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|Occupation||Novelist, Literary Critic|
|Notable works||Vulgar Things, Varroa Destructor, The Canal, Everyday, A Brief History of Fables: From Aesop to Flash Fiction|
Lee Rourke is the author of the short-story collection EVERYDAY, the novel THE CANAL (winner of the Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize 2010) and the poetry collection VARROA DESTRUCTOR. His latest novel, VULGAR THINGS (‘poignant and unsettling’ – Eimear McBride) is published in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and the US by 4th Estate, Harper Collins. He is a contributing editor at both The White Review and 3AM Magazine, has a literary column at the New Humanist, and has written regularly for The Guardian, TLS, Bookforum, The Independent, and The New Statesman. From 2012-2014 he was Writer-in-Residence at Kingston University, where he lectured on the MFA Programme in creative writing and critical theory. He once taught creative writing at Middlesex University, and now works as an English teacher at an Essex high school not far from the sea. He currently lives in Southend-on-Sea.
Vulgar Things in which Jon Michaels - a divorced, disaffected and fatigued editor living a nondescript life in North London - wakes one morning to a phone call informing him that his uncle has been found dead in his caravan on Canvey Island. Dismissed from his job only the day before and hung-over, Jon reluctantly agrees to sort through his uncle's belongings and clear out the caravan. What follows is a quixotic week on Canvey as Jon, led on by desire and delusion, purposeful but increasingly disorientated, unfolds a disturbing secret, ever more enchanted by the island - its landscape and its atmosphere. Haunted and haunting, 'Vulgar Things' is part mystery, part romance, part odyssey: a novel in which the menial entrances and the banal compels.
The Canal follows an unnamed narrator as he tries to make sense of the everyday violence around him. One morning, instead of walking to work (his usual weekday routine), he simply walks to the Regent’s canal in north east London, where he finds himself a suitable bench to sit on opposite a whitewashed office block on the other side of the murky water. He spends most of this first morning watching the commuters walking and cycling to and fro, together with the swans, coots and moorhens who have made the canal their home. He blames the onset of boredom for this sudden change in lifestyle. He is soon joined by a young woman on the same bench. She doesn’t speak, just stares ahead at the whitewashed office block, watching its occupants move from office to office and desk to desk. In this coming together begins a complicated treatise on violence, catastrophe, secrets, death, aviation, weight, technology and gravity, as this mysterious woman leads the narrator into a dark world of obsession and brutality.
Everyday is a set of short stories based in the heart of London. Rourke writes:
“What truly interests me is why Everyday was created in the first place: I guess I wanted to recreate, or copy, the base materiality around me: the same faces walking to work each day, the same arguments in the road, cyclists falling off their ‘fixers’ and ‘Bromptons’, the same conversations, the same daydreams, the same photocopying machines… A copy of the things of the everyday. I’m interested in Blanchot’s idea that we are all riveted to existence.” 3:AM Magazine
Best British Short Stories 2011, Edited by Nicholas Royle, Salt Publishing, UK (2011).
Best European Fiction, Edited by Aleksandar Hemon, Dalkey Archive Press, US (2011).
Writing at the Edge, Edited by Zsolt Alapi, Siren Song Press, Canada (2007).
3:AM London, New York, Paris, Edited by Andrew Stevens, Social Disease Books, London, (2008).
The Bookaholics’ Guide to Blogs, Compiled by Rebecca Gillieron & Catheryn Kilgarriff, Marion Boyars Publishers, London/New York, (2007).
Love Hotel City, Edited by Andrew Stevens, Future Fiction London, London, (2009).
The Beat Anthology, Edited by Sean McGahey, Blackheath Books, (2010).
A Brief History of Fables: From Aesop to Flash Fiction is published by Hesperus Press.
'A poem should not mean,/ But be,' or so the twentieth century literati would have had us believe. Yet from the earliest of classical narratives to modern-day e-zines, literary works have been turned to political, didactic and symbolic ends. In this groundbreaking work, Lee Rourke traces the long history of a form currently enjoying a resurgence online and in the works of some of the most talented young authors in print. As we begin to emerge from modernism and its aftermath, fables – the briefest of narratives given the most expansive of significations – have gained in popularity. Author and literary critic Rourke here considers the permutations of the form, from Aesop's tortoise and hare, via Plato's socio-political works and the later ribald medieval tales, to Kafka's anthropomorphism and present-day authors including Blake Butler, Joseph Young, Shane Jones and Jonathan Lethem. A Brief History of Fables offers a bold take on the new face of literature.
Reviews for Ready, Steady, Book readysteadybook.com
Articles/Reviews at The Guardian The Guardian
Reviews for Bookforum Bookforum
Reviews for The Quarterly Conversation The Power of Flies by Lydie Salvayre
Rourke’s fiction deals primarily with boredom. Rourke explains further in The Guardian:
“Boredom has always fascinated me. I suppose it is the Heideggerian sense of 'profound boredom' that intrigues me the most. What he called a 'muffling fog' that swathes everything – including boredom itself – in apathy. Revealing 'being as a whole': that moment when we realise everything is truly meaningless, when everything is pared down and all we are confronted with is a prolonged, agonising nothingness. Obviously, we cannot handle this conclusion; it suspends us in constant dread. In my fictions I am concerned with two archetypes only, both of them suspended in this same dread: those who embrace boredom and those who try to fight it. The quotidian tension, the violence that this suspension and friction creates naturally filters itself into my work.” The Guardian