|Artist||Toby Litt and Clare Wigfall|
|Title||The Hare and Along Birdcage Walk|
|Designer||Emily Chicken (typography) and Jordan Crane (artwork)|
|Notes||New label Underwood publishes short stories in twice-yearly editions on 12″ vinyl. Add to that big, bold illustrations rendered on gatefold vinyl and you have something delightfully original, particularly in this age of podcasts and downloadable MP3s.
“The Hare by Toby Litt features an adventure in the Welsh countryside and a chase in the British library. It is an extraordinary meditation on how memories haunt us. Along Birdcage Walk by Clare Wigfall is a love story set in St James Park of the seventeenth century, where an exhibition of exotic birds provoke a mysterious change in the characters.”
Buy a copy at www.underwoodstories.com
Interview with Nathan Dunne:
1: When did you have the idea to start Underwood?
Several years ago I was stranded in Bangkok airport on a flight-delay and I saw a man carrying a portable gramophone. He had a bag full of old records and would dust each one off meticulously before playing it. On seeing this I was reminded of what we’ve lost in the digital age – a love for the object. Rather than something that you hold in your hands, packaging has been reduced to just another image. There’s nothing physical left. I’ve always loved short stories and avidly listen to writers reading their work on podcasts. But somehow podcasts always leave me cold. So I had the idea of writers reading short stories onto records as a way of preserving them, as a way of creating a different way to experience stories and remember them. Records are all about the experience: you’ve got to lay them down on the turntable, drop the needle and then change the side when it’s done. This attention to detail is what I’d love to see happen to the short story. Sitting around in a group and listening to the perfect crisp-crackle of a record simply doesn’t compare to a CD or mp3.
2: What do you think are the advantages of doing it on vinyl?
The advantage of vinyl is that a unique object is created that functions to preserve the short story. It creates a sense of occasion when listening rather than a story simply popping up amid the shuffle on your iPod. A vinyl record is a combination of unique sound and beautiful packaging – quite the opposite of digital. Also, there are now more records being produced than ever before. The point is that a record makes you slow down, sit back and pay attention to the words. Writers deserve that and the short story as a form deserves that.
3: How do you select the contributors?
The writers we select for each record are particularly accomplished in the short story form. Rather than a novelist read an excerpt from a chapter or a poet read several poems, short story writers are perfect for the medium of vinyl. Two sides of a record allow for two short stories, one on each side, where each one is under 30 minutes. This means that there is a satisfying wholeness to the experience, like being read a bedtime story. We start out by choosing short stories by contemporary writers that really move us, and then discuss how we might pair up two different stories to work together on the same record.
(Hopefully when Nathan has released many volumes of contemporary stories, he’ll one day release Jorge Luis Borges reading Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius – then I’d disappear in a puff of gratitude…)