by Tony Brown
Tony Brown argues that the fiction of Thomas Morris represents a ground-breaking contribution to the tradition of the Welsh short story, and that it has not had the attention it deserves. His recent collection is rooted in Caerphilly, giving voice to a contemporary malaise of insecurity and alienation, and he’s due to return to the streets of his hometown for a forthcoming novel.
Interviewer: ‘Do any of us know what we are doing?’
Thomas Morris: ‘I’ve no idea.’
While on the other side of Offa’s Dyke the short story has been a somewhat marginalised form, in Wales it has long had a place at the literary high table. Most of our leading Anglophone Welsh writers have been highly accomplished practitioners of the short story: Dylan Thomas, Alun Lewis, Gwyn Jones, Dorothy Edwards, Margiad Evans, Glyn Jones, Rhys Davies. Recent anthologies containing stimulating and thought-provoking work by a younger generation of Welsh writers – Kate Hamer, Deborah K. Davies, Rachel Trezise, for instance, as well as established writers like Glenda Beagan, Stevie Davies and Robert Minhinnick – indicate the continued vitality of the short story.1 We can speculate on the reason for the prominence of the form in Wales; I have argued elsewhere, drawing on the comments of practitioners like Frank O’Connor, that the short story lends itself to a concern with uncertainty of identity and marginality, issues familiar to the Anglophone Welsh writer. While the contemporary short story is possessed of an energy that engages a rich variety of themes and issues, I want to argue that versions of such concerns, of insecurity and estrangement, are present in Thomas Morris’s first short story collection, We Don’t Know What We Are Doing (Faber, 2015). Named Wales Book of the Year for 2016, it is a collection whereby Morris announced himself as a major new voice in the Anglophone short story in Wales. Despite this award, however, Morris’s stories have not, in my view, received the attention they so clearly deserve; this collection is a major addition to the rich tradition of the short story in Wales.Sign in to read more
Tony Brown is Professor Emeritus in English and Co-Director of the R.S. Thomas Research Centre at Bangor University. He recently co-edited, with Jason Walford Davies, a collection of previously unpublished poems by R.S. Thomas: Too Brave to Dream: Encounters with Modern Art (Bloodaxe, 2016)