London/33: East & West – review

London/33: East

London/33: East

Glasshouse is a relatively new publishing house founded in 2009 and based just off London Fields.

A publisher ‘for people who don’t read’, it is aimed at those who can, but choose not to. Even so, trying to persuade people who don’t like books to pick up not one but two collections of short stories is something that even literary publishers attempt rarely, if ever. After all, there are thousands of reasons – some of them perfectly sensible.

Still, Londoners are bound to enjoy the format of London/33. The two volumes, East and West, name-check all 33 boroughs inside the M25, including Hackney.

Reading the stories felt like being on the Tube and actually being able to talk to the people you’re sitting with.

There are some known names in there: Stella Duffy writes Greenwich, Daisy Goodwin writes Hammersmith and Fulham, and Nikesh Shukla writes Brent.

The stories vary wildly in quality but what the collection does well is to represent all the different voices and cultures that make the capital such a great place for story-telling. For instance, the Tower Hamlets story is about an Arabic spirit, the djinn.

Most tales are set in the present, which seemed like a bit of an oversight to me given the wealth of material London’s history offers. Having said that, the regularity of the stories is probably quite helpful if you’re reading them at snatched moments rather than in one straight session.

People who don’t read a lot might like the magazine-style format of the books – the stories are quick reads, and if you don’t like one you can just skip it.

Sometimes editorial style seemed a little careless, and the stories weren’t that experimental – save a few monologues, letter exchanges and Stella Duffy’s ‘report’-style story.

But the characters were diverse enough to make me laugh, move me, leave me feeling like you’d met new people and seen a new side to
the city.

We have been lucky enough to have a really outstanding collection of work published this summer about Hackney alone (Acquired for Development) so unfortunately London/33 left me a bit underwhelmed. I wish it had been a bit bolder, the stories a bit more exciting and the styles a bit more diverse.

But despite my initial scepticism I thought that London/33 was a clever approach to a project. I hope whoever who picks up these pocket-sized paperbacks meets characters in there that speak to them.

London/33: East & West
Glasshouse Books
Wesdt: ISBN 9781907536335
East: ISBN 9781907536359
RRP: £15 each

West, RRP: £15 each.