NWR Issue r17

Precision and Clarity

Last month at Hay, Cath Barton was awarded this year’s New Welsh Writing Awards Americymru Prize for the Novella with ‘The Plankton Collector’. In her column, she compares this form with aural tradition, in that its ‘narrative arc and span… can be encompassed in a single reading.’ Myth and legend, she writes, ‘use archetypes to make sense of a world which has always been confusing to those who live through its random tragedies.’ And her own novella, with its mysterious Everyman archetype, the Plankton Collector, does similar work.

In terms of literary challenge, in Ian McEwan’s words, ‘the demands of economy push writers to polish their sentences to precision and clarity… unusual intensity, to remain focussed on the point of their creation and drive [the novella] forward with functional single-mindedness, and to end it with a mind to its unity.’ In Dan Bradley’s review of three Japanese novellas from Pushkin, he argues that the form they illustrate ‘provide[s] enough space for vivid, tactile world-building but avoid[s] wearing themes and ideas too thin.’ Spring Garden, Slow Boat and Record of a Night Too Brief are haunted by themes of change, and create vivid worlds to tempt hitherto timid and Anglocentric booksellers, critics and readers to explore Japanese culture, translation and the novella itself.

Elsewhere in this edition, our Awards winner for the category of memoir, Catherine Haines, explores how writing her essay, ‘My Oxford’, aided her recovery from anorexia and how starting to eat again recalled previously lost sensual memories. The pieces of both winners, Cath Barton as well as Catherine Haines, were treated to clever, evocative animations made by Emily Roberts, which see their first broadcast here. Suzannah V Evans interviews the poet Joanne Limburg about late diagnosis Asperger’s and her collection The Autistic Alice. And remaining reviews cover a graphic novel, a poetry and science anthology, a Welsh folk tale collection, Robert Minhinnick’s latest collection for Carcanet, an academic title on Celtic myth in contemporary children’s fantasy, and a collection of essays that is topical, frank, informed, lyrically poignant and… [a] deeply personal exploration of racial tension in the USA. On that note I’m offering subscribers a preview announcement that the next category in the New Welsh Writing Awards 2018 for short unpublished books will be an essay collection (minimum two essays). Entries will open in October (likely closing date is 1 February), and as judge I will be looking for balanced elements of academic or literary rigour, an integrated, resounding theme, docu-journalism and personal voice.


previous editorial: Roman Wall Blues
next editorial: The Ultimate Existential Form


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