Saturday, February 21, 2009

Stories in the Park

Here's a riddle for you - how is a short story like a park? :
They are both confined things, but no less for being that. A park isn't the sprawling countryside and the short story isn't a long rambling novel, but they give you a pretty high dose of wonderful literature, or being in a natural environment.
Bet you never thought of the short story in those terms, but the analogy works pretty well.

Alison Flood in The Guardian reminds us that London's parks have a literary heritage. And now a group of contemporary authors (Will Self, Ali Smith William Boyd, Nicola Barker, Clare Wigfall, Sheena Mackay and Lebanese writer Hanan Al-Shaykh) have been commissioned to write short stories, each set in a different park. The stories will also be sold on recycled paper in individual booklets from the parks as well as in bookshops.

Rowan Routh (quoted above) devised and edited the series, and explains in The Bookseller :

I love short stories and always felt that it is a misperception that the public don’t. I was walking through Hyde Park, when I suddenly thought, 'So many Londoners love these places, and they have such a literary heritage - so many greats, like Dickens, Thackeray and Conrad, have set scenes in them' . . . So I thought of the Park Stories series and approached The Royal Parks to produce them.
Will it work though? Nicholas Lezard on The Guardian blog is sceptical, citing the unpredictability of authors, and more seriously the fact that :

... specially commissioned literature, particularly in modern times, tends to fall flat.
Still, as a reader and a lover of London, I think that a walking tour of the parks in late spring with a nice story to read on a park bench is a pretty nice way of getting reacquainted with the city.

And like so many other great ideas ... couldn't this one be brought to a city near you?


Anonymous said...

The only park in my hometown I can think of is an ancient Chinese graveyard. Wonderful place to jog but don't try wandering there before sun-up or after sun-down. ;)


Hsian said...

In Tokyo, I have seen people have drinking parties and play badminton (while waiting for drinking parties to start)! at graveyards during Sakura season :)

Anonymous said...

Attributing Malaysian culture, reading outdoors, in a park isn't a favorable activity due to, well...the tropical climate.

I'm wondering whether it'll prove a more practical approach, to get it indoors at public spaces.

LRT/Monorail services to foster such plan; to commission art or short story to be displayed at their stations, and inside the train as part of their CSR program.

Digi could be a favorable party as they already did with their "apostrophe" website dedicated to similar project.

Anonymous said...

LRT did that for a while, it was where I found Dylan Thomas' "Do not go gentle" which is till relevant, hundreds of years after it was written. The more things change...