Ice core : an original collection of stories, plus a brief critical essay on the writing process.
This thesis comprises an original collection of short stories entitled Ice Core, plus a brief self-reflexive essay on the challenges, emphases and informing contexts which influenced the writing process. The stories in Ice Core were envisioned and subsequently arranged as a short story cycle. Because of my interest in the shifting mobilities of geography, history and identity which inform the collection, I deliberately wished to avoid a linear narrative progression, hoping instead to capitalise on the ability of the cycle structure to accrue flexible resonance, to accommodate shifts of foci and voice even while simultaneously consolidating to form a ‘core’ connected to regional place and community. The stories are set in the North Beach area of Durban, so it is no coincidence that water as a motif repeatedly permeates the collection. This is apt for my interest in this urban coastal space, and serves to complement the mobile nature of the short story when positioned within a cycle. In the subsidiary component of the thesis, namely, the brief critical essay, I discuss the short story form as a genre, and conceptual paradigms of the short story cycle, referring to work by critics such as Forrest Ingram (1971) and Sue Marais (1992). The essay goes on to discuss regionalism as a major characteristic establishing realism in a cycle, with reference especially to character identification and distinctive dialogue. I suggest that these elements can animate ‘place’, prompting setting to emerge as the central character of the collection. I also refer to Michel de Certeau’s piece, “Walking in the City” (1998), since Ice Core captures fragments of Durban from a street-level point of view which, according, to de Certeau, is important in understanding the ways in which a city is made meaningful through incessant transformations. The mobility of my stories, then, can be seen to emulate something of the associated mobility of the local urban area on which the stories focus. Through this essay I aim to show the short story genre as not merely the naïve fragmented expression of personal experience or ‘inspired’ imagination but one notable for disciplined and inventive practices.