Watching The Windows Sleep
 by Tantra Bensko


First collection

"13 owls are hooting… As they fly and move, it’s hard to tell whose who-who is whose"

Reviewed by Alex Thornber

To start a chapbook, which mainly comprises of fiction, with a poem is a slightly odd concept. The poem that starts Tantra Bensko’s Watching The Windows Sleep sets the reader into a poetic mode of reading; you get carried away with the rolling lines and it takes you almost the whole way through this slim volume.

The first story, entitled The Accidental Voyeur, reads like a dream, a half dream. It feels like that time at three in the morning when you are not quite asleep, but still not awake; when the characters on the TV assimilate into your dream and suddenly you’re driving down an American Interstate and it all feels so real but out of your control.

The Accidental Voyeur is a story with written with charming flow, an almost Nabakovian poetry but unfortunately no real, tangible substance. At the end of it however, you are moved. You feel like you have woken up and are compelled to say something about how you are changed somehow but you cannot tell your partner what the dream was about.

The rest of this chapbook is more or less the same in that respect. Bensko is playful, bizarre and you get a genuine feeling that she doesn’t take it all to seriously, but sometimes several pages can go by without any clue as to what is expected of you as a reader.

Watching The Windows Sleep is however, littered with some beautiful phrases from a writer likely inspired by Nabokov at some stage.
"13 owls are hooting… As they fly and move, it’s hard to tell whose who-who is whose."
It is lines like this that truly make this little chapbook. They are humorous, poetic, effortlessly enchanting and a pleasure to read. These are the lines which stay with you, after all the rest have dissolved into the dream, forgotten forever, there will always be these lines to remind you it was all a dream, and a beautiful one.

A story towards the end seems to give us a slight glimpse past the strange curtains that, throughout the rest of the collection, prevent us from seeing what Bensko is really going for here. One of the shorter works called The Prize is framed almost like a long question that plants an answer into your head. The Prize blends a story and a poem into one and centers on a question about dreaming "13 dreams in one night."

The Prize appears in this collection at the perfect time. One story before the end it forces you to re-think what you have just read with a brilliant last line, which appears to be the direct root of the entire chapbook.
"So. Here we are, then. Outside of any story. What are we going to do with it?"
The likening to Nabokov should be taken lightly for if you are looking to be challenged with a story and plot as well as something highly stylized and poetic, this chapbook might not be for you. If you are looking for something a little odd that you can read and be moved by without really knowing why or how, this definitely is for you.

Like a song that you loved as a child, your favorite jumper that no longer fits or that reoccurring dream you can’t quite remember, the writing in this book affects you, deeply. You may not understand it all at the time, you might, but one thing is for certain, something within these pages will move you, change you and burn it’s mark on you forever, even if you’re not sure where or how.

Read a story by this author in The Fabulist

Alex Thornber writes short stories, non fiction and is the editor of Tomlit Quarterly.
Alex's other Short Reviews: "The Collected Stories of John Cheever"

A J Kirby "Mix Tape"

Susan Tepper "Deer and Other Stories"

Darlin' Neal "Rattlesnakes & The Moon"
find something to read: reviews
find something to read: interviews
find something to read: categories
find something to read: back issues
competitions & giveaways

Tantra bensko won awards such as Cezanne’s Carrot’s, twice,  Iowa Journal of Literary Studies and Academy of American Poet’s Award, plus a nomination for the Pushcart Prize.  She teaches Experimental Fiction writing through colleges online.

Read an interview with Tantra Bensko