Not So Perfect
by Nik Perring
lives in Cheshire. His work been published widely, in the UK and abroad. He is author of the children’s book I Met A Roman Last Night What Did You Do.
with Nik Perring
box my heart’s in is on the windowsill, with the slug pellets and
matches, with the almost full bottle of turps and a dusty bottle of
champagne we won somewhere."
Reviewed by Melissa Lee-Houghton
you pick up this book it is at first a wonderful object, an unusual
square book with a beautiful cover. It fits into fast paced living,
into pockets, books-on-a-train or in the café or sat on the bus in
the rain. The lengths of the stories then, are genius works of flash
fiction, easy to get carried away with, in no sense arduous. Each
character breathes originality; it is a pleasure to become acquainted
Bare and Naked in Siberia, a teenage girl’s sexual awakening
is significantly less of an experience than the finding of a frozen
woolly mammoth. A convincing narrative, the story of a girl concerned
with the family’s financial predicament, Bare…takes a
troubling look at adolescence in these Recession years.
Wife Threw Up a Lemur is an extraordinary tale of a woman with a
real imperfection; she throws up small animals, which she keeps and
tends to. She is in some sort of physical denial of her ripeness for
childbearing; she wants kids, but maybe not yet. Maybe she feels she
is at a disadvantage in some way that people just accept, don’t
mention. The story is warm and well-conceived. "No-one’s ever
asked where they come from. I kind of wish they would". The
husband’s patience is the root of the piece, as he makes room in
his life for the animals, tries to teach them tricks and waits
obligingly over the issue of parenthood. The story is heartwarming
and for all its quirks it is rooted in the real. There is some
universality in there that stops you wanting to get to the line,
makes you want for more.
moments come when hand-grenades, domestic disputes in high
temperatures and a woman with mechanic sexual organs come into the
mix. And then there’s the almost eerie tale in Watching,
Listening, of a man that loves to listen to a mother read to her
child. The librarian has noticed, and the narrative switches artfully
from both points of view.
Heart’s in a Box is my favourite not-so-perfect story. It’s
feverish and tempting, it’s clever and quirky and quick. An object
of desire proves too much to give away when it is left untended and
unwanted. Deeply subversive and intoxicating, this story is memorable
and loveable. It chimes with the tactile qualities of the beating
heart in a box lined with purple velvet. "She cut the thread,
dropped the needle in the bin and took my hands and pulled me
upright," the story is very physical. It’s also desperately
sad and most people would recognize the resounding sentiment.
read the whole book in one sitting and then delved in again, so
compulsive was the hit of story after story, flash after flash. Even
the shortest of all the pieces, such as Pieces of Us are
powerful and moving. "They are laid out now, those pieces of us.
Some edges flutter in the breeze."
felt like a piece of cinema, "I turned, I got to my knees on
the bed, and crawled towards the wall. I put my hands on the pillows
and listened. To the sobs, to the girl. I put my ear to the wall,
pressed against the cold paint."
The stories are easy to
visualize, the characters come to life. Tastes, sounds, shapes,
sizes, features, temperatures, are all recorded and elaborated to
great effect in each piece. Physical description seems to be a strong
point for Perring, who knows exactly which details to bring and which
are less important. The prose isn’t over-described, indulgent or
heavy at all, it’s light and keen, balanced to perfection.