This review is part of the Green Books campaign. Today 200 bloggers take a stand to support books printed in an eco-friendly manner by simultaneously publishing reviews of 200 books printed on recycled or FSC-certified paper. By turning a spotlight on books printed using eco- friendly paper, we hope to raise the awareness of book buyers and encourage everyone to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books.
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Ox-Tales FIRE, Original Stories by Remarkable Writers
First up, let me tell you there’s a lot of books I don’t buy/borrow, just because they’re too big to hold comfortably (publishers take note!). This book’s format is the exact opposite of that. It’s what you might call dinky. It’s totally manageable – so even when I’m in bed, completely horizontal, squinting through my one good eye, I can hold it up with my left (weakest) hand whilst clutching my hot water bottle with my right (it’s cold in Scotland) without any detriment to my potential for RSI, collar bone injury or anything else. On that note alone, it gets my vote.
So what’s it about? It’s a book of – dah-dah-dah – short stories by various authors. But don’t let that put you off These “remarkable writers” have donated short stories which the publishers have loosely grouped into collections around the themes Earth, Air, Water and Fire to raise the profile of and funds for Oxfam’s work in various related project areas. Very worthwhile, but what about the writing? It starts out strong …
“Fa-yaah … hot hot hot as dizayaah …”
Ox-Tales Fire begins with a poem by Vikram Seth, Fire. It’s a delicious piece, made to read out loud and roll around your tongue,
This is a fun, sensuous verse full of sizzle. Something to revisit between each of the ten stories to come.
Next up, Mark Haddon recounts an exquisite tale, The Island. I’d have paid my £5 just to read this story. Really. It’s magical. Had me hooked in totally. Elemental in it’s own right and inspired by the myth of Corona Borealis, I felt every single, brutal, despairing moment of the princess’ plight. One of those tales you have to think about for a long time afterwards. Delicious.
The remaining nine stories were contributed by Geoff Dyer, Victoria Hislop, Sebastian Faulks, John Le Carre, Xiaolu Guo, William Sutcliffe, Ali Smith, Lionel Shriver and Jeanette Winterson. They’d certainly make for some provocative debate if one were to discuss this book with a literary circle, but I wouldn’t say I jumped for joy after reading them, as I did with Haddon’s tale.
The King Who Never Spoke by le Carré was thankfully absent of spies, and was delightfully in the vein of The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen (my first ever favourite author!).
Also worthy of note was Aflame in Athens by Hislop – a tale of the 2008 student demonstrations in Athens seen from the viewpoint of Irini, a nineteen year old undergraduate who meets “a pair of green eyes” attached to a beautiful boy, Fotis. I did find my way to Greece through the tale.
It’s an interesting wee collection, worth a read especially if taking account of its purpose. The excerpts from novels didn’t really stand tall in their own right, like a good short story should, and I thought were somewhat lacking in vibrancy. For me, it was Haddon’s tale that made the collection.
Guns – A Daily Reality
But lest you forget, it all finishes with an Afterword that reminds you, we’re not dealing in the abstract of elemental forces here … This collection has been put together to highlight Oxfam’s conflict aid projects;
The reason why conflict is rife, in so many poor countries, are complex and varied. But one thing is clear. Peace cannot come without a plan to tackle poverty. Povert cannot be beaten without peace. Conflict resolution is a tough nut to crack, but with patience, the promise of a more secure and sustainable living, and some passionate campaigning, it can be done…
… Worldwide, around 1,000 people die every day as a result of armed violence.
Every day. One thousand people die. A shocking statistic, no?
p.s. Profile Books sent me a review copy of Ox-Tales as part of my participation in the campaign
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