TagBenjamin Markovits

BBC National Short Story Award 2017: ‘The Collector’ by Benjamin Markovits

This post is part of a series on the 2017 BBC National Short Story Award. 

Somewhere near the border with Canada, Robin Bright’s wife Amy dies when she is swept off the road in a storm. Robin struggles to accept what has happened, and retreats to his big house and hobby of collecting. The story switches between the past and the present, in which Robin discovers that Amy may not be the person he thought he knew.

‘The Collector’ is written in a more conventional literary style than the previous three stories. This is less to my personal taste (I find Markovits’ technique of anonymising places, such as “H___”, particularly irritating in a contemporary story); nevertheless, there are aspects of this story that work well. There’s some effective use of metaphor, playing all of Robin’s material possessions against what little knowledge he has of Amy. And I found the ending of ‘The Collector’ especially powerful.

Listen to a reading of ‘The Collector’.

Granta Best Young British Novelists 2013: Benjamin Markovits

Benjamin Markovits’s biographical note in the Granta anthology says that ‘You Don’t Have to Live Like This’ is excerpted from “his new novel about, about a group of university friends who get involved in a scheme to regenerate Detroit”. This particular excerpt focuses on their time at university, so we don’t seem to get much of a sense form it of where the novel will ultimately go.

Two characters in particular strand out to me from the extract: the narrator, Greg Marnier, an ordinary kid from Baton Rouge who doesn’t seem to have been too lucky in love; and his college friend Robert James, a more privileged type who seems set to go places. These characters could be the foundation for an interesting novel, but Markovits’s piece does feel very much like a beginning, and I am undecided as to whether I’d want to read the novel on the basis of this extract alone.

This is part of a series of posts on Granta 123: Best of Young British Novelists 4Click here to read the rest.

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