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Short Stories Inspired by Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures

In a Room with a Window in the Corner is a collection of short stories which sees ten writers take the individual songs on Unknown Pleasures, Joy Division’s debut album, and transmute them into pieces of original fiction.

Joy Division are one of the most influential and best-loved bands this country has produced. Their combination of weighty themes – adolescence, alienation, anxiety – and raw, brooding music has impacted on the imaginations of countless listeners since 1979 when Unknown Pleasures first arrived.

With its distinctive sound, Ian Curtis’ cryptic lyrics, and its tragic backstory, Unknown Pleasures remains a singular artefact: regimented yet anarchic, mesmerising yet unsettling, intellectual yet marked with wildness. And its literate, existential aspect has given it a lasting appeal to readers and writers. ‘To me,’ Ian Rankin once wrote, ‘there’s almost a narrative running through Unknown Pleasures.’

So what would the record look like transformed into fiction?

Featuring brand new short stories from, amongst others:

  • Jenn Ashworth
  • Anne Billson
  • David Gaffney
  • Zoe Lambert
  • Toby Litt
  • Benjamin Myers
  • Nicholas Royle
  • Jessie Greengrass

In a Room with a Window in the Corner is a steely collection of elegant, mysterious short stories which echo and respond to this most beguiling of records. More contributors will be announced in the coming weeks.

Richard V. Hirst is an award-winning short story writer from Manchester. He is the co-author of Bus Station: Unbound, a choose-your-own-adventure-style novel set in Preston Bus Station and, along with Emma Jane Unsworth and Jenn Ashworth, runs Curious Tales, an independent publisher. He writes about film for The Quietus and has had work published in the Big Issue and the Guardian amongst others.

Interzone

You were away when it happened. Do you remember? It was early July and there was a heatwave which was making things difficult for Oscar. Away for work, you said. Down in London somewhere, just a few nights.

Oscar woke up a little after three. Pretty good, I thought, considering I’d finally got him to sleep at around half past midnight. I’d been unable to sleep myself of course. Instead I’d laid on our bed next door, wearing my shorts and t-shirt, perspiring, exhausted, staring up at the ceiling and waiting for the sounds of him waking to come through the monitor. When those sounds came – Oscar’s sleepy, guttering whimpers exploding into crying, furious in the heat – I got up.

Presumably I picked him up out of his cot then, reassured him and took him back downstairs. I don’t fully recall, of course. You know how it is, the lack of sleep, the little fugues it brings about, glitches where one’s awareness of what one’s doing shorts out, but only momentarily and with little consequence. You, of all people, know how it is.

So I found myself in the doorway to the kitchen. I entered, turned on the light and sat Oscar in his highchair. As I set about making a cafetière of coffee I chattered away to him – ‘That was a good sleep you had, wasn’t it…? Daddy’s making himself some more coffee... Coffee is like your milk but for sleepy daddies… instead of wakey babies… Now, daddies drink their coffee from a special cup called a mug…’

He watched me move around the kitchen, his chubby face blank, a hand clasping and unclasping absentmindedly at his chin, the hair on one side of his head streaked upright with sweat from where he’d been lying.

And that’s when it came, the loud bang-bang-bang-bang of the letterbox being used a doorknocker. Oscar jumped and peered in the direction of the corridor.

‘It’s alright,’ I said cheerily, picking him up. ‘There’s no need to worry... Who could that be…? Shall we go see…?’

It must, I thought, be someone who has been in an accident. They’ve crashed their car, have seen me moving about inside the house – the sole sign on life on a suburban street at this time of night – and need to use a phone. Or I imagined some worse crime, a mugging or a rape. Or perhaps whoever it is is a thief or a lunatic. Although tired – I’d not slept since you’d left – I found adrenaline sharpening my thinking. I carried Oscar through to the hallway towards the front door playing out my responses to each scenario, what I would say, how I would best protect him. Most likely, I knew, there would be a straightforward explanation.

I opened the door to a large middle-aged woman in a brown raincoat. She was facing away from the house, preening at her hair, a lacquered nest. She turned, presenting a big grin which dropped when she saw me.

‘Oh,’ she said. ‘You’re not Dee.’ She resumed tussling her hair, looked me up and down, peered at Oscar.

‘No…’ I said.

‘Well, is Dee in?’

‘No, she’s… she’s actually away at the moment… I’m sorry, do I know you?’

‘I’m Wendy. And you must be hubby Patrick.’

‘I’m sorry...‘ I ran a hand over my eyes, struggling through my tiredness to understand. ‘Wendy…?’

‘Yes. Wendy. Wendy…?’ She tutted. ‘Dee hasn’t mentioned me to you, has she? We have this arrangement I suppose you’d call it, me and her. She leaves the light on in the kitchen at night when she’s up with Oscar. If I see it I knock on. And we go for walks.’

Oscar had begun to cry, whimpering, his face creasing. I jiggled him, turning away from the woman.

‘Walks?’ I said. ‘At 4AM?’

Wendy laughed. ‘I knew it. Naughty Dee. I knew she hadn’t told you. Very very naughty.

Oscar continued to cry, growing louder.

‘Yes, we walk, drive sometimes, talk, chat…’ She took a step forward, a foot suddenly into the house, on the doormat.

‘Hey,’ she said. ‘Give him to me. I know a trick which stops him crying.’

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Peter Morris
Peter Morris asked:

Hi Richard

Very much looking forward to reading the stories.

Do you have any idea when publication will be or does that depend on pledges?

Regardless a great project and I hope the stories do justice to the album

Pete

Richard Hirst
Richard Hirst replied:

Thanks Pete - it does indeed depend on the pledges so I can't give any cast-iron guarantees, but I'm hopeful that, if things go well, the project will be funded by the end of the year and the book published about a year from now.

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