‘all the boys’ by Thomas Morris

It’s a simple premise: a stag do in Dublin. The story is clever in how it uses the homogenising refrain of ‘all the boys’, as well as the kind of searing satirisation of a familiar genre of person – “He’ll take the piss out of Caerphilly’s clothes shops, and say David Beckham wore a pair of shoes just like these to the Iron Man 3 premiere. And that will be it: Peacock will be called Iron Man Three for the rest of the trip.” – to obfuscate from what is occasionally very tender and nuanced characterization.
The real excitement of this story though, is that it’s written entirely in the future tense. Something I love about short stories is that their brevity seems to facilitate and encourage risk-taking, formally. I think a real measure of innovation, though, is when it’s done so deftly it recalibrates your thinking while reading it, until its innovations seem entirely natural. The way the story is written gives it a real propulsion – the future tense implies intent, I guess, which carries a forceful momentum, especially as the events of the story veer from the bathetic to the prodigious – while also disorientating the reader through its gentle dislodging of temporality. 

First published in We Don’t Know What We’re Doing, Faber & Faber, 2016, and anthologised in The Penguin Book of the Contemporary British Short Story, ed. Philip Hensher, 2018

‘Bolt’ by Thomas Morris

Thomas Morris joined UEA from a first degree at Trinity College, Dublin, and was later the editor of The Stinging Fly and a Tramp Press anthology of stories written to mark the centenary of Joyce’s Dubliners, so it’s easy to forget he’s a native Welsh speaker from Caerphilly, where each of this debut collection of stories is set. I remember ‘Bolt’ from one of our early workshops. It has what my former colleague Patricia Duncker called “the linger factor”. The white horse that bolts through the town and is caught when it stops at some traffic lights is merely a passing detail, told at second-hand, but is somehow still at large in my imagination, as is Andy, who works in a failing video store and lodges with a former girlfriend’s mum and has an affair with the town’s sole psychiatrist – also old enough to be his mum – but shrugs off any invitation to talk about his own mum, who is absent yet everywhere present in this story. It’s poignant, and funny, and true, like each of the other stories in the collection.

In We Don’t Know What We’re Doing, Faber & Faber, 2015