Readings from Shaftesbury Fringe Festival, July 2016
The links below will take you to You Tube videos for three of the stories I read at the Shaftesbury Fringe Festival. These were shot on IPad and smartphone cameras, and have been edited/tidied up by my good friend Tony Lawlor.
Richard Foreman’s Wilful Misunderstandings comprises thirty four stories based around the twist or misunderstanding of an English word or phrase. They are utterly beguiling and often unsettling, combining quirky humour and philosophical thoughts within slightly off-centre fictional worlds. The stories veer between fantasy and surrealism yet somehow hold a balance of credibility that make them disturbing. This variant Oulipo fiction with added humour is simply a tour de force of storytelling.
The following review appeared in the 2017 New Year issue of Gonzo magazine, #215-6. Courtesy of editor Jonathan Downes, who wrote the review, here is an abridged version (leaving out material quoted from WMs publicity and Alan Moore's cover blurb):
John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris (10 July 1903 – 11 March 1969) was an English science fiction writer best known for his works written using the pen name John Wyndham. He is best known these days for his novels like The Day of the Triffids, but I have always been rather fond of his short stories, which are often neglected. They are often very English, very understated and have a gentleness of touch that one would not have imagined from his more action packed longer form writing.
Within five minutes of picking the book up and reading it for the first time I was immediately entranced. And the first thing that came to mind was that here is a hippy John Wyndham. This is not to say that the short stories within this charming little book are science fiction. They are not, although most of them are broadly within the fantasy genre. But the thing that sets them wildly apart from the crowd is that they are set in present day scenarios of which we are all familiar.
High fantasy is defined as fantasy set in an alternative, fictional ("secondary") world, rather than "the real", or "primary" world. The secondary world is usually internally consistent, but its rules differ from those of the primary world. By contrast, low fantasy is characterised by being set in the primary, or "real" world, or a rational and familiar fictional world, with the inclusion of magical elements. And this book is firmly within the second genre.
I am not going to be disparaging about books featuring orcs, griffins, elves and the like, because many of them are great literature, but I have always preferred books set in the “real” world. My own excursions into writing fiction have all been set in some analogue of the world in which I and my readers live, and - for example - I have always preferred the Dr Who episodes set on Earth to the ones set on some faraway planet populated by entities with tentacles. And so it is with this book.
These stories play whimsical and mischievous games with the English language. For a wordsmith like myself these stories are a delight, and I have spent much of what is euphemistically described as the ‘Festive Season’ proselytising about Foreman to anyone who would listen. I have found myself using the words ‘delight’ and ‘delightful’ far more often than I would have wanted to, but I truly cannot think of a better adjective. These stories are truly a delight, and my life has been enriched for having read them. I cannot wait for the next volume.
Expect the unexpected while reading Wilful Misunderstandings, a collection of short stories by Richard Foreman. The House Where Jack Lived has an eerie aura that mesmerizes its occupants. In Jonathan and the Extraordinary Drawer, a child discovers magical things a drawer produces, but ignores the warning he is given. Esmerelda desperately wants her rigmarole to win first place in the contest and does not realize “beauty is indeed in the eyes of the beholder.” Sometimes the dead still have the last laugh in The Insufferable Tedium of the Afterlife. The Drink That Gives You a Pat on the Back will make you feel self-assured, but does it come with side effects? Coyote Ltd is the agency to which people pay enormous money to perform hoaxes on them when least expected. However, the wait for a hoax to commence can take a long time, as one man discovers.
Wilful Misunderstandings is an assorted collection of thirty-four short stories that are unique. I still didn’t know what to expect after reading the book’s blurb, but soon found out that these stories were wide-ranging in topics. Readers will find them a bit uncanny, unpredictable and entertaining. The oddball characters and their quirky concerns will attract your attention too. Richard Foreman demonstrates how deep thinking his imagination is, and how the simplest of ideas can make interesting prose. He writes fluently, wittily, and his stories tend to approach the dark side in a humorous way. Wilful Misunderstandings is a nice book with colourful, eye-catching cover artwork.
Tears in the Fence Festival Readings
You Tube videos. In 2017 (left) I'm reading a longish prose piece, tentatively titled 'Patter' and two poems: 'Anthropocene Wisdom' and 'Ouch!' In 2018 (right) the recording starts just after MC David Caddy (editor of Tears in the Fence and seen sat at the table behind me) has introduced me by name and starts with a contradiction. We then continue with poems including 'Bird Brain' and 'Road Trip'.
Below you'll find some of the poems mentioned in the July 2020 News write-up that were featured on the daily 'This Is Alfred' podcasts. Check 'em out.
This page contains information about 'Wilful Misunderstandings', my book of short stories. The link button to the top right of this text box will take you to the Lepus Books website page where you can order a copy. The link button below will take you to pages on my blog where you can read about how the book was conceived and created. Below on this page you will find comments by reviewers, writers and readers on the book, videos of live readings of 3 of the stories, and lastly the reviews in full.