10 reasons to love Anna Wood’s ‘Yes Yes More More’, as put to you by short story aficionado Wendy Erskine.
1. People sometimes say they don’t like short stories because they don’t get immersed in a particular world for a long enough duration. It’s a hassle and an annoyance, having to re-calibrate to an entirely new place and different characters every fifteen or so pages. You know, you’d just got used to the dodgy double-dealings on that fish farm outside Aberdeen, and now you’re slap bang in the mind of a post-grad student who expresses effusive delight at the late evening shadows cast on her bed. But in Yes Yes More More, the first short story collection from Anna Wood, a reader need have no such worries. Every story, whether involving interesting encounters on train-journeys or trips to Iceland and New Orleans, after-parties or cottages in forests, has a similar sensibility. It’s less like starting again with new people and places, and more a slight turn of the mirror to reveal more of the room. This is a brilliantly cohesive collection. Something that contributes to this is a woman who appears in many of the stories — Annie Marshall. I say woman, rather than character, because she feels like a person and not a construct. And she’s great: affable, self-deprecating, observant, unjudgmental, funny.
2. Yes Yes More More is a world of beautiful observation, from the mounds of cuddly toys considered while on acid — ‘I plunged my arm into a pile of white puppies, right up to my elbow, and felt the softness and warmth. I compared my skin, the tiny criss-crosses and hairs, to the gleaming, lifeless fabric of the toys’ — to the description of a small, lithe woman at a party — ‘Like a boilwashed woman. Hard all over, like a rich boilwashed woman who does a lot of yoga.’ Joe Jackson sounds ‘a bit melancholy but also hopeful, and like he’s in the early 1980s and probably in New York, a bit bookish, a bit cocainey, quite well groomed, wears pastels.’ I’ll be describing a certain kind of person as ‘boilwashed’ for the rest of my life.
3. As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing more off-putting than someone being described as witty. It suggests there is going to be a lot of self-conscious, try-hard semi-jokes. The same goes for books. Meant to be witty and funny? OK, pal, let’s just see. But Yes Yes More More, in just going about its business and with no great effort at trying to be hilarious, just is.
4. ‘What in life is more important,’ Carl asks in the story, ‘Love! Love!’, ‘than love and music and friends and dancing?’ Whether it is two women who bump into each other in Topshop at Oxford Circus — ‘they’d recognised each other from college and compared petty miseries over neon lace vests’ — or Claire reminiscing about her long-dead friend, Lauren, friendship is handled in Yes Yes More More with such exceptional care and nuance.
5. It’s not always easy to write about music. It can become a terrible, awkward signifier of something or other that ends up convincing no one: ‘As I walked to the bathroom, I caught sight under a chair of the first album I ever bought, Metal Box by PiL.’ But here, in Yes Yes More More, Anna Wood makes music such a glorious aspect of the fabric of everyday life. So, say, in ‘Wild Nights!’ just as the narrator is about to leave a party, she gets lured back in by a Fern Kinney song. People dance to Gene Vincent, and later someone sings along to songs from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack — ‘I’ve Had the Time of My Life’, ‘Be My Baby’ and ‘Yes’. That’s followed by a little chat about how Merry Clayton did the backing vocals on ‘Gimme Shelter’. At the end of the story, the narrator watches girls skipping as they sing the words to ‘Rolling in the Deep’. It’s uncontrived, convincing and joyful.
6. This is a deeply life-affirming collection of stories. Look at what Carl says in no 4. Add to that what is declared in ‘Good Solid Obliterating Fuck’: ‘it’s good to be stuffed and demented and alive.’
7. This is a book of vivid physical, sensory thrills: eating, touching, drinking, seeing, listening. See above: there is a story called ‘Good Solid Obliterating Fuck.’ Later, in another story called ‘Sex in New Orleans’, the wonderful Annie does indeed enjoy what she describes at that moment as a ‘good solid obliterating fuck.’
8. This is such a good-natured and confident collection; it doesn’t seek to show off technical skill. Rather that the highly-burnished Fabergé egg short story fabrications that people can deem perfect and pristine, these feel frank and fresh. Yet, if you want to go looking for it, that technical skill is everywhere, from a tale of a job interview that merges disparate locales, to a beautiful and moving shift of narrative perspective in a story about a mother encountering her dead daughter’s friend.
9. Yes Yes More More is prepared not to take some things too seriously. There is a brilliant, sustained pastiche of Proust’s madeleine moment, but here involving a KitKat: ‘I had a slurp of my tea, which had some very very small bits of KitKat floating in it…the tastes and textures were so slight and so familiar, the tiny blobs of fat and the sugary soggy fragments of wafer, and the whole miniature experience blossomed into a great reassuring flower with me curled up inside…’ Yet Yes Yes More More is also ready to be deeply serious, when it matters. ‘Pussycat’, with its uncategorical message about consent, follows a story involving a bass player who was told, no.
10. The dialogue in this collection is brilliant. In ‘Lunch’, two friends meet and have cheery, inconsequential talk that is not cheery, inconsequential talk. Afterwards, the narrator has a strawberry Cornetto from the newsagents. And of course, it’s just a Cornetto, but like the dialogue, yes, it also signifies so much more. Yes. More, more.
‘Yes Yes More More’ is out now, published by The Indigo Press. Buy a copy here (£10.99).