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ISBN 978-0-9561073-4-3
First published May 2010; 196 pp
paperback; 198 x 129 mm
click here to read a pdf excerpt.
Marjorie Ann Watts trained as a painter and illustrator with Edward Ardizzone and Harold Jones, then worked as an art editor and typographer. She left publishing to work as an illustrator (on books such as Catherine Storr’s Marianne Dreams), before beginning to write and illustrate her own books for children. She has also written a novel and a guide to European painting for young people. Her father was a Punch cartoonist and graphic artist, her mother wrote her first book at eighty, and her grandmother founded PEN, as well as writing several volumes of poetry and twenty novels. She lives in London.
Marjorie Ann Watts  Are they funny, are they dead?
‘I love these stories – shrewdly observed and wickedly funny’
      – Salley Vickers

A daughter’s life is changed on discovering her adoptive father is in fact her true father; an elderly woman removes the blue mantle from a plaster statue of the Virgin Mary and is delighted to find black lace underneath; a senior academic, about to deliver a lecture to his students, is unsettled by memories of a passionate affair.

These spare, elegant, disconcerting stories swerve between the long perspectives of memory and the abrupt questions of children running free: ‘Where does the world go when I am dead?’ Marjorie Ann Watts, the author of a series of books for children, brings to the ambiguities of adult relationships, and the fault-lines between generations, a rare and sharp-witted understanding of how ‘the past remains forever embedded in the present’.

‘Her writing is both beautiful and spare, immediately gripping, and has the rare quality of revealing a character in a few words. “How Things Turn Out”, the story of a tycoon’s flawed relationship with his children, starts: “Lord Porter had married young and then forgotten about it. He supposed he had loved his wife, he had never given it much thought.” In “Birthdays” (which won a literary prize), the entire tragedy of one woman’s domestic life is there in a few exchanges over the breakfast table . . .’
      – Camden New Journal

‘The ghost of Scheherazade flits though Marjorie Ann Watts’ collection, as her elderly characters try to ward off death in Are they funny, are they dead? . . . The feistiness of her heroines, who won’t be put off, like the female patient in “A Vivid Imagination” or little Linny who defies God in “Religious Studies”, would surely have pleased the late Angela Carter.’
      – Lesley McDowell, Financial Times

‘This remarkable collection of short stories . . . Ordinary people going about their ordinary lives, the daily humdrum stuff of living and loving all telescoped through the perceptive eyes of an octogenarian. The insensitivities of others laid bare with refreshing candour, those miscommunications, the innocent observations of children so frequently misunderstood by adults, and there’s something about revenge being a dish best served cold that is meted out here too . . . all beautifully observed from that unique vantage point of age and experience; ageing seen through the eyes, with respect, of the “aged”, and then that retrospective analysis of childhood that it's impossible to make when you are younger. This is surely Marjorie Ann Watts’s book of her entire lifetime and I sincerely hope there are more to come.’