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Because I Don't Know What You Mean and What You Don't

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Landlords aren’t thinking about the long term sustainability of the festival, or the fact that it helps breed wonderful culture in our country. Canongate has snapped up Because I Don’t Know What You Mean and What You Don’t by British comedian Josie Long, a "refreshingly frank" collection of short stories. They have all endorsed Josie Long’s story collection: “Read these stories NOW”, “Miraculous”, “Read them immediately”, “Hilariously cynical”, “All the cynicism I have acquired gets replaced by the enthusiasm”, “Hilarious and incisive”. Added to that has been a rising political consciousness that’s made her one of the UK’s loudest left-wing voices – alongside Stewart Lee, who was an early champion of her work – in a comedy scene that often ducks away from controversy.

Josie’s writing, just like her stand up, glitters with a joyful bemusement at the hilarity, sadness and peculiarity of being human.

I enjoy Josie Long’s socialist comedy and her soft voice presenting the Radio 4 series Short Cuts, so I was looking forward to seeing what her first short story collection would be like. Opening up this book is like skinny-dipping in the brain of a genius – I never wanted to come up for air. The second tense is over-used, for sure – and if you didn't see that in my first paragraph then worry not, it's slathered over this like dodgy liquids on a stag night. I’m of a similar age to the author and have broadly similar politics and I imagine anyone else fitting that description would find joy in this collection. Right now, much of the comedy scene’s energies are focusing on what to do about Edinburgh Fringe’s inexorable slide into unaffordability.

If you choose the Book + In-Person Audience option, this will include a signed copy of the featured book which you can collect from the venue on the night of the event. Even if they’re recorded, “they’re just gone, they go… [Whereas] I do feel excited about the prospect that maybe in ten years people might read [these] and be talking about them,” she says.

Although – and I always read every page – the acknowledgments end: “thank you to every landlord, misogynist, prick and Tory who inspired the villains.

If I did have one criticism it would be that I often struggled to differentiate the character voices from Josie's own voice, but given that I love her that really wasn't too much of a struggle for me. I got to the end the first story thinking what have I missed and what was that all about and this continued through the book. While Vanhoenacker takes us on fascinating journeys to Brasília and Cape Town, Liverpool and Jeddah, this is not just a travelogue of the cities in which he lands. With everything from teenage friendship to parenthood to leaving London, this debut collection is perfect for fans of Miranda July, Emma Jane Unsworth and Dolly Alderton. I couldn't tell if there was a thread between the stories and I might have benefited from an introduction to set my expectations.They're funny but I think its the warmth, humanity and natural optimism that runs through these stories and makes them feel like a coherent group rather than a jumble of assorted stories. The best stories absolutely succeed on their own terms; others show potential; a handful, I think, could have been reworked or developed or even put aside to allow the collection to better display its strengths. Her lastest Fringe show, Eleanor Morton Has Peaked, enjoyed a sell-out run and will be on tour in 2023. I love reading them and also it feels like such an intellectual achievement when you’re exhausted with a child to have read something literary for 30 pages - you’ve done something and it feels good. The last story, I don’t know was also not too bad but again I don’t know (hehe see what I did there) why?

When my friend David O’Doherty and I first started posting videos on YouTube, he would get comments saying, ‘Love the song David! However, these minor issues aside, I found the character explorations very satisfying, and enjoyed each one. These are the stories where Long fully explores the characters' world and teases its complexities out, giving the protagonist and the reader moments of epiphany. When you live in London, you think, ‘I will be leaving the centre of the universe, and I’ll be missing out on everything. Of course there were one or two amongst the lot that didn’t hook me as much as the others but overall I really enjoyed listening along.Here we have a range of offbeat and punchy vignettes which each offer a 'slice of life' insight into the various characters' lives and human experiences.

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