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Tuesday, 7 November 2017


Postcard Stories
Jan Carson
Illustrated by Benjamin Phillips

The Emma Press 2017

“Every day in 2015, Jan Carson wrote a story on the back of a postcard and mailed it to a friend. In this collection of highlights, Carson presents a panoramic view of contemporary Belfast – its streets, coffee shops, museums and airports – through a series of small but perfectly formed snapshots of her home.”

Often, but not often enough, a book just blows your mind even though after that first hasty flick through the pages you tell yourself that it looks pretty straightforward and unchallenging. But then you start reading and like a fish getting way too close to a hook – BAM! - you’re reeled in to an amazing experience. This is such a book, an ingenious format of short, sharp stories that entertain but also form a masterclass of concise writing. Jan Carson takes a thought or an observation and hands it over to a lively imagination and off it goes wild and free to surprising conclusion.

The opening lines to some of the stories are tasty and you’ve just got to find out what is going on. Fish, hook, BAM! Lines like:

“A man in the line for Edinburgh has three inflatable worlds in a plastic bag.”

“The last power ballad on the planet did not realize it was alone until it was too late.”

“The bride is small at the top and wider at the bottom like a pyramid, or a toilet paper lady.”

“When I grow up I want to be a player in a paper orchestra.”

“I left my father in Ikea. He was too old to go on.”

“When I came back from the shops you were in the garden listening to the trees.”

This is a wonderful book, inventive, exciting, funny, heartfelt and proof that we don’t always need those 600-page doorstops when the deft hand of a gifted writer can thrill and delight us in 60+ pages.

Do yourself a favour. Get a hold of this book and read it once, then, as I am doing, read it again. As a reader, it is pure joy. As an aspiring writer, I have learned a lot. Bravo, Jan Carson!

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