Dazzling The Gods
By Tom Vowler
A brother returns from exile to stir up the past. A widower observes his daughter blossoming amid the carnage of war. A short story collection
Publication date: January 2018Buy
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"Tom Vowler draws you into one kind of world, and with a sudden, elegant unfurling of a conceit, or a metaphor made eerily literal, transports us somewhere else, our preconceptions undone and our certainties vanished. His writing is close and meticulous, the better to reveal to us the uncanny and dreamlike vistas of his stories." Colin Barrett
"Vowler’s stories, with their beautiful and assured prose, intrigue, delight and challenge all at once. His vivid, powerful images continued to haunt me long after I’d finished reading" Danielle McLaughlin
Dazzling the Gods is the second short story collection from award-winning author, Tom Vowler. It is rich with dark, beguiling, playful and audacious tales.
A brother returns from exile to stir up the past. A macabre performance in the bowels of a Parisian museum that must be seen to be believed. Lovers torn apart by heroin confront their loss in wildly divergent ways. A severely disabled husband struggles with the permission he has bestowed. A credulous lover finally faces the crimes of her partner. A father hopes his son never tires of their pilgrimage. And a widower observes his daughter blossoming amid the carnage of war.
'Vowler is not afraid to be new, to be dangerous with it and flaunt his talent.' - The Short Review
Intelligent, absorbing and beautifully done. - Carys Bray
'I'm an admirer of Vowler's short stories.' - Alison Moore
'Vowler's characters live with a heightened sensitivity, as if in the wake of some disaster.' - Luke Kennard
Tom Vowler's first collection, The Method, won the inaugural Scott Prize in 2010, and the Edge Hill Readers’ Prize in 2011. He followed this with two novels – What Lies Within and That Dark Remembered Day – and his work has been published in journals around the world. Tom is editor of the literary journal Short Fiction, and lectures in Creative Writing at Plymouth University, where he has just completed his PhD. Apart from being an occasional all-rounder for the Authors Cricket XI, he has no hobbies.
Romi & Romina
She termed it ironic, though I suspect that wasn’t correct. How the one thing the human mind could not comprehend was itself. She didn’t mean the brain – that clod of moist beige tissue had apparently given up most of its secrets in the last few decades – but consciousness itself, which quite reasonably, she said, could be nothing more than a conjuring trick. And given our ignorance as to its origin, whether it even possessed a physical entity or not, it was entirely possible everything was sentient: cats, birds, insects. And without evidence consciousness required a brain at all, there was no logical reason to draw the line there. Plants, cars and desks could all be aware of their plantness, carness and deskness, merely unable to communicate it.
‘Evolution,’ she said, ‘could easily have produced creatures atom-for-atom the same as humans, capable of everything we are, just with no flicker of self-awareness.’ Such were the overtures Romina brought home from work and offered up as I attended to some unremarkable aspect of domestic life.
We’d met in a floating jazz bar down on the river, one of those trendy, ubiquitous places inhabited by the city’s great and good, at least until another venue became de rigueur. I was neither adverse to the prospect of a relationship – short-term or otherwise – nor seeking one, and although Romina wasn’t particularly my type, the encounter soon gained volition of its own, fuelled for the most part by her bizarre opening gambit. Once she’d established a physical attraction to someone, Romina’s method was simple: she produced from her jeans pocket a Trivial Pursuit card and proceeded to reel off questions, seemingly oblivious to the unorthodoxy of such courtship. Men (and, I would later learn, the occasional woman) who correctly answered three or four out of six were worthy of further enquiry; ones and twos, she would tell me, were deemed stupid, fives and sixes too clever for their own good. Owing to the sizeable gaps in my general knowledge, our interaction almost ended there, my own score of three achieved thanks only to a guess at the number of moons to orbit Venus. Answer: none. My prize was an endless succession of tequilas and a tour of Romina’s favoured nocturnal haunts, where we danced deep into the night like chemically-charged teenagers. After parting around 3 a.m., I walked home beneath a pre-dawn sky suspecting life had been reordered for ever.
Within a week Romina introduced me to the intricacies of shadow puppet sex. From the precise configuration of our hands and fingers, we made the backlit semblance of two beings, furnishing one – usually but not exclusively mine – with male genitalia, before having them converge mid bedroom wall, my little finger thrusting back and forth to our feigned bursts of pleasure.
‘You’ve got no stamina,’ she said as the smallest digit of my left hand cramped prematurely. ‘My shadow wants an orgasm.’
- 16th February 2018 Dazzling on its Travels
Well hello there...it's been a while, I know. What have you been up to, you probably aren't saying.
A new novel, almost finished, a story from Dazzling that would not be contained in a mere 3,000 words. More of which soonly.
But I wanted to thank those who have posted lovely things about Dazzling, in various places, for which I am obscenely grateful. Word of mouth is still the best way to generate…14th July 2017 A Final Post
Great to see many of you have your copies of Dazzling...and thanks to those who've posted pictures on social media - a prize, I think, to the furthest of these from the UK...(Cork is winning currently).
The signed copies and book bundles should be heading out too, so if you haven't got yours by next week, give me a shout and Mabel will chase up the publisher, if only so she gets another box…21st April 2017 Lucca
I was recently asked to record a story for a literary journal, and so if you can't wait until June for the collection, you can listen to me reading a piece from Dazzling the Gods.
Listen to Lucca here.4th April 2017 Last Chance Saloon
Some lovely news to share: a story from Dazzling the Gods has just been shortlisted for the 2017 Commonwealth Prize, more of which here. It's fantastic to know a piece you've written has touched such an esteemed panel of judges. Fingers crossed.
Meanwhile, a quick note to say there's a few days left for anyone to get their name in the back, should you know such a someone. The trade edition…15th December 2016 Can't wait, won't wait
I know: nowt happens quickly in publishing. But worry not, Dazzling the Gods taking shape as we speak. And I'll have a fancy cover to share with you soonly, but if you can't wait those long months without reading the fruits of your labour (well, my labour, your cash), then my Tuscan-based story is forthcoming in the next issue of The Lonely Crowd, which you can order here. It's a little meta-fictional…4th October 2016 The End
We did it. Well, actually, you did it.
I’ll keep this brief: I’m sure we’ve all had enough of What We Talk About When We Talk About Dazzling The Gods…and would rather just read the damned thing itself.
I choose this unorthodox road to publication for a couple of reasons. Firstly, to see if it could be done (why climb the mountain? Cos it’s there), to test out an arguably more democratic…14th September 2016 Homestretch
First up, you've all been obscenely patient, and I'll spare the 'All good things...' cliche. But, here we are, final proofs, a cover being conceived. And thanks to a recent surge, we're closing in on 80%.
I've spoken before about this model being a curious, unorthodox one, and what I hadn't anticipated was the fear once I'd committed that the book would flounder. So a big thank you to all …31st August 2016 Fractals and other Hare / Tortoise Races
First up, thanks to this week’s pledgers, nudging the collection to 63% funded. Slow and steady wins the race, except in Rio, I guess, as that bloke on the powered bicycle up front kept finding out.
I'm still blown away by the number of people to get behind this book - it's an unusual model, asking someone to buy something that doesn't exist, in order for it to exist. And so what if it takes…1st August 2016 The Offspring Badge
First up, thanks to all 139 of you who've supported / pre-ordered the collection. We're closing in on 50%, which as the numbers people among you will know is pretty much halfway. As with the most successful drug dealers, short stories (books in general) are all about word-of-mouth, so I'm always obscenely grateful when you spread the word, nothing as coercive as a gun to the head, but, you know…18th July 2016 Leaving the Comfort Zone
Writing my short story ‘Romi and Romina’ was a welcome departure from my preferred aesthetic of lyrical realism, a sojourn into science-fictional waters, though perhaps its thematic undercurrents steer a familiar course. Researching it was fun: barely any of Hemingway’s vein-opening.
If we are to believe Ben Okri – and I am inclined to – the short story is second in difficulty only to the sonnet…28th June 2016 A Game of Two Books
Been a strange week. First Brexit, then 'we' lost to the Isle of Man (or somesuch) at kickball. Where will it end? With Google and Amazon in a bidding war to publish Boris' memoir, titled 'The Prime Minister Years'? Don't be silly: as if books will exist then.
Anyways. While they still do, I've decided to furnish supporters' rewards with something lovely: a free copy of Short Fiction, the literary…23rd June 2016 New Fiction
The excellent Manchester Review has published a story of mine today (actually it's a compressed chapter from my next novel, but works as a story), which you can read here. The book is set largely in Romania, but opens in this actual house on the north Devon coast, a building we would try to break into as kids, regale ghost stories to each other in the grounds. A guesthouse in Victorian times,…27th May 2016 'Acknowledgements'
Fiction is never the endeavour of one person alone , and I’d like to offer heartfelt thanks to the following people, whose inimitable presence in my life helped shape Dazzling the Gods. They say the greatest gift a writer can receive from his or her parents is a dysfunctional childhood, and I would like to express particular gratitude to Les and Sandra on this account. Certainly the bouts of…5th May 2016 At the Musée d'Orsay
To say thank you for all those who've pledged, and to give you a flavour of what's in Dazzling the Gods, here's a story for you. Just click the link. Some have pointed out this piece is an allegory hewn from a less-than-favourable book review I've received. I couldn't possibly comment.
Keep spreading the word.26th April 2016 On Losing
I’ve made a habit of coming second recently. Which is fine in certain arenas: a marathon, a search to find Britain’s two most handsome men. Less so in others: a game of conkers, a fight to the death, love rivalry. I think it began with my amateur boxing career (I’m the one on the left above, the one with his eyes shut), a pursuit I excelled in as a runner-up. I remember the solitary time the referee…14th April 2016 On Asking
Here's a picture of my cat, Mabel, which acts as both cynical ploy to draw your attention (apparently it works on Facebook) and clumsy allusion to Schrodinger's thought experiment.
You see, my collection of stories both exists and does not. It is there on my hard-drive, stored as a series of ones and zeros (I think), a file of around 190KB, innocuous and without form. And yet it's so much more…3rd April 2016 On Not Being a Parent
Hello from The Shed. We reached 100 supporters today, which is wonderful and humbling, so thank you all. Do keep spreading the word!
Theme in fiction is often a nebulous, chimeric beast, particularly so for an author as they reflect upon their own work. So often it emerges at a level not entirely understood, and often only in retrospect. A lot of the stories in Dazzling the Gods muse on fatherhood…24th March 2016 Art as Response to Atrocity
The tonal range in Dazzling the Gods is a broad one, satire buffing up against elegy, lyrical realism mixing it with quasi-science fiction. One story in the collection, though - 'The Grandmaster of Gaza' - was wrought from anger at world events, not an approach I'm comfortable with, but there we go. I was asked to explore this process for a literary journal, a copy of which is below. Thanks to all…29th February 2016 Dragons' Den
So before crowdfunding my book I thought I'd pitch it on Dragons' Den, an experience you can watch here.
Thanks for all the support, and do spread the word on social media.
Tom20th February 2016 The Curative Power of Words
I have no idea why there is an image of a golden ringed dragonfly devouring a bumblebee accompanying this post. There's not even some vague thematic segue to be made. But it looks good. I took it on Dartmoor a few summers ago, and squatting carefully down beside it, I could hear the crunching and slurping.
Anyway. Thanks to all the new pledgers, up to more than 60 people now, helping bring …15th February 2016 Dazzling the Gods: Evolution
After penning my second novel, I was out of contract, and so began an at times pitiful period of pitching (try saying that after a glass or two), one to almost trump Alan Partridge's desperate soliciting of a second series (Monkey Tennis?). I drafted around five synopses I thought might tempt my publisher - pacey psychological thrillers, page-turning lit-lite – promising to turn out one a year…11th February 2016 BANGING CHE GUEVARA
A little treat to celebrate reaching 10% funding. Dazzling the Gods contains a few shorter short stories, one of which is below.
Banging Che Guevara
Clive – Tanya – Roz
Once a week Clive takes the new intern to a hotel in Covent Garden. Furthering the frisson is the knowledge…7th February 2016 15 Laws of the Literary Life
Thanks to everyone who has pledged so far - it means a lot, and the book is well on its way to existing. We've a long way to go, so do spread the word.
But for now...
If you’re not a writer, you might have a certain perception of the literary life. Take Hollywood, with its portrayal of the drink and drug addled escapades of wild writers such as Hemingway, Hunter S. Thompson and Truman Capote…3rd February 2016 Stewart Lee & the Short Story
Thanks muchly to the latest pledgers. Here's a post on one of my favourite comedians and why he's analogous to my favourite literary form.
Last March I navigated Devon’s gloaming, bucolic lanes to watch comedy’s version of the short story: Stewart Lee. Why the facetious analogy? Perhaps because both enjoy a cult, minority status, one where irony, intellect and a playful contempt predominate. In…2nd February 2016 Eyes Right
If you watch the video I made closely, round about 32 seconds in, you'll see my eyes shift in panic. Mabel (pictured below), who'd been asleep on my lap, suddenly leapt off and pounced on one of her toys. Somehow I kept going! Never work with children and animals.31st January 2016 Contents
A quickie, to say thank you to those who have pledged so far, helping Dazzling the Gods enter the world. I'm still working on the last couple of stories for the collection, but here's a list of those pieces to make the cut so far:
At the Musée d’Orsay
Dazzling the Gods
The…27th January 2016 Welcome
'A short story is a shard, a sliver, a vignette. It’s a biopsy on the human condition.' Will Self
Welcome to my shed. Pull up a chair. Kettle's on.
The short story is, arguably, one of the most dynamic and visceral literary forms. It is a summer romance, an unexpected lover, that frisson amid the mundane, or as Kafka said, ‘an axe to break up the frozen sea within us.’ It’s also the…
These people are helping to fund Dazzling The Gods.