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Taking the Drawing Room Through Customs: Selected Stories 1972-2002

Authors: E. A. Markham

Published by Peepal Tree Press

ISBN: 9781900715690

£9.99
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When E.A. Markham writes a story about the Other World Cup (Montserrat loses 4-0 to Bhutan - the volcanic eruption has destroyed all the football pitches in Montserrat) and a few months later is actually invited to a literature festival in Bhutan, this chimes in with his fiction. In 1972, his alter ego, Pewter Stapleton, invented the island of St Caesare (next door to Montserrat, but more independent-minded) as part of an elaborate scam to enjoy the rich perks of a UN conference. Since then, the island has been pencilled in on a couple of maps; and a handful of people claim to have been there.

Nothing is straightforward in Markham’s fictive world. His stories constantly deny conventional expectations and make us rethink both how we interpret experience and what we expect of fiction.

Conventional narrative could never convey the complexities of the recurrent and entertaining cast of mainly Caribbean characters as they make sense of their remembered and reinvented lives. Digression becomes an art form both in Pewter Stapleton’s narration and in their stories. It is the rich web of words they weave that leads Markham to his image of the drawing room as a repository of the talk of family and friends as perhaps the most valuable possession taken by Caribbean people through Customs.

This collection brings together new and uncollected stories and selections from E.A. Markham’s two previous collections, Something Unusual (1984) and Ten Stories (1992). Each of the stories has its own crafted completeness, whether in the observant humour of 'The Pig Was Mine', the bleakness of 'Skeletons', the audacious mythologizing of 'A Short History of St. Cesaire', or the absurdist magical realism of 'Digging.' They confirm him as one of the most original users of the short story form in both British and Caribbean fiction.

E.A. (Archie) Markham died unexpectedly in Paris on 23rd March, Easter day. Born in Montserrat in 1939, E.A. Markham worked in the theatre, in the media and as a literary editor.
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