Overheard is an anthology of contemporary prose that reconnects storytelling with its oral and performative roots. The book features stories by writers including Salman Rushdie, Hanif Kureshi and Ian McEwan, along with a sparkling new piece by Gemma entitled 'My Sister Like This'.
A man in a trilby hat makes his way across the platform with two young boys in tow. He lets go of their hands and raps on the station office window, but it's clearly unstaffed. He jabs at the machine, grabs his tickets, shreds them into tiny pieces and throws them upwards. The children watch as orange and white confetti momentarily fills the air.
My sister pulls a cardigan from her bag and tells me to put it on. As a small rebellion, I wrap it around my neck like a scarf. It smells of Lila, both soapy and soupy. She motions with her head and we both walk towards the exit.
On the stairs, she elbows me in the ribs. You are so annoying.
So are you, I say.
We're both over thirty but this is how we talk.
Originally conceived as a daily fiction blog, Speak to Strangers is a funny, provocative and elegant series of one hundred hundred-word stories, which chart a journey across the city through its inhabitants.
"Seltzer brings the short story in to the twenty-first century"
-The Short Review
"Speak to Strangers addresses our modern way of living"
"Compelling and original, a coherent and striking work of art"
"Fantastic, evocative miniature masterpieces"
"Seltzer's book of brief encounters is deft and affectionate"
-N Quentin Woolf
"Cryptic, evocative and confessional"
You make dresses for musical theatre and we are completely captivated. Your boyfriend disappears into the crowd as we ask about sewing, fabric, sweat, tutus and your thoughts on the updated designs for Les Mis. You have salt and pepper hair, and hold the lead for your dog all evening. I encourage you tell us about the time you dressed up in a corset, you do and then lament the size of your waist now. We grip our own bodies self-consciously. I could dive into your world and breaststroke my way somewhere else, head elevated above the current, mouth pinched.
Filming in Soho, artist Jordan Baseman interviewed some of its residents, ranging from the notorious to the anonymous. These were interspersed with footage of Soho itself. A book to accompany The Photographers' Gallery exhibition includes text from David Barrett and, printed for the first time, Gemma's story 'Memory Colours'.
He's waiting outside the gallery holding an A-Z, thumb marking the page, weathered fingers tapping on the book cover. He steps onto the road, to let a woman in fur pass. When she nods her thanks, he says something in reply and she throws her head back in delight and bares hundreds of teeth.
It's my dad and he's here in London, he made the journey and now he's waiting for me, with a map and an appropriately small bag and he's making someone laugh.
There you are, he says. He kisses me on both cheeks and I think: this is new. He must have seen people do this on television. It's fine that you were late.
I'm late? Quietly, I ask this.
Are you hungry? Shall we eat?
Let's try here, I say, leading him inside. There's a step and I feel his body jerk when he lifts his leg each time. Are you okay?
Fine, it's fine. He struggles up three flights of stairs and we find the cafe.
We order and he finds us a seat. Students in oversized glasses are staring into a laptop screen. The light casts a coloured shade on them and they talk to each other with purple smiles and purple faces.
Speak to Strangers returned to London for a new commission from the Tate Modern. For ten days, during summer 2013, Gemma invited members of the public to talk to her, and then she wrote about the experience. This publication contains the full set of stories from the residency.
On my right, two girls sit on the bench. With knees clutched to their chests, they don't talk, flooding the air with waves of cigarette smoke instead. To my left, you approach, photographing the sky (blue, cloudless), the building works (crane, slung low) and then your feet (sandals, buckled).I bite into my apple and say, What's happening there? You reply, the Tate Modern Project. A new building. It's designed by Swiss Architects, like me. I'm Swiss. And you? There is pleasure in your voice, because I'm a tourist too. While we speak, the sunlight changes, shifting, on the hoardings.