"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
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.
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."
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
"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.
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.
|Alex Thornber writes short stories, non fiction and is the editor of Tomlit Quarterly.