Allyson Bird: The Book I Would Like To Be Buried With…

August 16, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Bury Me With This Book, Interviews 

The twenty-third entry of Bury Me… and Allyson Bird, author of the British FantasyAward winning Bull Running for Girls, shares her Book To Be Buried With…

Nest of Nightmares“‘The Wine Dark Sea by Robert Aickman would have made joint first choice but that problem has been decided for me because it has already been mentioned in this series …the other is Nest of Nightmares by Lisa Tuttle. A friend in California sent it to me last year and I was devastated when I had to send it back. Quite fortuitously, as copies are hard to come by now, I went into the dealers’ room at WHC Brighton this year and found a copy quickly. I asked Lisa to sign it – a wonderful moment for me.

In Nest of Nightmares Lisa Tuttle gives me the mystery I long for and everything isn’t neatly tied up. I don’t always want that. And, there is much more going on than the literal meaning of the words. Her fiction is enigmatic and all the stronger for being so. Her characters are ordinary people facing the strange and I remember the imagery long after the final page has been turned. Women are mad, or are they? They are taken over, as are some of the ones they love — but by whom or what? They feel trapped. One protagonist is belittled (Robert Holdstock mentioned this when he talked of the story, Flying to Byzantium in Horror 100 Best Books, edited by Stephen Jones and Kim Newman) and others are driven by ‘forces’ supernatural or otherwise. They face life and death and we wonder if they live …what will be the outcome? They are never let off easily. The way back can be fraught with danger and some make the choice to stay or can’t get away from the ‘supernatural’ knowing a price will be paid.

And then we come to The Nest at the end of the collection. A real horror story for me, and as with many of Lisa Tuttle’s stories, it can be read on many levels. There is so much pain and yet hope in that story. We are all mortal and just perhaps… whether it is something we shouldn’t wish for… there might just be more about our world that we can’t comprehend.”

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Allyson Bird with Vincent Chong and Steve UphamAbout Allyson Bird:

Allyson’s debut collection, Bull Running for Girls, won The British Fantasy Society award for best collection in 2009. Her second, Wine and Rank Poison from Dark Regions Press, will be launched at Fantasycon this year. Autumn sees the publication of her first novel, Isis Unbound, from the same publisher. She is also co-editing an anti-fascist, anti-racist anthology, with Joel Lane, called Never Again. This is due out from Gray Friar Press in September.

A little on Wine and Rank Poison.

Revenge. Best served cold. Here are ten stories involving most of the deadly sins: greed, lust, envy, wrath, and pride. Strange stories woven in time and place from Ancient Greece to 1929 Odessa, Italy to the modern United States…stories that mix reality, mythology, legend, half-humans, and the inhuman…

Allyson lives near the South Yorkshire moors with her husband and young daughter.

Weston Ochse: The Book I Would Like To Be Buried With…

The twenty-second entry in the Bury Me… series features US-based Weston Ochse, aka El Elvis Rojo, a man who killed me off in one of his stories in a signed, slip-cased, leather bound, 26-copy edition of Scary Rednecks, co-authored with David Whitman.

Dandelion_wine_first“Although the Fifty Years of Playboy comes to mind because of the continually deviant workings of my fourteen-year-old mind, not only am I not sure that it is really a book, but even if it was, the experience of looking at pictures would eventually grow tiring and pale in comparison to the universe one can be transported to with cannonical writing.

Such is the case with Dandelion Wine. If I was to be buried with any book, it would be with my own first edition signed by Ray – Bigger Elvis – Bradbury. Not only did Ray introduce me to the coming of age (Bildungsroman) style of writing, but this truly magical novel contains everything I should ever want to read; it is a tale of horror, it is science fiction it is fantasy, it is mystery… it is truly an iconic book because it is uncategorical.

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Robert Lloyd Parry: The Book I Would Like To Be Buried With…

This special twentieth Bury Me… features grand panjandrum and actor Robert Lloyd Parry, the man behind the Nunkie Theatre Company, responsible for many an uneasy evening with the master of English supernatural stories…

Ghost_stories_of_an_antiquary“There are works of fiction I’ve enjoyed as much as M R James’s ghost stories, but few, I think, that I’ve enjoyed more. Certainly none have played so unexpectedly large a part in my life. I think that I first came across MRJ in a paperback edition of the Collected Stories belonging to my dad, when I was 13 or so. But the book I’d like to be buried with is a first edition of Ghost Stories of an Antiquary [1904]. (I don’t own a copy incidentally – the readers of this will have to club together in time for the funeral. No flowers, please).

Of the eight stories in this, his first collection, I would count six as absolutely first rate, and rank the remaining two alongside the best work of other Edwardian supernaturalists. Five of them, and a later story – A Warning to the Curious – form what I now call the M R James Trilogy, a set of one man shows in which I take on the role of the author telling spook tales in his Cambridge study, circa 1904.

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Stephen Graham Jones: The Book I Would Like To Be Buried With…

The nineteenth entry in the Bury Me… series features US-based Stephen Graham Jones, author of Demon Theory among others, and by day Pro­fes­sor of Eng­lish at the Uni­ver­sity of Col­orado at Boulder.

King_IT“Just realizing that this is a completely different question than What book have you reread the most, or even What book is your favorite book, though I kept trying to read it that way. Since you asked, I’ve generated lists and lists, and consulted old lists, and it’s too painful to select just one, but at the same time I keep wanting to allow myself to cheat, just string ten or twenty together here, the same way you wallpaper your room with band posters when you’re fourteen, in hopes somebody’ll walk in, see how obviously cool you must be.

Or, really, I kind of gave up on an answer, was ducking the reminder I’d set to do this. But then, yesterday, I was writing the notes for this story collection I have coming out, and it hit me, or, I discovered it on the page, which is pretty much where I discover everything: It. Stephen King’s It.

That story’s still running in my head, is probably the most permanent piece of fiction I’ve ever read. The most influential, anyway, the one I’m just now seeing that I’ve always been trying to rewrite without getting caught. Because, even just looking at it on my shelf, that’s enough for me to see some chrome eyeballs rolling my way, sure, but the real magic of that story’s those kids, their dynamic, how they’re growing up together. With It, you get the horror but you also get the, I don’t know, the distinct sense of what it means to be human, and to keep trying to be human, even when the world’s failing all around you. A completely magical book for me, and I so appreciate the way it splits into all these distinct storylines but then comes back together. I mean, reading it, just remembering it, I know it’d be dangerous to be in that story, and it’s likely stupid to secretly want to be, but, just for the chance of gambling everything on that bike ride at the end, the chance of gambling and winning, it’s got to be worth it, yeah?  My heart’s pounding, even, writing this. Just thinking about that story again, about It.

I’m going to have to read it again now, soon. Need to get back to Derry for about a thousand pages.”

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Stephen Graham JonesAbout Stephen Graham Jones:

Stephen Graham Jones has seven books out so far, two of them horror – Demon Theory and The Long Trial of Nolan Dugatti (the second a Shirley Jackson Award finalist) – and has two more horror novels on the horizon: The Ones That Almost Got Away, a collection of horror stories out with Prime Books in October, and It Came from Del Rio (Trapdoor Books), Book 1 of the Bunnyhead Chronicles.

Jones has been an NEA fellow, a Texas Writers League fellow, has won the Texas Insititute of Letters Fiction Award and the Independent Publishers Multicultural Award, and, in spite of all that Texas stuff, he now teaches in the MFA program at the University of Colorado at Boulder, assigning Jack Ketchum to his students every chance he gets. His next two courses are The Slasher and The Zombie.

Gary Fry: The Book I Would Like To Be Buried With…

Bury Me‘s eighteenth instalment focuses upon the UK’s Gary Fry, whose short stories have graced my shelves since I encountered Both And way back in 2003’s seminal Gathering The Bones anthology…

money“…E Mortius Revoco, a Guide to DIY Practical Resurrections.

Only kidding.

In fact, that’s a hard question, but put a gun to my head (and let’s face it, such an act would bring the grave a tad closer) and I’d have to say Money by Martin Amis. I love it. One of those books you can read from start to end with undiminished pleasure, or simply dip into and revisit certain seminal passages. The prose is wonderful, the jokes as dark and funny as they come, and the whole thing is frequently profound, provocative and stimulating. Amis is my generation’s big UK voice. Nuff said, sir.

Here’s a short extract to illustrate only some of the foregoing eulogising:

In LA, you can’t do anything unless you drive. Now I can’t do anything unless I drink. And the drink-drive combination, it really isn’t possible out there. If you so much as loosen your seatbelt or drop you ashes or pick your nose, then it’s an Alcatraz autopsy with the questions asked later. Any indiscipline, you feel, any variation, and there’s a bullhorn, a set of scope sights, and a coptered pig drawing a bead on your rug.

So what can a poor boy do? You come out of the hotel, the Vraimont. Over boiling Watts the downtown sky line carries a smear of God’s green snot. You walk left, you walk right, you are a bank rat on a busy river. This restaurant serves no drink, this one serves no meat, this one serves no heterosexuals. You can get your chimp shampooed, you can get your dick tattooed, twenty-four hours, but can you get lunch? And should you see a sign on the far side of the street flashing BEEF–BOOZE–NO STRINGS, then you can forget it. The only way to get across the road is to be born there. All the ped-xing signs say DON’T WALK, all of them, all the time. That is the message, the content of Los Angeles: don’t walk. Stay inside. Don’t walk. Drive. Don’t walk. Run! I tried the cabs. No use. The cabbies are all Saturnians who aren’t even sure whether this is a right planet or a left planet. The first thing you have to do, every trip, is teach them how to drive.

What I love here, as in the great majority of Amis’s work, is the brilliance of the ideas, their phrasing, the way he alludes to great literature by way of tawdry modern life (“God’s green snot”). He has made the hideous beautiful – quite an achievement. If great writers hold up a mirror to their times, what is Amis giving us? In Money, it’s the way that the whole of social life has been commodified and subjugated to the rigors of capitalism. John Self is a void, a man who moves from one effortless addiction to the next. When he goes to watch an opera, he interprets the story according to a soap opera or a tabloid headline story. He’s drunk most of the time, but those blank-outs serve another purpose. Amis also offers us a meta-reflective rumination on the nature of novel writing. Characters disappear for great patches of all novels – Self simply blacks out: a nicely judged metaphor what happens when the reader ‘isn’t looking’. But Amis goes further, and later in the book we get a character called Martin Amis who’s deliberately manipulating his central character much in the way that ‘Godlike’ authors do: a smart touch. There are other things going on in this novel which beggar belief. The complexity masquerades as endless vitriolic and painful comedy. It’s probably the funniest thing I’ve ever read. And if Self achieves a little pathos and independence towards the end of the book, what are we to make of this? Is he redeemable? Are our times? Are we?

On the basis of this book in particular, Amis has been described as a misogynist, but nothing – in my view – could be further from the truth. Selina Street manipulates Self, for sure, though it’s he who holds all the money and that’s what she’s after. And of course it’s another female character, Martina Twain, who attempts to reform Self, even though, when left in her flat a while, he spends rather less time reading the copy of Animal Farm she’s lent him than he does seeking out choice bits of photography over which he can masturbate. But come on, that’s all true – it’s so true. And that’s the bottom line for me: Amis tells it the way it is for men in these not-so-long-departed modern times.

Maybe he’s therefore a geezers’ author. I’m not entirely sure. All I do know is that his fictional worlds resonate with me. The headiness of the language is intoxicating. He does what V S Pritchett insisted all writers should do: give voice to all the wonderful thoughts inside even the most base of people. And boy is Self base. But…maybe we all are. Maybe Amis is reminding us of that, and perhaps he uses his divine gift for prose as a way of smuggling these truths through the ever-so-refined filter of ‘good taste’. In short, he challenges what literature is supposed to deal with, the higher aspirations and concerns of humanity. Well, what can I say to support that? Something in the style of the superb Money, maybe: okay, here goes – Bach, Galileo, Shakespeare, Churchill, Keats, Constable, Brunel, to name but a few – they all surely enjoyed a handjob now and again.

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Gary FryAbout Gary Fry:

Gary Fry lives in Dracula’s Whitby, literally around the corner from where Bram Stoker was staying when he was thinking about that character. Gary has a PhD in psychology, though his first love is literature. To date he’s had four short story collections and over 60 tales published. His first novel – a frightening haunted house piece called The House of Canted Steps – will be published in 2010 by PS Publishing. He also has a disturbing novella – the colourfully entitled ‘The Invisible Architect of Psychopathy – out from Pendragon Press in 2010: this accompanies a fine piece by Simon Maginn in a book called Feral Companions.

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