by David Woodruff
The green and unpleasant
land (and the title of the book this refers to) is England. All these
tales have a strong sense of British setting and history, but can be
enjoyed by American readers. Many of the stories mix fantasy with a
kind of Monty Python style of humor. The book contains thirteen unique
pieces, with many of them showing how myth and history continues to
influence the present. One such story is Double Meanings
by SJ Davies, with its theme of abundant childbirth across generations
and its nuances of fertility and numerology.
One story that stood out for
me was A
Perfect World, by
Matt Morrison. It's short but powerful with the narrator
trying to convince us that nothing really troubling is brewing. For
example: "Today there just isn’t anything wrong in the world.
Real life can be perfectly simple, whatever stories would have you
believe. Laughter and colour and quite enough happiness to keep our
malicious demon at bay. Leave him to meddle in grown-up tales. He has
no place here." The narrator’s constant reminders that
nothing is going to go wrong add to the somewhat shocking ending.
the Rubric of an Electric Postman,
Antony Pickthall writes in a postmodern style that is both surreal and
rich with imagery. With its use of footnotes, Document 16a.
reminded me of Jose Luis Borges, while the title echoes Philip K.
Dick‘s Do Androids
Electric Sheep? The story
challenges the reader to make his or her own inferences, as this is a
cryptic piece inviting various interpretations. The narrator claims to
be a postman from the future and that this is a ghost story. There is
an invisible highway here between future and past, and we don't know
whose idea of
time it is.
"You don’t need
me. I need you. You are my witness. Somehow you will make a recording
of my time here and you will create a ripple of those who would not
dare to follow me - behind your fossilized memory. It won’t
matter to you and your life. Somehow the connection we are making will
enter the very air you suck in to your gulping lungs."
To show the variety of
literary styles here, Confessing
Julian Wolfreys, is a poem that gives an unsettling tour of the city
within the city, reminiscent of Jacques Raubaud’s language
poems about Paris. The poem is not only full of typographical
conventions befitting free verse, but it also displays
Wolfreys’ own photographs which add to the sense of
other-worldliness of the city.
My favorite in the collection is The
by Stephen Loveless, a tale within a tale, narrated by a man named Sam
Vatican. The story is my favorite because it's the scariest
of the bunch. The story contains a mad child as guard dog, sorcerers, a
hag named Matilda who can mutter spells of protection in Wynd. And of
course, a Warlfwulf. As in some other stories here, the past reaches
deep into the present. As Vatican says to the townspeople at the end of
"Have the genes of the
Warlfwulf survived? Remember wherever the creature spat fur grew -
those of you that spat on your hands at the start of the evening check
your palms now."
The story might be hard to
get into because of the long sentence structure. But it gives an
authentic feel as if being told a story in the days of the early
Perhaps the most
entertaining story in terms of wit and humor is The Flat of the Land
by Robert John Brocklehurst. The story gives in stage play dialogue
format a cross-commentary spanning hundreds of years on a single plot
of land. The author's humor, word puns and control of the
vernacular is well-evidenced here:
Business man in Pinstripe:
And what kind of music was it again?
David: Well I said thrash but actually it doesn’t really
matter. It needs to be whatever the most kids with the most parents
with the most money at the present time.
Tense and grammar fail at
some point during a City day.
Businessman in Square
Glasses: So if it’s not this ‘thrash’
then what is it?
David: Market research says that this year’s style is
‘gothic’. You see it’s both a music and a
youth movement, a form of anti-rebellion against the status quo.
Businessman in Square Glasses:: That’s a double-negative. Is
that not a return to the status quo?
Things are looking
If I had a caveat it
would be that if one is looking for horror or
bone-chilling suspense in the sense of Stephen King, this is not the
book for you. This collection emphasizes subtlety and hidden meanings,
the interweaving of the past, both real and imaginary, with the common
day present. Also I felt that some stories, like Home Leave,
could have been either longer or developed more at certain junctions,
as when a man is thought to be seen at the family's country
house during the WWII blitz over London. On the whole, if fantasy mixed
with excellent writing is one's cup of tea, the reader will
not be disappointed.
is a fiction writer and poet, who
writes under the pen name of Kyle
Hemmings. His work has appeared in Noo Journal, Juked, Mud Luscious,
Arsenic Lobster, Mad Hatter’s Review, Vestal Review,
Smokelong Quarterly, and others.
Authors: Liz Allsop,
Robert John Brocklehurst,
Peter De Ville,
H. K. Nicklin,
D. P. Watt,
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