‘About Lisa: A Short Bad Story in Twelve Good Parts’ by Tim Etchells

“Lisa is basically an unlucky misery guts with a hidden gift for brilliant ideas,” writes Tim Etchells. When she finally agrees to go on a date with her chip shop boss H. Stannington, her sister is killed, and Lisa blames herself – “if she hadn’t gone out it would never have happened etc.” Tim Etchells’ vivid and ultra-compact tragedy ‘About Lisa’ was written for the format and dimensions of Piece of Paper Press, a series of A7-sized publications that I’d started the year before in 1994. I’d got to know Tim Etchells, and his work with the brilliant and award-winning theatre company Forced Entertainment, while I was studying at the former Psalter Lane art school in Sheffield in the late 1980s. In the early ’90s I’d put on a reading by Tim in London of an unpublished novel of his called Helen © & her Daughters, so when I started Piece of Paper Press, he was an obvious person to invite to contribute. ‘About Lisa’ is a brutal, darkly comic and altogether surprising story that refracts its abbreviated plot through the miniature format of Piece of Paper Press, and an equally abbreviated language: what Etchells calls a ‘rough, cut-up, hybridised, slang.’ Tim writes that he plundered the unpublished novel ‘for landscape, characters and gags and atmospheres, hanging them on sharp, brutal, compacted little narratives – postcards from hell.’ A collection, Endland Stories, was published in 1998 by Pulp Books. It’s uniquely brilliant, and I wish someone would reprint it. An updated and expanded German translation of Endland was published in Switzerland not so long ago. Non-German-speakers can read Tim’s introduction to that Swiss edition here.

First published by Piece of Paper Press, 1995. Collected in Endland Stories, Pulp Books, 1998

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