by All the Eibonvale Press Writers
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
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:
the course of the story, Terri, like Allis, becomes disturbingly
acclimated to solitude and learns to draw strength from it.
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.
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:
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.
the hell does fantasy end and reality begin? Presumably nowhere or
everywhere and where the hell do you draw the line between them...
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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!"
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.
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
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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