by Zoe King
of small press magazines may well be familiar with Neil Campbell’s
work, though Broken Doll,
part of Salt Publishing’s very welcome move into short story, is his
first published book. The blurb suggests he writes "with the economy of
Carver…". I don’t quite see that. There is certainly economy in his
work, but it seems to me that he takes the decision to offer the reader
less in the way of implied character complexity than Carver does in
that he takes a deliberate position on the sidelines, to reflect the
ennui displayed by his characters in their apparent lack of engagement
with the stuff life throws at them.
characters generally are presented as peripheral, there’s little
attempt at real characterisation, and yet, in many ways, there hangs
the strength. As readers, we come to see their lives being mapped out
for them by forces over which they have, and assume, only minimal
control. But every now and then will come a line, an action, which
tells us we’re wrong to make such assumptions.
Football, Phil and Richard, revisit the fields where they
had found their friend dead just a few months before.
ran over to move what from a distance they thought was a pile of
rubbish from the artificial cricket pitch, but what they saw wasn’t
rubbish; it was Dave, curled in a ball, the bag of glue beside him
flickering like a flower in the breeze… In assembly the following day,
they sung a hymn as normal… During the minute’s silence, someone
farted, and a few of the boys laughed.
Richard sits on the football, "making it go egg-shaped", Phil takes a
marker pen out of his pocket and writes ‘DAVE WOZ ERE’ across the
length of the artificial cricket pitch, in letters so big they could be
"read from the sky".
The Disappearance of a Sunset
is funny and
irreverent, but has an underlying poignancy which is beautifully
caught. Magaluf offers the wonderful: "Fuckin’ pride and fuckin’
prejudice. You tart. Do you sit down to piss these days or
lines which more or less encompass the position of many of the book’s
collection works in a strange, cumulative fashion to
draw the reader into Neil Campbell’s chosen world. This is an excellent
review was first published in Cadenza
is a freelance writer and editor currently living in Norfolk. Editor of
Cadenza, a member of The Society of Authors and vice chair of
the The Society of Women Writers and Journalists, her first love is the
Publisher: Salt Publishing
Campbell was born in Audenshaw, Manchester, in 1973. While
working variously as a warehouseman, bookseller and teacher, he had
poems and stories published in small press magazines, and was the
editor of Lamport Court.
In 1999, he completed an MA dissertation on the short stories of
Raymond Carver and in 2006, graduated with a distinction from the
Creative Writing MA at Manchester Metropolitan University.
with Neil Campbell
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Anything by Raymond Carver
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