by Tania Hershman
might assume that as slim a book as this, only 45 pages with some of
them only half-filled with words, would only warrant a very short
review, but in Annie Clarkson's collection of prose poems,
micro-fictions, short short stories, whatever you choose to call them,
there is a great deal to write about. As with all short stories, and
even more so with fiction this short, if it is to be good – and this is
very good – it must have depth, there must be more than meets the eye
are 26 stories here, and there are themes that cut across them:
communication and the lack of it, relationships, violence done to and
by, music, the natural world. Words that come up several times includes
stones, bruises, hands, guitars, rain.
uses language in such at way that she approaches scenes from an angle,
never head on, and she moves and twists so that nothing is as it seems,
nothing is straightforward. A story that seems to be about violence in
a relationship, done by a woman to her partner (who may be male or
female), ends with the lines:
promise to stop you next time, hold
you still, tell you that's enough. But part of me must be tied there
with you, thinking I deserve it.
Hurt me, I think
I'm not brave enough to do it myself.
when the begin seems to
promise a violent end, such as in Break
Time, with a man leading a girl
into “the back of a wagon”, the last lines are comforting: "He
neck and his mouth is the warm of a steam-pipe."
Clarkson doesn't often
set the place, introduce characters or any of those conventions one
might expect from fiction. She throws the reader straight into stories,
with opening lines - some of which, heavens above, don't even begin
with a capital letter! - such as
don't understand it, he says
laugh at first
like a woman with broken heels across
nights in a bar, these nights watching you
is even a half page story that is one long sentence, with no
works have linguistic playfulness of poetry, yet they are somewhere in
that space between poetry and prose, unpinndownable. Her writing makes
you ache, long after you have closed the book. The images she creates
(“He held a house in the palm of his hand, a tiny house with broken
windows and a caved-in roof”, “Bruises on my shoulders that I pretend
are from doorframes, wardrobes, locker doors”, “bags trailing with open
zips, hair splitting with braids”, “eyelashes frost with snow, tears
freeze on his cheeks”, “hum whisper a tongue a mouth a lipstick rub on
a forehead”) are so vivid, so tangible, as to remain imprinted upon
your brain. These stories are short, but they are not small.
Intrigued? Read one of the
stories from this collection on Shadowtrain.com.
Hershman is a
short story writer and the editor of The Short Review. Her own short
story collection, The White Road and Other Stories,
by Salt in Sept 2008.
Publisher: Shadowtrain Books
Clarkson is a poet, social worker and short story writer
living in Manchester, UK.
with Annie Clarkson
Buy this book (used or
Publisher's Website: Shadowtrain
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