I read Jay Merill’s work, it feels as though I’m
touching something otherwordly, such is the nature of her prose.
It’s almost as though she approaches story sideways on, at a
slant, which means that when I read one, I can’t simply move
onto the next, I need thinking time, need to carefully assess what it
is I’ve read, what it is that has moved me.
Merill is very very good on character. Every one of the stories I read
featured fantastical people, the kind of people I love to meet, but
rarely do. The blurb on the back cover refers to characters
‘trying to get out of themselves into something else, or
expand the boundaries of self’.
the breakfast waitress at the Hotel Esplanade in Tango,
doesn’t want to waitress, she wants to dance. Squeak in Blue Movie
doesn’t want a ‘shit job that'll drive you
crazy…’ instead she thinks being in blue movies
might offer more of a future: … you just have to stand on a
set somewhere… you show em yer fanny, wiggle yer bum and
that, maybe you ave to let this pervy put his finger in, so
Louise, the magician’s assistant in the heartbreaking Waving with Rabbit,
who feels, has always felt, on the margins, never quite a self, and now
that Jon the magician is losing his sight, will never see her again,
she feels she will be ‘less than alone’, because
her ‘existence’ depends upon him seeing her,
witnessing her being.
Merill has been called ‘a unique voice’, an opinion
I would echo. Her work is never other than surprising; she has a surety
of touch which enables her to conjure mood apparently effortlessly.
Some of the stories here are very short, three pages in some cases, and
yet they wield such power, calling the reader back time and again. Astral Bodies
won’t be to everyone’s taste and I suspect there
will be those who will scratch their heads and wonder, but for me, it
represents intrigue, and challenge, and most importantly, sets up the
itch in me to write, which is when I know I’m reading
something important, something which touches me deeply, something I
won’t forget in a hurry.
review was first published in Cadenza