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MORE NEW RELEASESby Larissa Boehning, translated by Lyn Marven (Comma Press) ROTTEN ROWby Petina Gappah (Faber)THE OTHER WORLD, IT WHISPERSby Stephanie Victoire (Salt Publishing)RAPID READ Amazon hasjust released a chat-style short story app aimed at children. Rapid offers hundreds of stories in the form of SMS dialogueand pictures, across a range of genres. There’s also a ‘sound it out’ function, a personal glossary in which to store new words, and ‘read to me’, where the phone reads the stories out loud, Siri-style. Rohit Agarwal, who spearheaded the app project, noticed his own children were comfortable using the phone to chat via text, and ‘wanted to see what authors and illustratorscould do with an app that told stories that way’.JAILED FOR WRITINGIranian woman writer Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee has been sentenced to six years in jail for writing a story about stoning that Iranian authorities claim ‘insults Islamic sanctities’ and ‘spreads propaganda’. Ebrahimi Iraee’s story, as yet unpublished, was discovered in 2014 when the apartment she shared with her husband (a student activist, currently serving 19 years)was ransacked. Philip Luther, research director for Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa programme, said: ‘The charges against Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee are ludicrous... she is effectively being punished for using her imagination.’IRAQI ANTHOLOGY In happier Middle Eastern news,we’re excited about Comma Press’s new anthology featuring ten writers from Iraq. Iraq + 100 asked them to imagine Iraqin 2103, 100 years on from ‘shock and awe’. The result is rooted in hope and shows the emergence of what Comma calls ‘a new aesthetic for the “Iraqi fantastical”’.SLOT MACHINE STORIESAfter a successful trial in Grenoble, French publisher Short Édition has set up short story vending machines in 32 different locations across France – in cafés, tourist offices and train stations. Rented or sold to the venues that host them, the machines have a database of around 5,000 stories, finalistsof a competition run by Short Édition. The stories are free, thus introducing them to a whole new readership. More machines are due to be launched this year.grows a miniature man in her garden only to torture him ina gruesome theatre of cruelty. Despite the graphic nature of ‘Following’, Okojie’s signature surreal way with words shines through, with the smell of heartbreak ‘like half-eatenrum cake at a breakfast table’.A beautiful, sombre collection with deep shadows and dazzling highlights. ❐HOW I DID IT‘Every day we learn about ourselves. We learn to cope with loss, trauma, devastation. We surprise ourselves in the waysthat we react. Humans are odd creatures; we hide a lot of that oddness due to societal pressures. There is no shame in that oddness, in that vulnerability. I think this lies at the heart of my work.I find the short story an exciting form. The sense that you can have an idea, realise it on the page quickly, then move onto another, really appealed to me. Gettinga strong narrative arc is difficult.If you can get it right for short stories, it really helps with novel writing. I also don't always write in a linear way. Sometimes an image comes to me first, or an endingor some dialogue. The process of creating a miniature world for it is the challenge.’IRENOSEN OKOJIESWALLOW SUMMERRAW MATERIALby Sue Wilsea (Valley Press)Speak Gigantular by Irenosen Okojie (Jacaranda Books)‘there is no shame in that oddness, in that vulnerability’Irenosen Okojie is a Nigerian-born Londoner with a penchant for dark modern-day fables. Her new collection Speak Gigantular follows her much-lauded début novel Butterfly Fish (published earlier this year and shortlisted for the Betty Trask Prize).Okojie weaves straight contemporary narratives (holidays, internet dating, sibling animosity, relationships) with macabre, surreal twists: a little boy sprouts a tail, a woman grows a homunculus in her garden, another shares her apartment with a creature called Loneliness.Speak Gigantular follows those who have either broken freeof, or been cast from, the pack. Okojie describes her charactersas ‘outsiders and broken people on the fringes trying to cope’.For example, in the melancholy ‘Walk with sleep’ a man and woman meet posthumously, deep in ‘the dark fat veins of the city’,i.e. the tunnels of the London Underground.This isn’t a collection of stories thick as home-sliced bread, each with a neatly buttered ending; it’s more like a sewing kit of tangled threads. Speak Gigantularis 30 stories strong, which is a healthy number in a book that only just surpasses 200 pages. Each story, though brief, paintsa vivid picture, and Okojie hasa knack for ending them in just the right place, leaving the reader simultaneously satiated and hungry for one more little bite.As well as James Baldwin, Buchi Emecheta, Toni Morrison and Z Z Packer, Okojie draws inspiration from both Alice Munro and Miranda July, asthe unflinchingly unheimlich atmosphere of her work demonstrates. Like July, Okojie isn’t afraid to write with an experimental edge, as with the second-person narration of ‘Following’, in which a womanWHAT'S NEWSHORT STORIESSHORT STORY REVIEWa boy sprouts a tail, a woman grows a homunculus in her gardenReview and interview by ALICE SLATER 68 Dec/Jan/Feb 2016/17 mslexia

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