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Sunday Read: Michel Faber’s “The Exhibitionists” Cut from Road Stories

Road StoriesThe Crimson Petal and the WhiteThere But for theRoyal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea (RBKC) commissioned a series of short stories for an anthology inspired by London’s Exhibition Road – a street in South Kensington, London, named after the Great Exhibition of 1851.

One of the stories commissioned was “The Exhibitionists”, a “provocative” piece by Dutch-born author, Michael Faber. However, Faber’s short story was cut from the collection just a week before going to print, deemed “too edgy” by RBKC.

While the published collection, Road Stories, brought out by Faber & Faber in the UK, features the work of Ali Smith, Deborah Levy, Kamila Shamsie, Russell Hoban, Clare Wigfall, Eleanor Thom, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Hanan Al-Shaykh and Iain Sinclair, one can’t help feeling that something is missing….

‘The Exhibitionists’ was commissioned by an editor at Faber (no relation) for Road Stories, an anthology inspired by London’s Exhibition Road. The publication was scheduled to tie in with the official unveiling of various renovations and revamps in that part of town. I wrote a wicked fable about exhibitionism and inhibition featuring unveilings of a distinctly non-architectural kind. When the book was ready, the editor sent me the proofs. We made final tweaks, I consented to do some interviews in support of the project, and that was it. See you at the launch. Then, a week or so before Road Stories went to the printers, I got another email from the Faber editor. She was embarrassed to inform me that ‘The Exhibitionists’ had been pulled from the collection. By who? By the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. My tale had been judged “too edgy”.

…Fortunately, Michel Faber’s publishing company, Canongate, have made an uncensored version of “The Exhibitionists” available to read on their website:

He needed this; God, how he needed this. It had been almost a whole year since the day Julie came home unexpectedly while he was having sex with Katie. For about thirty seconds on that histrionic afternoon, he’d entertained the fantasy of being like Picasso, who (according to a biography he’d once read) would stand back in macho amusement while two jealous women rolled around on the floor fighting over him. Instead, Julie and Katie had both dumped him, and one of them (he would love to know which of the bitches it was) had stolen his phone and contacted all the numbers stored in it, telling everyone that he was scum. Even his bank manager, sister and mother got messages warning them never to fuck him.

To help hone your definition of “too edgy”, read Ali Smith’s short story, A&V at the V&A, which did make the collection:

Whenever A and V went to the V & A they always ended up going off in different directions and losing each other. The days of mobile phones had made this a problem much more easily solved (though reception could be patchy in certain parts of the V & A). Anyway they were on their way to the V & A now and had been arguing already on the Tube about whether to take the tunnel or the road. Then, walking along the road – V had won – they began another argument. This one was about the first time they had ever visited the V & A together and when exactly this had been.

See, I don’t remember that at all, A said.

We did, V said, really early on. When we first knew each other. But it was in the days when you were still being very Scottish about things and full of righteousness –

Book details

  • Road Stories: New Writing Inspired by Exhibition Road edited by Mary Morris and Di Robson, illustrated by Mandy Smith and James Medcraft
    EAN: 9780954984847
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

Recent comments:

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    July 15th, 2012 @10:32 #

    A great pleasure to sift through this on Sunday morning - a great Sunday read!

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    July 15th, 2012 @17:10 #

    Great fun -- I had a poem pulled from O mag because the sponsors (i.e., the advertisers) said it was too "risque", so found this v. comforting. I liked Faber's story more than Ali's, altho the editor in me would take out the word "bosom" in his rejected offering -- as a word, it's an absolute passion-killer.


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