Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Shena Mackay is back - thanks to Virago!

Shena Mackay - where's her damehood?!
I'm sooo delighted to learn that one of my favourite authors, Shena Mackay, is making a comeback! Virago has bought up her entire back catalogue and will start reissuing from November 2015 under its Virago Modern Classics imprint. The titles alone make me moist: Dreams of Dead Women's Handbags, The Atmospheric Railway, Babies in Rhinestones & Other Stories. I could go on. She's one of the few authors to have been shortlisted for the Booker, Orange and Whitbread.

She hit the literary world when she was just 20 - half a century ago - with her baroque, sly humour and lyrical prose, often touching on the seemingly silly or humdrum and turning living room dandruff into balletic gold sunbeam dance. If anyone has a brain, a memory chip of her work should be put into a rocket time capsule and fired into space so that one day, billions of years after we've choked to death on fracked gas, the Borg may discover her and be saved from soulless literalism. Gosh, anyone would think I was a writer myself, bitches.

She's also been commissioned to write her memoir to be published in 2016, with an especial focus on her fascinating life in the Sixties.I shall examine this book most carefully.

Oh, a few more details of the comeback launch book - it's called Dancing On the Outskirts, out Nov 5 this year. Here's a preview which I have lifted - so sue moi!:

"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.

"Shena Mackay came to fame aged 20 when she published her first book, written in her teens, with Andre Deutsch. At times darkly surreal and funny, always deft, and highly memorable, her fiction has attracted a legion of fierce admirers ranging from Iris Murdoch to Julie Burchill, Ian Hamilton to Rachel Cooke.

"She was born in Edinburgh but her family moved often and were living in Blackheath, South East London, when Shena left school at 16. Winning a £25 poetry prize in the (prestigious) Daily Mirror Children's Literary Competition marked the beginning of her writing life. Part of her teens - she got married when she was 20 - were spent in Earls Court and the seedy Soho of the 1960s, and she was privileged to meet many artists, visiting Henry Moore at Much Hadham and drinking whisky from bone china tea cups with David Hockney in Powis Square. In the early 1970s she moved to the country with her husband and three children, and re-emerged as a writer in the 80s with a collection of stories, followed by more works including the Booker Shortlisted The Orchard on Fire."

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