First review

From its official launch at the Edinburgh eBook Festival 2013, here is the review by the festival director, Cally Phillips. This was the final event of the festival, in case you were wondering about the title.

(The Festival has come to an end and is not staying up in perpetuity so I have reposted the review here.)

All good things must come to an end… August 29, 2013

Everything will turn out just fine. I know it’s true. Peter Tarnofsky told me so!

You may have encountered Peter Tarnofsky on Thursday at 8pm in the Market Choices slot where he spoke about his ‘kickstarter’ experience of publishing his new collection of short stories ‘Everything Turns Out Just Fine’ the follow up to ‘They All Die at the End’ If you didn’t – check it out now. Particularly his ‘outtakes’ video. It makes me laugh every time I see it.

If you have not read Peter Tarnofsky’s work before, you’re in for a treat. If you have, with Everything Turns out Just Fine, you’re in for another treat. So. Treats for all.

I was frequently chastised as a young person that my actions were ‘not funny and not clever.’ Well, good news folks. Peter Tarnofsky is both funny and clever. And shows it time and again in both his short story collections.

I first came across Peter Tarnofsky (virtually) last year when I read, was blown away by, and reviewed ‘They All Die at the End.’ I seem to remember at the time there was some flurry about some ‘establishment type’ bringing out some highly plaudited collection of short stories and I read both the promoted guy (can’t remember who it was now – ain’t that significant?) and Tarnofsky’s work and just felt it iniquitous that Tarnofsky wasn’t getting the same acclaim. That’s the life of those who have not been bought or sold out to (depending on your perspective) to the mainstream. Tarnofsky deserves to be there, I’m sure he might even like to be there, but for all the ‘usual’ reasons he is not ‘there’ (yet). My personal opinion about how the publishing world works has been given more than enough times over the past few years and I don’t want to rehash it here. So let’s take the upbeat approach and suggest that maybe it’s simply to remind us that quality isn’t in any way related to mediated marketplaces.

Anyway, here’s the original review: They All Die at the End (available HERE)

Since I wrote that review, I’ve followed (or is it stalked?) the progress of this amazing writer as he struggled towards what I consider to be the virtual book end -or other half – of this collection. And now we have it. Everything Turns out Just Fine.

It’s the same conceit but from the opposite angle. With ‘They All Die at the End’ Tarnofsky ‘gives away’ the ending in order to show that it’s not endings that it’s all about, he does the same thing here – but here we are promised a ‘happy’ ending each time. And he delivers. Okay you have to screw your eyes up tight sometimes and take an optimistic view of ‘just fine’ but even this adds depth to his central conceit. I mean, sometimes burying someone in the garden just is the only way things will turn out ‘just fine’ for a bunch of other people.

I don’t suggest that Tarnofsky is a utilitarian in his approach of course. He states on more than one occasion throughout his latest collection that ‘correlation is not causation’ and that’s a good point to bear in mind.

So while there’s much that’s familiar in this new collection – it’s also just as fiercely unique as the previous one. A real treat ten times over all over again. Again, I can’t pick a favourite, I enjoy them all so much. Again, I see so much depth beneath the absurdist humour that pervades. Again he ‘dovetails’ characters and the ‘author’ intrudes into the last story. If you were ‘ticking boxes’ for the elements of great storytelling, Peter Tarnofsky ticks them all. And then adds that little bit of magic. He paints himself out of a corner time and time again to get to that unpredictably predictable ending. The characters he introduces you to all come to life before your eyes, even (sometimes especially) when set in the most incongruous and impossible of settings. He melds domestic reality with complete way out impossibility artlessly. And throughout, he keeps you guessing. You can believe everything he says and not believe any of it at all, at the same time. It’s fun. It’s thought provoking. And I think true appreciation of it comes down to an understanding of one, seemingly throw-away line about a character ‘he couldn’t think outside of his own story.’ These are books that will sit for me, like virtual (and real, because I have to own them in paperback too – a rare accolade for a book for me these days) bookends reminding me about the very nature and structure of narrative and how it is possible to be funny and clever at the same time. You only need to read his comments on ‘moral rights’ to prove the point. I mean, how many writers have you a) reading the copyright blah in the ‘front pages’ and b) laughing out loud at that point. Before you even get to the stories. Peter Tarnofsky does. He’s one absurdly seriously funny man. By any ‘meaning’ you can give to that sentence.

Our festival may have come to an end for this year and I can think of no better way to end it than by reading some Peter Tarnofsky. Whether you find comfort in knowing They All Die at the End or prefer to believe Everything Turns out Just Fine, these are stories you can read again and again and again and still see hidden depths. And laugh. Every time.

So as some famous comics once said (well, more than once of course or it wouldn’t have been a catchphrase) It’s goodnight from him and it’s goodnight from me.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this year’s festival and look forward to doing it all again next year!

Cally Phillips (Festival Director)

And you could do worse than get hold of a copy of Everything Turns out Just Fine RIGHT NOW. Just CLICK HERE.