Blind Swimmer
 by All the Eibonvale Press Writers

Eibonvale Press
2010
Paperback







"He went home to Brooklyn. When he walked up to the house he’d lived in his entire life, he had to stop, bend over, hands to knees, and breathe until the nausea went away. So many lives tied to that wood-frame farm house. He could almost see Dad and his brothers working on it… "


Reviewed by David Woodruff

Blind Swimmer is a collection of 11 stories with the theme of creativity in isolation and the results are interesting and varied. There are different takes on the theme and the stories stretch from classic horror to urban bizarre to experimental and surrealism. In terms of setting, the stories take us from the wilderness of Britain and Sweden to the American city. To this reader, Blind Swimmer was full of colorful and trippy adventures, although there were no expeditions to other planets.

The collection opens up with Nina Allan's story Bellony, the story of Terri, who after leaving her newspaper job, wishes to write a missing-persons story about her favorite children’s author, Allis Bennett. Not only does Terri visit the English seaside town where Allis lived, but Terri discovers that she also bought the very house where the author lived before her disappearance. While Bellony can be viewed as a traditional mystery, there is an element of identification, involving how Terri slowly begins to think like Allis. Terri wonders whether she was born with the same compulsions and tendencies as Allis, especially that strong inclination to be alone:
Teri felt she could weep for Allis. The story itself was sad but understandable; most children feel resentful of strangers, at least to begin with. It was Allis’s reaction that was extraordinary. From a private domestic tragedy she had constructed a whole new universe, a reality from which she had been prepared to exclude even her own daughter. Terri did not like to imagine how lonely she had been.
Over the course of the story, Terri, like Allis, becomes disturbingly acclimated to solitude and learns to draw strength from it.

A certain twisted irony runs through The Flowers of Uncertainty by Douglas Thompson. Here, a bestselling author named Harold Swimmer has turned his back on society for 30 years to live alone and write on a secluded island. And in so doing, he has dodged personal and familial obligations. After deciding to reenter the world he left, he meets with recriminations, perhaps a different kind of isolation since he erased himself for 30 years. Also, as in other stories in this collection, the tenuous line between reality and fantasy is affirmed:
Where the hell does fantasy end and reality begin? Presumably nowhere or everywhere and where the hell do you draw the line between them...
But I don’t think I could have resisted the urge to have some form of reality check at the end, if I were working that same narrative.

There’s more than a few stories here about writers in isolation. In Andrew Coulthard’s Lussi Natt, we have an anxious writer living in a cabin the Nordic wilderness. He has sought solitude and relief from the city. He has forgotten about his family. His sought after peace of mind proves to be an illusion. He sees strange figures outside, including beautiful sirens and a big hairy creature called The Shorewalker. Tom learns that he must tread very carefully the shore that separates sanity from insanity.
His fingers reached for the lamp switch. Light on, bedroom much as always, blankets hurled onto the boards in a heap and his damp sheets furled about him. A dream, it was just a dream; or was it?
The Book of Tides by David Rix is another story that touches upon the fine line between creativity and madness. In this piece, a writer uses whatever the tide brings in to inspire his stories. Then, some awful things begin to wash up upon the Scottish shore.
It was, as usual, hard to articulate anything though and he forced himself to shut up and concentrate. This was just another tide after all. Just another story to be found and recorded. He grabbed the passports impatiently, examining them—feeling the small thrill that they sent through him. The faint hint of the unnerving. He tried to feel them in more detail, but he wasn’t sure. All he could feel was Feather’s eyes on his back.
Two of the stories, The Higgins Technique, by Terry Grimwood, and Far Beneath Incomplete Constellations, by Alexander Zelenyj, explore the relation between erotica and the imagination. The latter story is quite graphic in its depictions of sex.

One of this reviewer’s favorites is Rhys Hughes’ The Talkative Star. It’s a series of flash fictions, of quirky shorts based upon what the sun might say if it could talk. One piece, titled On the Windowsill, serves as an example.

The sun wanted to complain about a trick that humans kept playing. "I’m intrigued by the magnifying glass they leave on their windowsills; but every time I peer into one, all I can see is a rapidly expanding charred circle and wisps of smoke. I’m certain that’s not the same as what humans see. There’s something funny going on!"
Blind Swimmer is an intriguing and thought-provoking collection, filled with stories which often sit on the edge of genre classifications, sometimes defying our expectations, sometimes challenging them.

David Woodruff publishes under the name of Kyle Hemmings. He is the author of several chapbooks of poems: Avenue C (Scars Publications), Fuzzy Logic (Punkin Press), and Cat People (Scars Press). He has been published at Gold Wake Press, Thunderclap Press, Blue Fifth Review, Step Away, and The Other Room.

David's other Short Reviews: Ursula Le Guin  and Brian Attebery (eds) "The Norton Book of Science Fiction" 

Gardner Dozois (ed) "Galileo's Children" 

Allison Amend "Things that Pass for Love" 

The Inkermen "Green and Unpleasant Land" 

Wendy Marcus "Polyglot, Stories from the West's Wet Edge"

Joseph Young "Easter Rabbit"

Murray Dunlap and Kevin Watson (eds) "What Doesn't Kill You"
                     
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Authors: Nina Allan, Gerard Houarner, Rhys Hughes, Brendan Connell, David Rix, Allen Ashley, Jet McDonald, Douglas Thompson, Terry Grimwood, Alexander Zelenyj, Andrew Coulthard