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Frankie Styne and the Silver Man

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“Page’s imaginative powers are electric. She has the ability to analyze the often nightmarish qualities of the human psyche and as a result, Frankie Styne is a taut examination of the complex emotional ties that bind, the methods we employ to distance ourselves, and our ambiguous powers of imagination. She is at once poignant and provocative, stomach-churningly distasteful and yet compulsively readable.”  Time Out

Page is a fierce writer; her relentless imagination and pure writing skills bring a broken, nightmare world fully to life.Kirkus starred review

 I’m delighted to learn that Frankie Styne and the Silver Man is due for release in Canada and the US in February 2016 and has already earned a Kirkus starred review  https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/kathy-page/frankie-styne-and-silver-man/.

 I’m very fond of this novel, which  combines fantastic  elements with a (mostly) realistic narrative, partly because it is funny as well as serious, stomach-churning, etcetera.  It’s set in  a  terraced street in small town in the UK, where some very distinctive characters live side-by side and sometimes overhear  and/or try interfere with each other’s lives.  More details will follow, but here’s what the UK edition said: 

“Frankie Styne, the successful author of a series of gruesome killer novels,  has lived  at 125 Onley Street for many years. Meticulous and obsessive, he lives a life of isolation, managing to keep both future and past at bay.

Next door, live Liz Meredith and her new baby, Jim. Liz has been told by her social worker Mrs Purvis that Jim has a rare disorder, and will never be like other children. But Mrs Purvis can’t see, as Liz can, that Jim already knows things no ordinary person could. Besides, Liz doesn’t want any help from the social services, or from Tom and Alice, the couple at number 129 who seem to want to adopt her – or is it Jim they really want? In any case, Liz  yearns to be left in peace so that she can imagine her way out of how things are.

When Frank’s solitary anonymity is threatened, he hatches a real-life plot which, as he begins to enact it, unexpectedly changes not only his own life, but also those of Liz and Jim. Sifting through our collective nightmares, Kathy Page has written a novel that is powerful, humorous, tragic and thoroughly surprising…”

My recent novels, The Find, Alphabet and The Story of My Face, are suspenseful narratives about characters who struggle not only with circumstances, but also with their own natures.  It was in Frankie Styne and the Silver Man that I began to  explore questions about the nature of identity which have continued to animate my work, and to develop a fascination with  the inner lives characters who are marginalized, extraordinary or in some way “other.”

Exquisite writing .. Page is a fierce writer; her relentless imagination and pure writing skills bring a broken, nightmare world fully to life. Kirkus starred review

“Frankie Styne & the Silver Man resists being put down for the night… I read 
on, captivated and creeped-out. But this being Kathy Page, I always trusted 
I was heading away from a nightmare, towards a happier place. This is 
Felicia’s Journey, with a big dollop of hope.” Caroline Adderson,  prize-winning author of  Ellen in Pieces.

“Fresh and engaging. Her writing is crisp and her insights into human behavior are acute.” Lynne Van Luven, Monday Magazine

“Great story. Great writing too. You render down the monstrous, gently fold the abnormal into an embrace and make it human… fantastic!” Helen Heffernan

“Each  character in the book is horrific, but each in a different way. I was even afraid of the baby! Was absolutely certain that a truly gruesome ending was in story but couldn’t put it down anyway. Ending was perfect. It’s a keeper. Will read again.” Barb Egerter

Good Company

 A real  thrill to receive a copy of Best Canadian Stories 15, and find my story, “Low Tide,”  in such good company!  Like many writers, I rarely read my own work once it’s in print, but there is plenty for me in this anthology.  Thanks to editor John Metcalf and Oberon Press.  ISBN 978 0 770 1432 4SC

 

Best Canadain Short Stories 15

Kathy Page on the short story, an interview with Trevor Corkum

http://www.malahatreview.ca/interviews/page_interview.html

TC The short story form is chameleon and shape shifting, filled with infinite possibility. The best short fiction, I think, comes into being seemingly fully formed, completely original, sui generis. Who are the short story writers you admire most? What short fiction writers have had the biggest impact on your own work in this form?

KP  Yes—one of the wonderful things about the short story is the scope it offers for formal invention, how infinitely various and startlingly new (and at the same time ancient) it can be. Of course, the novel is a shape-shifter too, but brevity makes innovation and radical experiment more feasible, and it certainly makes it possible (though not required) to play around with the way plot is put to work. The short story, in its intensity and in the ways it is structured and read, is as much related to poetry as it is to the novel.

Oddly enough, many of the short fiction writers who have meant most to me have names beginning with C: Carter (Angela), Carver, Calvino, and Chekhov… These are writers who do very different—indeed, almost opposite—things with both the story and the sentence. Carter, for example, plays with folk and fairy-tale motifs but writes in an intricate, baroque fashion, whereas Carver is distinguished by the pared-down style he and his editor arrived at, and by the sheer ordinariness of his characters. Calvino is playful enough to tell a story from the point of view of a mollusc. Chekhov’s characters are so convincing that he can get away with anything: think of the ending of “Gusev,” where the protagonist dies and the perspective shifts to a shoal of fish, a shark, and finally the ocean itself. British writer David Constantine, just beginning to be read this side of the pond, is another C, and then of course there is Joyce Carol Oates, and (moving on to other letters), Kafka, J.G. Ballard and Olivia Butler. Since moving here I’ve encountered wonderful Canadian short fiction writers—to name just a few, Caroline Adderson, Alice Munro, both of the MacLeods…

 As for your “fully formed” hypothesis, this is probably a very personal thing. For me, some stories arrive almost complete and others are a struggle to excavate (it’s often a matter of stripping out extraneous parts), but I don’t think you’d be able to judge which is which from reading them. 

TC  You’ve had a varied career—teacher, carpenter, therapist, lecturer, just to name a few. You’ve also lived and worked in several countries—the U.K., Finland, Estonia, and now Canada. How do the various threads and themes of our lives make their way into fiction? How should we, as writers, treat this real-life source material? Why fiction and not memoir, for example?

KP  I don’t think there is a “should” here.  What you do with your material and how much you use your own life experience or observations of others depends on whether your interest is in the story and where it can go, or in coming as close as you can to the experience, or the facts, and the meaning they have for you. Intention is important, but I’d argue that even when we try very hard not to, most of us write some degree of fiction. Amy Hempel’s story “The Harvest” pretty much sums the situation up, I feel. I’m by nature a fabricator. I sometimes write memoir, or stay close to my own experience in fiction, but I tend to feel uncomfortable doing it. I want to shape things, edit and exaggerate, and I feel restricted if I don’t, and sometimes guilty when I do. It’s better to feel free.

TC  If you could spend a full day with one of your literary heroes, who would you invite, and what would you do?

KP  Perhaps I’d go for a hike with Edward Thomas, an English First World War poet with “Eco” leanings. He figures in my forthcoming set of linked stories. My caveat is that we’d go in the landscape of his time and place, not mine. Thomas wrote a few short stories, though his poetry is on the whole more interesting than they are. He’s a fascinating character. Often depressed and conflicted at home, he was at his best outdoors, walking or cycling, and was supposedly a great wayfaring companion. Like most heroes, he might be a disappointment, but the landscape would not.

TC In your own career, you had early success, and then stepped away from writing for a time, disillusioned by the publishing world in the 1990s. Eventually, you found your way back, and have enjoyed great success and recognition, winning or being shortlisted for major literary awards. Dire prognostications of the future of books have been sounding in the literary world for some time—publishers going under, bookstores closing, reading numbers seeming to decline in the age of the virtual world. Given this backdrop, why continue to write?

KP  I did step away from writing novels, or I tried to. I flirted briefly with writing for film and TV, and looked into a career in social housing management… However, I continued to write short fiction, and in many ways those years were very productive since the screenwriting side of things taught me a great deal about structure, and I made real progress with my stories. A big part of my problem then was that I was with a big publisher who was then bought by a bigger one. I didn’t really satisfy them in terms of sales. The industry was becoming much more focused on the idea of each title being very profitable, rather than the business simply making a profit over all, as in the old days. So I had a feeling of being a disappointment to them: Could I not just do something differently, though they did not know exactly what, and would I please never write a short story again?  I felt bad about it. Now, none of this seems so problematic. Short fiction may not be viable in the new hyper-commercial atmosphere, but nonetheless,  I and others (including a few very wonderful publishers) love it, think it’s of huge value and know that it connects powerfully with readers: so yes, this is very much worth doing. The readership may be smaller than it is for best-selling novels or blockbuster movies, but that does not mean its cultural value is lesser. We’re so used to the Hollywood model that we irrationally assume everything should be measured and valued that way.

With a novel, the reader steps into a vast and fully imagined world and may stay there for hours or days on end, pulled along by the emerging storyline, character development and so on. I think this is what many of us want a lot of the time, and it can be a wonderful thing. Short stories ask something different of the reader—a particular, concentrated kind of attention and the ability to sense and absorb the story as a whole. Reading a good story is both intense and very satisfying, but it is not the same as being “carried along.” It’s more like a dive into the lake.

Of course, in the current market, short fiction is unlikely to pay the writer a living wage for the time put into crafting it, and yes, there are many competing forms of entertainment. Even so, I think that the important thing is to make good work and get it out, to build and sustain a short fiction culture, which is exactly what we’re doing here, with this contest.

TC  In a follow-up question, what do you think is the state of short fiction in Canada today? Are you optimistic about the short story’s future?

KP  Yes. I see many wonderful short story writers and a great deal of respect for the short story in Canada. There’s a tradition of story writing, and some pride about that tradition. Canada’s wealth of independent presses, and journals like this one, are a huge force for the good, ensuring that a huge variety of short fiction can appear. There’s a sense of the Canadian short story moving beyond its traditional confines, especially in terms of subject matter. So all in all, I think the ecosystem is very healthy.

TC  You’ve written successfully in both short fiction and in the novel. How and why does a project find a particular form for you?

KP  My novels often arise out of a combination of a character or characters who won’t go away, a predicament of some kind, and a big question that needs to be explored and elaborated (rather than answered). The beginning of a novel is rather like making a snowball: more and more seems to stick to what I already have; the thing accumulates, grows, and eventually begins to move, still growing as it rolls along. In a novel, I’ll often be interested in the fruits of a particular action over time. My short stories tend to foreground shorter periods of time, and even when they are full of event they are more likely to focus on the architecture, quality and meaning of a particular experience. I always know when I am beginning something whether it is a story or a novel. Once, I did return to a published short story and use the main characters and events again in a novel. In that novel (Frankie Styne and the Silver Man, which comes out in Canada this fall), the material from the story is not much changed, but there are many other characters and a much longer timeline which stretches either side of the original idea.

TC  Finally, what are you looking for in this year’s contest? Any tips for the short story writers who will be entering their work?

KP  I want to be surprised, moved, or made to think, and perhaps all three—to read vivid, original stories that have a powerful effect of some kind, whether that is achieved by subtle or spectacular means.  One tip: Leave as long as possible between revisions.

 

“Exquisite writing:” a Kirkus starred review of Frankie Styne and the Silver Man

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https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/kathy-page/frankie-styne-and-silver-man/

KIRKUS REVIEW

Kirkus Star

FRANKIE STYNE AND THE SILVER MAN

 A pulp-fiction writer, an unwed mother, and a couple with marital problems live as neighbors in connected town houses and correct course in their contiguous lives.

Page (Alphabet, 2014, etc.) builds layers of meaning into her exquisite writing. Her favored themes are here—the stark dichotomies of life, the power of language, the way the social system tries and fails to help people, and how saving grace can come from unseen places. Page sets a theatrical stage of three connected homes, with young unwed mother Liz Meredith living in the middle under the watchful eye of a social worker, Mrs. Purvis. Liz stays up late at night listening to the arguments, the sex, and the reconciliations of her neighbors Alice and Tom while feeding her newborn son, Jim. On the other side of Liz’s house, novelist Frank Styne, disfigured from birth, follows precise routines and writes another book. He is shortlisted for the Hanslett Prize and dreads it, fantasizing a hideous revenge on his agent for the embarrassment of his now-very-public persona. While he writes his pulp, Liz ruminates about her son’s silence. Jim has Spinney’s syndrome and will never speak. She adores her baby in spite of this hardship and calls him the Silverboy who will one day become a silver man—the silver lining her beloved Grammy talked about. This is a pained and damaged clutch of people living within hearing distance, drawn into each other’s lives. “Other lives. It was frightening to think of. Because anything was possible. Really anything,” Page writes. The options come quickly at the end, and “anything” does transpire, all because Liz stayed the course, true to herself and to her “silly boy.”

Page is a fierce writer; her relentless imagination and pure writing skills bring a broken, nightmare world fully to life.

 

Isla Mcketta reviews Alphabet

 

Alphabet by Kathy Page“…It’s not often that I read a book set in prison. It’s even less often that I read a book set in early 1980s Britain. Even more rare is that I’d enjoy the combination of the two, but Alphabet is a stunningly well written and deeply human book. The nuance of relationships and character development is hard to equal…. even if Alphabet falls as far from your normal reading subject matter as it does mine, I highly recommend trying out this book.”

Read the entire review here, on  this  thoughtful and wide-ranging site, A Geography of Reading:

http://islamcketta.com/alphabet-kathy-page/

Paradise & Elsewhere reviewed in Canadian Literature

From the Biblioasis blog:

We are pleased to announce that Kathy Page’s Paradise & Elsewhere, Catherine Chandler’s Glad and Sorry Seasons, and Cynthia Flood’s Red Girl Rat Boy have all been reviewed in Canadian Literature!

“The genius of [Page’s] book is the way magic seeps into the stories. It seems so inevitable. Somewhere deep in the ancient part of our brains, there must still be a grasp of the connectedness of all things, of the endless flux of creation and destruction.” –Amanda Leslie-Spinks, Canadian Literature

Read the full review here: http://canlit.ca/reviews/to_paradise_or_elsewhere

 

 Paradise and Elsewhere


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://biblioasis.com/new-reviews-for-kathy-page-catherine-chandler-and-cynthia-flood/

 

 

The Malahat Review on Paradise & Elsewhere

We the Treeshttp://www.malahatreview.ca/reviews/189reviews_perry.html

Daniel Perry on  “We, the Trees.” Each reviewer seems to have a different favourite.

“….Uniting the stories’ themes of exchange, translation, and conversion with their steady attention to the natural world (and loss thereof), “We the Trees” stands among the best-achieved pieces in the collection, telling of a journalism professor’s encounter with Joshua, a strange student who is taking no courses other than hers, who never comes to class or follows assignment directions, and who decamps to the nearby forest to study a fungus said to be a network through which all the trees communicate. The mission costs the young man his life, but his final message—seemingly from the trees, through him—leaves the professor with the sudden realization that it will be her who has to convert this supernatural happening into a story the public can consume through the news media. The professor’s epiphany leads to the reader’s own, revealing the young man’s objective: to force humanity to see the destruction of the natural world from the trees’ perspective for once. The bridging of such divides in these stories can explain the collection’s title: in all cases, there is paradise, and then, an elsewhere. The conflict that arises when shaken out of the former gives these stories life—and, like the fables they resemble, profound meaning.”