Dancing On the Outskirts
By Shena Mackay
A wonderful collection of short stories by the doyenne of the form, a writer known for `the Mackay vision, suburban - as kitsch, as unexceptional, and yet as rich in history and wonder as a plain Victorian terrace house, its threshold radiant with tiling and stained-glass birds of paradise encased in leaded lights'- Guardian.
Here is a wonderful collection of short stories by the writer known for 'the Mackay vision, suburban - as kitsch, as unexceptional, and yet as rich in history and wonder as a plain Victorian terrace house, its threshold radiant with tiling and stained-glass birds of paradise encased in leaded lights' - Guardian.
Shena Mackay, who first came to fame before the age of twenty with two novellas, is the doyenne of the short form. In this volume of previously uncollected stories - including those read on radio - she constantly surprises with a view of the ordinary world that is not at all ordinary.
A grasshopper determinedly takes up residence on a bathroom ceiling; a gecko hiding in a cupboard brings a strange sort of luck; a woman spies from a distance two older women friends after many long years and a memory of how they gallopedin the playground as Starlight Blaze and Pepperpot plays sweetly, suddenly in her mind; pigs are swaddled in blankets, looking like babies in shawls; luggage is packed with youthful hopes and ideals.
She observes how people rub along and reveals the best and worst of us all: a disgruntled schoolboy and his hapless teacher conquer mountains and their antipathy for each other; a girl with green eyes and iridescent hair discovers revenge; a race to be the best mushroom-picker creates only losers; and rotten apples, in the right pair of hands, make a loving pie.
Shena Mackay is a generous and keen-eyed chronicler of the everyday; she deftly brings wisdom and humour to the worlds she creates, worlds that we suddenly, excitingly see anew. She is an utterly original writer.
Shena Mackay was born in Edinburgh in 1944. Her writing career began when she won a prize for a poem written when she was fourteen. Two novellas, Dust Falls on Eugene Schlumberger and Toddler on the Run were published before she was twenty. Redhill Rococo won the 1987 Fawcett Prize, Dunedin won a 1994 Scottish Arts Council Book Award, The Orchard on Fire was shortlisted for the 1996 Booker Prize and, in 2003, Heligoland was shortlisted for both the Orange Prize and Whitbread Novel Award. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and lives in Southampton.
- Other details
- Publication date:
05 Nov 2015
- Page count:
Mackay's new collection of short stories showcases her genius for building comedy from terseness and compression . . . her precise, unsentimental images, integral to her stories' themes, sum up entire lives . . . A triumph! — Michele Roberts, Independent
A collection of exquisitely observed stories . . . Mackay will introduce us to the apparently trifling thoughts of a host of solitary characters and show us, with wonderful imaginative power, interior lives that are expansive, wondrous and tender. And even when her subjects are sad, the great power of her noticing, and her frequently piercing prose, transforms them into something vibrant and tender: her worlds are illuminated by glistening colours, busy wildlife, tactile skies, sibilant seas and responsive flowers. Mackay sees life in excruciatingly vigorous detail. Hers are lands in which it can feel as if everything is in bloom — Telegraph
Shena Mackay's radiant short stories are skewering, funny and utterly original. Dancing on the Outskirts, a selection drawn from more than five decades of writing, was a high point of the year — Susannah Clapp, Observer
Shena Mackay is - as this collection of short stories confirms - a national treasure. Funny and sympathetic, she writes of forgotten poets and faded celebs, her magpie eye seizing delightedly on the tinsel and tat of lives that have passed their peak. Comic gems abound . . . the delight that they offer is, like Mackay's writing, continually fresh — The Lady