Illusory Flowers in an Empty Sky

Barry Graham, Scottish Novelist, Essayist and Poet

by Barry Graham

I lived in Portland, Oregon, for my last five years in America. One of the most venerated icons there is Powell's City of Books, a new and used bookshop whose main branch occupies an entire city block.

I never understood why it was so beloved as an “independent bookstore.” For years, it fought against its staff attempts to unionise, and it sells used books at rip-off prices. (Disclosure: before I learned about the reality behind the image, I spoke at an event there, and did a book-signing.)

Now it has closed indefinitely because of coronavirus, and its staff have received no severance payment and no continued health insurance.

They're still selling books online. Please boycott them as you would Amazon.

#powellscityofbooks #portlandoregon #coronavirus #covid19 #workersrights

by Barry Graham

The Guardian asks: “Are novelists obliged to tell the story of their private life?”

​“Write what you know” is a maxim preached to aspiring writers.

I get emails from single fathers who tell me The Book of Man captured their experience. I have no children. I get emails from people who’ve been hospitalised for depression saying the same thing about the same book. I have never been depressed, and when I wrote that book I had never been hospitalised.

I have also never been a young Dutch woman, nor a Mexican-American drug-dealer and murderer, nor a murderous paedophile, nor a female ex-cop from an upper-class background, nor a former U.S. soldier turned handyman, nor a lounge musician who commits armed robberies.

War veterans have said that the book that best represented their experience was The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, who never saw combat.

Bram Stoker wasn’t a vampire. Stephen King doesn’t hang out in drains, wearing a clown suit and luring children to their doom. ​ Experience is a poor substitute for imagination and empathy.

#writing #books #fiction #ownvoices #dogobarrygraham

by Barry Graham

My short story The Temp Typist's Tale is published on Dockyard Press's Harbourmaster's Loug. It's a story of sexism, class struggle and different realms of power.

#fiction #noir #crimefiction #sexism #sexualharassment #murder

by Barry Graham

My publisher, Dockyard Press, has a blog called The Harbourmaster's Loug, which, since starting in November, has published work by an impressive variety of writers. From me there's an essay about why I left America and returned to Glasgow after 22 years, a short story updating William Hope Hodgson's Carnacki the Ghost-Finder to contemporary Scotland, and a poem.

There's fiction and poetry by Bart Lessard, Tony Black, daishin stephenson, Lisa Mooncat Stormler, Babs Nicgriogair and Tracy Taggart. There's Scottish political commentary by Xeno Albannach... and something that defies category by Johnny Shaw.

The Harbourmaster's Loug usually publishes twice a week, so I recommend subscribing to its RSS feed.

#crimefiction #horrorfiction #poetry #glasgow #scotland #scottishbooks #scottishwriting #tartannoir #gothic #gaelicpoetry #dogobarrygraham

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