tube tunnels into her chest. The skin is so thin. The baby s mother can
almost see the tiny organs beneath, the way shrimp is visible under the
rice paper of a spring roll. "
Reviewed by Sara Crowley
collection opens with Isolettes
and the arresting line
green tube, clear tube, fat tube.
perhaps the author is not sure enough either of his own voice, or of
the reader's ability to get it, so follows up with A Dr Seuss rhyme.
Yes, thanks, got that. Never mind, he continues with an image of a
premature baby that is so entirely unexpected and yet spot on, that I
was astonished. That is just the opening page.
There is so
much here, sometimes too much. The text of Isolettes is thick
Nick U Nick
If marriage is
an institution married people should be institutionalised.
though is a tender understanding for character that gives heart to this
and the majority of the other stories.
Green fluorescent protein
is a bittersweet tale about a 17-year-old boy
coming to terms with his sexuality. At home his alcoholic mother talks
to the ashes of his dead father, at play Ruby-Doo, the skinny bookish
science fan he befriends, confuses his feelings. There are more of
s accurate descriptions:
does the fake crowd roar –
the hushed wahhhh – I taught him.
people that we
meet again in Funny
weird or funny ha ha? and whilst I am a huge fan of
the short story form it felt like there was such warmth and depth to
this trio of unusual characters that I would welcome reading a novel
about them. The B9ers
are a support group for people who have had benign tumours. Bang Crunch
is the story of the extraordinary Eepie Carpetrod, whose
rare syndrome makes her live her life in fast forward, aging rapidly,
racing towards death.
seemed to me that Smith thought
of a witty phrase and then wrote a paragraph around it. Extremities is
an idea that failed in my opinion as he writes of gloves that yearn for
a particular hand, and a talking foot.
The last story,
is also the longest. It centres on a group of
Montreal-based actors. Benoit Doré, a man whose
look was a lie. His mussed-up hair
came courtesy of a mud putty that had set him back twelve
bucks", mentors a woman who works at an agency looking after
actors' interests, and she uses the opportunity to take revenge on her
clients. The story twists nastily along and I read, wincing. At the end
though, there is much needed possibility and hope.
Like so many collections, the quality is up and down according to the
strength of individual stories, but this is a good introduction to Neil
Smith, and I look forward to reading more of him.
novel in progress Salted was short listed in the Faber/Booktokens Not
Yet Published Award in 2007. She has short stories and reviews
published at Pulp.Net and other lovely places.
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
bio: 42-year-old Montreal based Neil Smith works as a translator.
He took a writing class to fill some time and was apparently amazed
that everyone thought his stories were great. “Everyone told
me it's hard to just get your stories accepted by magazines. Then
everyone said it s impossible to get an agent or a big publisher for
short stories. As for selling a story collection abroad in the U.S. and
the U.K., forget it. But it s all happened: every step has happened and
happened rather easily, almost embarrassingly so. I guess I m due to be
hit by a bus.”
with Neil Smith
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