethoughts’ capture an important stage of the reading experience for me – the anticipatory period before the book is first opened, when my excitement is piqued for the reading experience which lies ahead.
Blissfully ignorant my ‘forethoughts’ may well be, but when combined with my eventual ‘afterthoughts’, the result is a unique and comprehensive record of a very personal literary ‘journey’ through a particular book; a literary journey which will hopefully be of some value to other readers.