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

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

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

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But over sixteen stories I wanted her to break away from the minimalist Carver style, and hoped for more variety of tone. Josie Long’s first collection reveals a natural gift with a frank and poignant tale; teenage experience, community WhatsApp groups and broken family units are picked apart with a wry cynicism at the weirdness and cruelty of life. Its 16 stories offer rich, breathlessly paced narratives of sexual obsession or late-night parenting or annoyance with an egg-obsessed lockdown-era neighbourhood WhatsApp group, each told from the perspective of a different person.

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. I like it so much better than when she found improv, and talked to everyone about how life was also improv, and kept discussing the details and rules of specific improv games to me until I felt like a coward for not shouting that I do not and will not ever give a f*** about improv”. Right now, much of the comedy scene’s energies are focusing on what to do about Edinburgh Fringe’s inexorable slide into unaffordability.Blurb for the show – which debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe this August – satys the comedian is ‘even more delirious with tiredness and chock-full of confused emotion about the ever-changing, terrible yet beautiful world around her’. The stories were mainly the soft thought provoking type, with a lot of interiority and reflection, not too much on the comic front. In fiction, she shows us a more conflicted side, more unsure of herself than her rousing and often political comedy suggests.

However, these minor issues aside, I found the character explorations very satisfying, and enjoyed each one. 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. In the finish your response is probably down to how you see the left wing – the leftie complaint about men, modern housing, men, the parole service, men, housing, housing for people who aren't men – you get the drift. 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?There are pieces that feel sketchy and underdeveloped, and a few thin supporting characters (the yapping friend in 'Volunteering' especially) that seem like straw men for the story's purpose. 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. From a woman who sees an ex-partner on a poster and defaces it, to another inundated by online gossip and gripes, to a guru slash influencer slash con-artist, these are all fractured individuals who are “just about managing” to deal with relentless reality. Also I was able to take the stories into places that are not humorous and just stay there, because with stand up you maybe have a minute where you can be sincere but then I feel like you always have to puncture it, undermine yourself, so there’s never the space to sit in something sad.

Before, a lot of my sadness came from the fact that I thought I was driving a different kind of car that was broken.A scintillating read which dips and dives in the funniest of ways through the messiness of what it is to be alive. I got one done in 2016 - I was at a friend’s house and sat down one evening and wrote a story really quickly and was like ‘oh this is going to be easy, I can get it all done in a week’ then didn’t do another one for four years.

I don’t feel like the diagnosis takes away from the beauty of the good parts, and the fast, unusual connections my brain makes”.

A stand-up performer since the age of 14, Long has long been known for her golden retriever persona. The strangeness of lockdown Britain is depicted with biting accuracy in “We Decided to Leave London” – both capturing the coded unpleasantness of a neighbourhood group chatting online and the quiet desperation of a person for fresh air and solitude. So getting the diagnosis was incredibly helpful because it was like ‘oh this isn’t me just being lazy or crap or inept, this is something my brain is doing that I can circumvent and learn to manage or even just acknowledge and move on from’.

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