Too Much Too Young by Emylia Hall
09 November 2012
The brief from Book Slam was simple; pick a song, any song, and write a story inspired by it, for a collection called 'Too Much Too Young'. Twelve writers (David Nicholls, Diana Evans, Jeremy Dyson, Marina Lewycka, Nikesh Shukla, Jesse Armstrong, Jackie Kay, Craig Taylor, Patrick Neate, Salena Godden, Chris Cleave and I) set to it, and the resulting stories are perhaps more bound in theme than anyone might have imagined.
Longing is everywhere in 'Too Much Too Young', and it takes all shapes and forms. There are laments for what is past; first loves, teenage togetherness, the important people who came into our lives and didn’t stay. There’s also another sense-of-an-ending at work, a non-starry-eyed nostalgia that looks forward as well as back; the awareness of a soon-disappearing childhood, uncertain futures in the wake of adultery, lost hope and foreboding. In my story, 'Me And Bobby McGee', an old man’s memories of a footloose love affair are stirred by the appearance of a teenage hitchhiker. If my hero were to jump his pages and stray into the other tales, he’d discover he’s not alone in the things he’s lost and found. Throughout 'Too Much Too Young' we meet the ambitious, the desperate, the lovelorn, the jaded, the hopeful, the crush and the crushed. No matter how specific the experience, the lifts and drops feel somehow familiar; read it and you’ll see that we’re all the kids jumping tyres on fire, the unjustly held, the boy with a wet-ink love poem. Maybe that’s the magic of the short story; no dog and pony shows, just a particular moment from another’s life, offered up to us, so that it becomes ours too.
Every beautifully cloth-bound, hard-backed copy has been signed by each of the twelve contributors, and if you get one with a splash of coffee or a smudge of nicotine that makes it an especially limited edition. Maybe I’m biased, but I don’t think there’s anything quite like reading a short story collection, particularly one made up of diverse voices, to remind us that shared experience is the greatest comfort of all. We’re all in it together and so are you.