REVIEW: UNDERPASS – UEA UNDERGRADUATE CREATIVE WRITING ANTHOLOGY

by Eli Lambe

The Underpass Anthology launch was a real testament to the work and co-operation evident in the newly student-run EggBox publishers – a packed celebration of new talent and potential, and a true contribution to the uniquely welcoming and encouraging style of the Norwich arts scene.

The anthology itself worked in the same way, amplifying both familiar and new voices, and bringing them together in a truly collaborative and beautiful book. The experimental and the traditional complement each other, and every writer and editor involved should feel immensely proud of themselves.

There are moments in this collection that are derivative, predictable, moments of wincing cliché – but many of these writers are young, new, still working and trying and improving. Sometime they try too hard, but nothing in this collection will be the best thing any of them will ever write. It is a start, it is a milestone, and for every Tyler Durden knock-off and overblown metaphor, there is potential and brilliance.

every writer and editor involved should feel immensely proud of themselves.

James Mortimer’s “Zeus ❤ Hades” was entertaining and joyous, and Susie Smith’s “Coppelius” was a truly Carter-esque rewriting, with all of the perspective-flipping, magical realistic splendour that comes with that association, attached to an emerging unique voice. Shannon Elizabeth Lewis’ “The Evening Report Reads:” felt current and witty, successfully playing with click-bait headlines and contemporary self-curation of media, even as the final section wasn’t quite on the same level as the beginning.

Whilst there does not seem to be any particular/specific theme, the inspiration drawn from Norwich comes through in the outstanding capturing of “creepiness” and the gothic in these submissions – Alice Kouzmenko’s “Lavender” and Isabel Martin’s “Window Seat” each bring horror into the real and the contemporary, both short stories feel organic and natural, and at the same time unsettling. Some of the gothic/horror stories in this anthology weren’t necessarily to my taste, however.

( art by Eli Lambe )

John Raspin’s “Shadows” was a little overwrought, even pretentious, and the attempts to emulate Lovecraft and Poe were a tad too obvious, even as the overall idea had potential. Tin Lemac’s “Scratch”, whilst an entertaining parody of teen fantasy, came across as a bit too on-the-nose, Twilight-meets-Fight-Club and in need of subtlety, although I did enjoy the self-deprecating humour of the piece.

All of the entries in this anthology were personal, had personality, and even the most derivative showed clearly the authors development of their own voice and style. Where it lacked some cohesion, it allowed each piece to stand on its own, and the process of creating and curating this anthology was evident in the variety and diversity of its selection. It is an encouraging model for student-led publishing, and an undeniably valuable celebration of our local literary and artistic culture. I look forward very much to hearing more from these writers, and following their development!

Featured image via EggBox Publishing

 


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