Speaking With The Angel

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9780140296785: Speaking With The Angel

Speaking with the Angel is a collection of short stories, edited by Nick Hornby Hear the Prime Minister explain to the House why he did a runner from Greenford Park service station and hitched a lift with a fifteen-year-old girl, as imagined by Robert Harris. Listen to someone who has a small hostile creature in his room, as told by Roddy Doyle. Twelve voices, twelve completely new stories, narrated by twelve different characters. And all written by twelve of the most exciting and popular writers around: Robert Harris, Melissa Bank, Giles Smith, Patrick Marber, Colin Frith, Zadie Smith, Dave Eggers, Helen Fielding, Roddy Doyle, Irvine Welsh, John O'Farrell and Nick Hornby himself. This sparkling collection has been put together by bestselling novelist Nick Hornby, who also contributes an Introduction about TreeHouse, an organisation that offers a unique and pioneering approach to the education of children with autism. £1 will go to TreeHouse with every copy sold of Speaking with the Angel. Nick Hornby, who edited this collection, is best known for his brilliantly observed, comic novels About a Boy, How to be Good, A Long Way Down, Juliet, Naked, Slam and High Fidelity. His three works of non-fiction, 31 Songs (shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award), Fever Pitch (winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award) and The Complete Polysyllabic Spree are also available from Penguin.

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Product Description:

A dozen of the most successful and popular writers today including: Helen Fielding, Robert Harris, Patrick Marber, Zadie Smith, John O'Farrell, Roddy Doyle, Melissa Bank and Irvine Welsh have written 6000-word fictional monologues along the lines of Alan Bennet's "Talking Heads". And Colin Firth makes his debut as a fiction writer. The result is a book of completely original stories that have heart, soul and wit. All the writers have given their work free, and Penguin is giving GBP1 per copy sold to the TreeHouse Trust, a charity which is setting up a unique school for autistic children

Review:

There are lots of reasons to buy Speaking with the Angel, an anthology of first-person narratives by bright, young, mostly British literati: these are smart and original stories, none of them previously published elsewhere. What's more, it's for a good cause. Nick Hornby, editor of the collection and author of one of the pieces, has an autistic son, and in a raw and wrenching introduction he stresses the importance of educational institutions to serve such children, who "have no language, and no particular compulsion to acquire it, who are born without the need to explore the world." Accordingly, a portion of each sale benefits autism charities around the world.

Still, this is a collection that stands on its own merits, and requires no act of charity to purchase. In Roddy Doyle's "The Slave," for example, a 42-year-old family man discovers a dead rat on his kitchen floor, and this unwelcome incursion from the natural world plunges him into a midlife crisis. In "Last Requests," Giles Smith introduces us to a prison cook who specializes in, well, last suppers. It's both hilarious and shocking to encounter this egomaniacal chef on the job:

They can have what they like, within reason, up to a maximum of three courses, with coffee or tea and a piece of confectionary or a biscuit if they want it. No alcohol, for obvious reasons. Obviously, you'll get the jokers, like the one who said he wanted a whole roast pig with an apple in its mouth. Or the governor's head, one of them said he wanted.
Elsewhere, in Hornby's own "NippleJesus," a skinhead bouncer becomes a museum guard and falls for the painting he's charged to protect, a crucifixion collage made up of thousands of tiny breasts cut out of porn magazines. The stories in Speaking with the Angel all feel up to the minute, abounding with references to politics and popular culture. Yet the obscenity and slang ultimately amount to a form of bluster, an acknowledgement of the intrinsic fragility that all 12 of these narrators share. --Victoria Jenkins

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