by Frances Gapper
book is the gift to the world of a mind that’s both tough and delicate,
enquiring, persistent, intelligent, alienated yet at home with itself
and in many other psyches. For instance, that of the academic in Molloy Dies, whose
method of writing is to make a great many notes, then reduce all his
arguments, counter-arguments and hypotheses to one succinct paragraph.
But whose paragraphs start surprising him. Or the storyteller
of Deep Blue Sea,
who only just escapes being murdered by his audience after jeering at
their sentimental expectations. Or the intentional castaway of Dog Days on Monkey Beach,
who goes on writing postcards, even though the mysterious Checkout Girl
has informed him there’s no post any longer. "Not
just for you. I mean
centre and heart of the collection for me is It’s All True, a
story” of his sister’s suicidal depression which the narrator says he
can’t bear to tell more than once. It’s so terrible and so tenderly,
sadly and concisely told, once he gets past a young writer’s bravado
(hmm, shouldn’t “A quick Bovary off the platform” really be a
Karenina?), that I think it must be true, in the sense of being an
account of real-life events. Whether or not, it’s very moving. It’s
also about truth and the great difficulty of telling it. "Oh
leave me alone,” the narrator pleads with us. “Can’t you see I’m doing
it’s in the middle of the book, where some
authors try to hide their not-so-good stories.
another wonderful story, seems by contrast to be totally
“made up” – in the sense of the author not being present or implicated
in the narrative, or at least not obviously. It’s about a divorced
woman, her move with sons and cat from Chicago to Florida, and how she
makes a success, on her own terms, of life, work and motherhood. "In
her self-sufficiency she grew smart and sassy. She developed a cutting
wit, a greater analytical perspective. Her children liked this a lot,
though single men seemed to find it uncomfortable."
course her life
doesn’t stop being complex, difficult and unpredictable, that’s part of
its richness (and the story’s title is probably ironic).
a lot about illness and isolation – but also relationships with
co-workers, partners, other people. As well as stories, the collection
includes seven numbered dreams. At first I was included to dismiss
these impatiently as cheating – a way of bulking out the book to make
it look long enough. But the dreams hold their own among the other
stories and form a sort of collection within a collection.
recently appeared at the Kikinda Short festival in Serbia with Clare
Wigfall and Paul Ewen (contrary to his claim on Facebook to be
“reuniting with Paul and Mary, and going on tour”). His beautiful novel
Day Dying is really a long story, I think.
Gapper’s story collection Absent Kisses was published by Diva Books in
2002. Other stories of hers are in New Writing 13 (British
Council/Picador), Pretext 5 (UEA), Short Fiction (Plymouth University)
and Brand (University of Greenwich).
Hobbs was born in 1973 and grew up in Cornwall and North
Yorkshire. His first novel, The Short Day Dying, was shortlisted for
the Whitbread First Book Award, the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the
IMPAC award, and won a Betty Trask Award. The first story in this
collection appeared in the British Council/Picador anthology New
with Peter Hobbs
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