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MIR  Editors
MIR Editors


I enjoyed every one of the short stories for different reasons. Some were playful and rebellious, others harrowing and full of harsh truths. It’s exciting to find such wit and originality in one place.” – Mez Packer


The Mechanics’ Institute Review is back with its eighth issue, featuring work by Chris Adrian, Kevin Barry and Amit Chaudhuri, and showcasing the best fiction from Birkbeck’s Creative Writing students. From a craving for porn to a lust for revenge, from North Georgian secrets to London’s vile smells, these stories confirm MIR’s reputation for high quality and fresh voices. Freakish phones, sinister sex and legacies of ice and guilt await. Discover what milk tastes like and why you won’t find a Dave story in MIR8 – just gutsy entertainment.



Chris Adrian was born in Washington DC and grew up in Maryland and Florida. Selected by the New Yorker as one of the “20 Under 40”, he is the author of Gob’s Grief, The Children’s Hospital, and A Better Angel. Chris lives in San Francisco, where he is a Fellow in Paediatric Haematology-Oncology.


Rosie Allabarton is a Berlin-based aspiring writer and poet, currently finishing her MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck. Her poetry has been published in Popshot, Pen Pusher, Cadaverine and Poetry Monthly. She enjoys using whimsical phrasing and strong visual images, and is working on her debut novel as well as a collection of short stories.


Anna Baggaley graduated from Bristol University with a BA in English and Drama, and currently works in the editorial department of a romance publisher. Her story “The Motherfucking Paperback Queen of Anadarko” was published in The Mechanics’ Institute Review Issue 6, and another, “Sexual History”, appeared in Tales of the DeCongested Volume Two.


Kevin Barry’s novel, City of Bohane, was published in April 2011 (Jonathan Cape). His book of stories, There Are Little Kingdoms (Stinging Fly Press), won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature in 2007. His stories have appeared in the New Yorker, The Granta Book of the Irish Short Story, Best European Fiction, and many other journals. He also writes plays and screenplays. He lives in County Sligo, Ireland.


Charlotte Beeston is a student on Birkbeck’s MA in Creative Writing. Her short story “Before Sleep” was published on the literary website She has a first-class degree in Law and lives in London, where she practised as a solicitor. She is currently finishing a novel.


Barbara Bleiman is co-director of the English and Media Centre and edits emagazine, a magazine for A-level students. She has had two short stories for children published in anthologies and one for

adults in The Mechanics’ Institute Review Issue 7. Barbara completed the Creative Writing MA at Birkbeck in 2011.


Daniel Bourke writes, reviews, edits, teaches and blogs. He has two tiny daughters, Gwen and Catrin, and works in newspapers.


Mary Bracht “escaped” the small Texas town that claimed her childhood and moved with her husband and young son to London, where she learned that happiness is a seat on the train. She placed second in the 2011 Page Turner Prize Novella Writing Contest. “Tatter’d Weed” is her first published work.


With a background in philosophy, David Peter Burns has spent time as a musician, librarian and wine advisor. His stories explore the literature of imaginary places. He works for a scientifi c organisation and lives in East London.


Tray Butler is a journalist and illustrator. He started writing mystery stories when he was nine, which led to a peculiar and uncomfortable career interviewing artists, authors, and actors. His guidebook on Atlanta was published in 2009 by Avalon Travel. After working as a magazine editor in New York and Atlanta, Tray is currently based in London.


Amit Chaudhuri is the prize-winning author of fi ve novels, the latest of which is The Immortals (Picador, 2009). He is also an acclaimed critic and musician, being a singer in the North Indian classical tradition as well as a composer and performer in experimental music. Amit was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2009 and is currently Professor of Contemporary Literature at the University of East Anglia.


Crawling down perilous Ukrainian coal mines or interviewing armed Indian rebels were all in a day’s work for Tanya Datta, a former BBC reporter. Since 2008, however, she has returned to her first love – writing fiction. Tanya lives in London and is working on a collection of dark, often surreal short stories set amongst the Indian diaspora.


Damien Doorley is a part-time MA Creative Writing student at Birkbeck. His short stories have appeared in the Dublin Review, Horizon Review, and the Stinging Fly anthology of new writing, Let’s Be Alone Together. He works as a Jungian analyst in private practice in London.


Tim Graves is the author of a novel, Homo Jihad, published by Paradise Press in 2010. He read “Bright Fire of Morning” at the Shoreditch erotic literary soirée, Velvet Tongue, in May 2011. He also read at Polari, the gay literary salon in the Southbank Centre, during the London Literature Festival in July 2011.


Genevieve Herr graduated from UCL in 2003 with a first-class degree in English and History of Art, and went on to do an MA in History of Art. She has since pursued a career in publishing, working first on Tate Etc. magazine, then joining Walker Books in 2005 before taking a position as commissioning editor at Meadowside Children’s Books in 2011. She began the Birkbeck Creative Writing MA in 2010.


Thaddeus Hickman lives and writes in London. Two of his stories (“Consumivore” and “The Wardrobe”) were published in the Noel Road Writers’ anthology A Thousand Natural Shocks (Troubador Publishing, 2011). He’s currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck, and working on a collection of short stories, which he’s writing with a quill and his own blood.


A graduate of Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, Louise Lee taught geography for ten years before giving it all up to become a private investigator. Currently a student on Birkbeck’s Creative Writing MA, Louise is concentrating on her first novel and screenplay, both entitled The Last Honeytrap.


Xavier Leret is responsible for writing and directing some awardwinning theatre, two feature fi lms and a novel. To find out what he’s up to now, visit


John Lucas lives in Bermondsey, London. He is a student on Birkbeck’s Creative Writing MA, and regularly blogs on books for the Guardian and GQ. His short fiction has appeared in The Mechanics’ Institute Review Issue 7, Open Magazine and Out There. He is working on his debut novel, about a failed rock star.


Fiona Melrose was born in Johannesburg, South Africa where she taught and studied politics. Her fi ction aims to explore the often messy intersection of personal and national identity. She is writing her first novel and lives in Suffolk.


Julius Pasteiner lives and works in East London. He studied anthropology before writing reviews, articles and fi ction for the likes of ArtReview, spiked and Nowiswere. Currently he is writing a novel.


Karin Salvalaggio holds degrees in Biochemistry and Graphic Design. During a two-year stay in Italy, she began to take her love of writing seriously. Originally from California, she resides in London where she is pursuing an MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck. She lives with her two children and her dog Seamus.


Kirty Topiwala studied for the Birkbeck Creative Writing MA in 2009, while working as an editor in non-fi ction publishing. In 2005 she graduated in Art History from Cambridge University, where she also won the John Treherne Prize for creative writing. She is currently commissioning editor for books at the Wellcome Collection.


Maggie Womersley was born and brought up in West Sussex. In the 1990s she studied Film and English Literature at the University of Kent, before going on to complete an MA in Film at the British Film Institute. She works in the television industry as a documentary producer.

The Mechanics’ Institute Review

Issue 8 Autumn 2011


The Mechanics’ Institute Review is published by MA Creative Writing, Department of English and Humanities, School of Arts, Birkbeck, Malet Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7HX


ISBN 978-0-9547933-8-8


Stab” © Chris Adrian. This story also appears in A Better Angel (Granta, 2011).

John and Yoko in the County of Mayo” © Kevin Barry. A version of this piece was fi rst written for RTÉ Radio’s Sunday Miscellany programme.

Doing Busyness” © Amit Chaudhuri

Contents © the individual Authors, 2011

Cover image © Comstock Images / Getty Images


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or any information storage or retrieval system without prior permission.


Project Director: Julia Bell


Editorial Team: Greta Burgio, Anna Corbett, Miguel Fernandes Ceia, Emma Lever, Megan Orpwood-Russell, Samira Salihu, Veena Sharma.


The Editorial Team would like to thank Russell Celyn Jones, Julia Bell, Sue Tyley and Anne-Marie Taylor for making this project possible.


For further copies or information, please contact Anne-Marie Taylor, MA Creative Writing, Department of English and Humanities, School of Arts, Birkbeck, Malet Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7HX. Tel: 0203 073 8372. Email:




Printed and bound by Antony Rowe Ltd., Bumpers Farm, Chippenham, Wiltshire


Cover design and typesetting by Raffaele Teo


The Mechanics’ Institute Review is typeset in Book Antiqua



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