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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You can read this either one story at a time or all at once, and many of these short stories left me wanting more and I would love to read a full-length version of some of these plots. This collection was aptly titled, because there were quite a few occasions when I wasn't at all sure what the author meant and what she didn't.

The pandemic seems to have turned half of Britain’s best-known comedians towards literature, and after Osman, Boyle et al we now have a debut collection, Because I Don’t Know What You Mean And What You Don’t, from the woefully underexposed Josie Long. The book is a collection of snapshots that range from romantic to rousing, dystopian to hopeful, satirical to gut-wrenching.A limited amount of signed copies of Because I don't know what you mean and what you don't will be on sale at the venue on the night.

Peppered with the acclaimed comedian's trademark warmth and wit, the stories collected in Because I don't know what you mean and what you don't feature quirky, richly drawn characters and delightfully unpredictable plotlines. When I was 24, there was a comedy forum that devoted hundreds of pages to being incredibly rude about me, my body, and who I was,” she says. But all the same, and perhaps despite that cover, I was expecting a collection of her short stories to be, broadly speaking, cheerful. Long feels frustrated that her diagnosis came late in her thirties, but she feels there were benefits to the delay, too. 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.But how does she feel instead about the fact that these stories are fixed, unchangeable from now on? Long skilfully examines the small things, the everyday ordinariness and awkwardness, and being Long there is the occasional inclusion of the political and class. 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. However, these minor issues aside, I found the character explorations very satisfying, and enjoyed each one.

When you live in London, you think, ‘I will be leaving the centre of the universe, and I’ll be missing out on everything. I did not necessarily connect with every story, some were a little on the slight side and for me required more depth.

Gaslighting, coercive relationships, social media, one-sided friendships, regrets, classism, obsession, unrequited love, escaping the rat race, and the horror of parenting children in a modern world are all brought to life in these short snapshots into the lives of everyday people.

Along the way Long also relocated from London to Glasgow in 2020 and had two children with her partner, comedian and playwright Jonny Donahoe. This all-you-can-eat approach to life meant that she’s taken on some fearsomely impressive challenges. Josie will be joined in conversation for this extra special virtual event where she will explore her inspiration and the writing process for this electric collection of short stories. It sort of coincided with my ADHD diagnosis because I got there and yet I still couldn’t get anything fucking done.It was like this itch that I wanted to scratch but when I started scratching it I was ‘oh, shit, oh no, ha ha, this is awful’. It's hard to pick a favourite - 'We decided to leave London', which is about life during lockdown and 'Poets Rise', which explores authoritarian surveillance, both really stood out for me. I would love to see the ideas and characters in this story expanded into a novel in their own right - I was fascinated by what their back-story was, and would have enjoyed a longer, more satisfying narrative arc than the short story form allows.

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