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Astral Bodies

Jay Merill


"What we do next is wee in the water. It feels good letting the wee come out of you and go down the slippery weir mingling with the river. We try and watch to see where our own little pale lemon coloured streamlets will go, but they get lost in the fizz and swoosh and all the foamy flecks collected at the bottom. We know they’re there though, twirling and whirling, going along in the flow.  "

Reviewed by Zoe King

Whenever 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. 

Jay 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’. 

Rose, 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 what? 

And 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. 

Jay 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.

(This review was first published in Cadenza magazine.)

 

Zoe King is a freelance writer and editor currently living in Norfolk. Editor of Cadenza, and a member of both The Society of Authors and The Society of Women Writers and Journalists, her first love is the short story. Her debut collection, as yet untitled, will be published by Salt Publishing in June 2008. (This review was written before Zoe's collection was accepted by Salt Publishing.)

  

PublisherSalt Publishing

Publication Date: Jun 2007

Paperback/Hardback? Paperback

First collection?Yes

Author bio:Jay Merill  was born in Warwickshire and now lives in London. She attended the University of London and works as a freelance editor. Her short stories have been published in a wide number of literary magazines in the UK and USA.