How do you consume fiction? Reading quietly from the pages of books, scrolling through an e-reader in solitude, or listening to audiobooks while multi-tasking? Short Stories Aloud takes storytelling several steps further, bringing together authors, actors, and an audience. On Tuesday evening, Sarah Franklin of the Oxford International Centre for Publishing Studies hosted authors Sarah Moss and C. M. Taylor at Blackwell’s, in an event that highlighted their recent publications and showcased one short story from each author. But this was not simply a reading; the latter half was dedicated to audience questions and a competition to win books.
Jenny Johns, who was recently in the National Theatre production of Jane Eyre, read aloud Run With Me by Sarah Moss. Not only did she read, she also sang lines from Up The Wolves by The Mountain Goats, and made running gestures to accompany the journey of the protagonist: a mother who seeks time away from her family by going for her morning run while listening to music. Moss deftly interweaved mentions of 'neighbours' and 'damage' from the song with the inner monologue of the mother runner. Also, something that worked particularly well in the ‘aloud’ format was the sound of words off the page, with alliteration of 'slap', 'spit,' and 'swerve' and consonance of 'cardiac' and 'iambic'. The piece took some time to capture my attention: the beginning started off at a warm-up jog pace, but perhaps this was meant to mimic an accelerating running style, as we ended up reaching a sprint by the end.
During a cake break, audience members submitted questions for one or both authors, with the chance to win prizes for best questions (determined by
Short Stories Aloud turned reading, something we may do silently and alone, into a delightful, aural, interactive, evening event. Further, the audience became an active participant in the question session, in which we learned what went on behind the scenes to shape the presented short stories. The next installment of Short Stories Aloud will be on 22 January at Blackwell’s.