‘I’ve already submitted my Pineapple Prize nomination via Twitter. I’ve chosen Gemma Seltzer’s first short story collection Speak to Strangers which was published in June 2011 by Penned in the Margins.
I received this book at the end of 2011 as a new title to review for the online journal The Short Review and it instantly blew me away. I have nominated this book because it has been the collection of short stories (and I have read many this last year) which really impressed me and I would urge everyone to give it a try!
Originally conceived as a daily blog, Speak to Strangers is a collection of one hundred short stories each comprising one hundred words and depicts the experience of observing and interacting with strangers in London. It blends perfectly the multitude of voices that one person can witness on an ordinary day on their journey through the city. The structure of the book and stories challenges the boundaries of the form as the culmination of blog, poetry and narrative all intertwine to provide a thought-provoking and surprisingly vivid reading experience. The collection as a whole demonstrates a depth and variety so diverse that it is difficult to believe that this is one person’s journey in just one city. In lifting snapshots from her daily life, recollections of conversations heard, Seltzer creates stories that offer us an almost incomprehensible selection of characters and scenery.
However, whilst all this makes it a strong contender for The Pineapple Prize 2012, I think the quality that reaffirms Speak to Strangers as a clear winner is the brilliance of its concept. The success of Speak to Strangers as an online blog of short stories and its following translation in to a published short story collection acknowledges the versatility of short fiction as well as the positive impact digital publishing can have on literature today. Seltzer shows us how everyday life and experience is, and can easily become, art and this wonderful short story collection is a living example of such a claim.
Discover some of the stories for yourself on the blog but for the full experience, as the book has been edited and rearranged from the original blog, the book is essential. My tip: take a wander around your town or city and sit in the middle of the hustle and bustle, read a story or two, it will truly open your eyes to strangers!’
Emma Young, University of Leicester