Name your favourite family novel or story and you could win the amazing First Prize of ALL the individual collections by the authors in the Family Snapshots series. Closes on Fathers’ Day, 16 June – see end of post for details.
Life is never boring on the Literary Sofa. Proofs, finished copies, e-mails and press releases compete for my fickle attention every day. The title I’m about to start reading can easily be knocked off the top of the TBR pile by a book I didn’t ask for by an author I’d never heard of. But the Family Snapshots eBook singles series being launched today by Bloomsbury Books appealed to me immediately as a fan of short stories and family life in fiction. It comes into play in many of my Top 10 Summer Reads as well as my own novel.
Other topics have their moment and then, suddenly, it’s over when everyone starts to think, ‘Oh no, not another book about…’ That will never happen with family because of its endless story potential: the inter-generational saga, the tale of family secrets, sibling rivalry, feuds, loss and betrayal, relationships between parents and children….(Happiness doesn’t get much of a look-in.) Family life is a universally relatable subject – if the characters and conflicts are believable, the reader will be able to recognise them regardless of their own personal experience. In recent decades even the definition and composition of family has changed, and this too is reflected in fiction.
Family Snapshots is a series of 9 eBook single short stories selected from individual collections by high-profile Bloomsbury authors including George Saunders, often considered the current master of the short form. Last week I saw him in conversation with another of the featured writers, Jon McGregor, at a London Literature Festival event where Saunders gave a fascinating and detailed account of his creative process. His collection Tenth of December is one of the five in my recent Short Fiction Special.
I really enjoyed Family Snapshots, which give different takes on family life in a range of styles. Sampling individual stories like this is a good way to discover writers who are new to you, and Snapshots is an apt description because the short story seeks to capture a moment (the exact duration varies) of significance. As surprise plays such an important part in this, I’m not going to say what the stories are about. I will however quote the brilliant opening of Rajesh Parameswaran’s Demons, which does everything a first line should:
When the phone rang the night before Thanksgiving, Savitri Veeraghavan was doing her best to forget that her husband, Ravi, lay dead on the living room floor.
My other favourites were Jumpa Lahiri’s novelistic Only Goodness (another Indian family living in the USA), and Jon McGregor’s Which Reminded Her, Later which has not only a great title but a subtle interplay of melancholy and suspense.
The eBook single is taking off in general and that can only be good for a form which struggles to get attention. The Family Snapshots authors are already successful and well-known (and significantly, many if not most have had novels published), but it would be great if the rise of the eBook single helps new short fiction writers find a readership without first/necessarily having to produce a book. One of America’s leading literary magazines does this with Ploughshares Solos.
Family Snapshots COMPETITION – DEADLINE EXTENDED TO SUNDAY 16 JUNE – midnight GMT.
First prize: Winner will receive copies of ALL the full individual collections by the Family Snapshots authors – enough short stories to keep you reading for the rest of the year! (Some of them may even be signed, subject to availability.)
Second prize: Your choice of story collection by one of the featured authors.
All you have to do to is name your favourite family novel or story, either in the comments below or on Twitter – tweet @BloomsburyBooks using #familysnapshots. The winners will be picked at random after the competition ends on SUNDAY 16 June at midnight GMT. Please spread word of the competition if you can.
Since I don’t get to enter, one of my absolute favourites is The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. He creates an entire world as well as one of fiction’s most unusual families: the result is poignant, original and utterly compelling.
Next week I look forward to welcoming debut author Susan Elliot Wright to the Literary Sofa to talk about her own novel of long-held family secrets, The Things We Never Said, one of my summer reads.