Thursday, 9 January 2014

Soho Nights and Lusty Reviews

This happened a good while ago so technically it's old news. But in my head it's fresh as a morning daisy, as though it happened last night.

I was invited to read at the Word Factory Xmas event in December, so I packed my velvet Alberta Ferretti dress and netted tights and my good luck copy of Pelt. I met Rowena Macdonald, also reading that night, at the pub beforehand for a natter and a pint. Then we headed off to the warm atmosphere of Carrie Kania's Society Club, a cool bookshop on a Soho corner in the night.

photo by Paul McVeigh

A splendid, intimate crowd. I read from my title story 'Pelt', Rowena read an extract from her collection Smoked Meat (I've yet to devour my copy). Then, the names of those present were thrown into a hat and members of the audience were invited to read from their work. Bookshop owner and literary agent Carrie Kania read a Charlie Brown Christmas story. Word Factory organiser Cathy Galvin spoke about a year in the life of the Word Factory, while short story whiz Paul McVeigh read a wonderful story and took this glowing photo.

Halfway through the session a face that looked strangely familiar stepped in off the street. Author Simon Van Booy, whose philosophy book Why We Need Love kept me awake on the plane, made an unexpected appearance and this devoted fan was over the moon. It's rare to meet an author whose work you've enjoyed and swooned over face to face, and even more of a miracle to have a positive and inspiring conversation. What a gentleman! Simon's contribution to RED: The Waterstones Anthology is a beautiful read and still available at the bookshop.

The Society Club also has great cocktails and an eclectic collection of books. I will be going back to lounge about! And thank you to Cathy Galvin and Paul McVeigh of the Word Factory!

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Two new reviews of Pelt came out recently so I have started the New Year with a bang.

From Whispering Gums:
What I particularly like about the stories is their honesty. McNamara doesn’t flinch from letting her characters express their (our) meanest, least generous thoughts. Love, McNamara shows, can make us selfish, desperate, and sometimes cruel. In the first story, “Pelt”, the animality of lust is palpable as a pregnant black mistress stands her ground, fighting for her rather weak, German lover against his barren wife. Many of her stories are about compromised relationships and the accommodations made, by one or both parties, to keep them going. “The Coptic Bride” is one of these, as is “Opaque” in which a woman’s love for her man is tested against her sense of morality, of what is right:

But if she called, it would perforate all that she held close to her. It would cost her her life.

From Tears in the Fence:
The title story, ‘Pelt’, follows a Ghanaian woman flaunting her pregnant body before her lover’s estranged wife. The reader sees her German lover, Rolfe, stumble with the return of his wife, Karina, from Namibia. He has not told her of his new love. The story is rich in attitudes, connections and commercial detail, allowing a wider vision of the characters to emerge. The Ghanaian is a confident woman, aware of her physical attributes, in relation to her lover’s wife, and is clearly determined to use her womanly guile to secure a higher status in a highly stratified society. Despite some insecurity, she triumphantly swims in the hotel’s pool towards the Europeans in an act of self-assertion and transcendence. Rolfe begs her to go home.
The story is highly successful at implying the African’s assault on European decorum and her struggle towards a wider social acceptance.
Here’s an example of the fluency and fullness of McNamara’s writing from the story, ‘Young British Man Drowns In Alpine Lake’:

He nears Corinne’s face one more time. He is gleaning it for ashen traces. Of which there are, for one who knows her. He cannot see how the colour of her lips has dropped a shade towards the blue end of red, a drop in blood pressure as much as a realignment of pluck, and that her huge white forehead, template for her sticky righteousness, lies galvanized beneath its compelling shirr. They say the hydraulics of the face are spellbinding. Corinne’s face is giving him so much information I am appalled.

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Now it's back to work for this winter squirrel!