Picador celebrated their 40th anniversary this year, and to mark the occasion they asked 40 writers to respond to the idea of 40 in whatever way they liked. The result is The Picador Book of 40 : 40 Writers Inspired By A Number, edited by Charlotte Greig.
The authors range from great established writers on the list, like Alice Sebold, John Banville and Graham Swift, to new stars, such as Emma Straub, Belinda McKeon and Megan Abbott.
What a diverse and entertaining read this book is! Not just the traditional short stories, but pieces from the authors which range from a series of 40-word synopses of great works of literature, poems and 40 things to do before I die. It's not only the pieces of writing that are so eclectic either, the range of authors gives the reader tastes of different writing styles, different perspectives and different ages.
Megan Abbot writes about 'forty cakes' - fairly unknown to British readers, but seemingly something very familiar to thousands of Americans. Gavin Knight delivers a dark and quite unnerving very short story entitled 'The Forty Years War'. There are some of my favourite new writers included in the anthology, including the incredibly talented Anna Raverat (author of Signs of Life), and Naomi Wood (author of The Godless Boys).
I really enjoyed dipping into this collection of writing. I'll admit that I didn't enjoy every single piece that is included, but that's usually true of any anthology of short stories or essays, but on the whole it's a really well put together collection that highlights the talent that Picador represent.
The illustration on the cover of the book is also a part of the 40 collection; it's by Matteo Pericoli and is an infinity symbol in forty lines.
My thanks, as always to the Press Officer at Picador who kindly sent my copy for review.