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David Gaffney

"…how I envied Stoker who had an old Freud programme which users often asked for, mainly for fun, I suspected. I loved to hear his carry-on-camping dream analyses in which everything shimmered with sex and envy and death, and the only possible remedies for neurosis were time travel and never having been born."

Reviewed by Melissa Lee

The authority of the writer to captivate, by means of brief and concise prose, guillotined in proportion, is no mean feat when you consider the rocky path the reader has to take. We meet the despondent sexual partner with a penchant for blurred images of girls, moving onto the neo-natal ward cleaner who has trouble separating his life and his work, then onto the lesser catastrophes of fame-struck cat whose feline peers are rather in awe of his magical powers when operating cat-flaps.

The effect is unimaginably numbing at times. Gaffney invites us to play judge, by never really reassuring us, by refusing to answer questions or give us too much back-story; we have to study the reaches of what he does tell us. In can be infuriating, while at the same time it’s hard to stifle belly laughs, and there’s something rather sinister about Gaffney’s stories that make a reader oddly self-conscious.

Do we understand why the gluttonous ex in Special Pudding does not get her just desserts but manages to homicidally quash her fat nemesis? We don’t, or maybe we just don’t want to. In the same way that we don’t want to read the Sunday tabloids, but we buy one anyway (because they’re cheap, or have a free DVD, or a ‘decent’ crossword). And we can’t help but read them. We’re that fickle like that. Aren’t we?

Structured sublimely into three parts, 45 Revolutions per Minute, Twelve-inch Singles and Long-Players, with dozens of references to the time-emaciating music of our northern souls, the book gains momentum, like an old L.P does. With hiccups and stutters, moments of abject confusion or unusual clarity or remote, unreal sadness. When we reach the Long Players we’re ready for crescendos, the pace and mood heightens, and the pieces take off.

It’s not to say I was dissatisfied by the many arbitrarily challenged endings, but unsatisfied, yes. Gaffney has a knack of producing inner qualms in a reader so that he operates almost as a keen opponent as much as the story’s creator. And the humour is as black as only northerners know how, or feel the right to be offended by. 

Like many of my favourite records, by the end I was merely ready to go right back to the beginning; to one of the most honestly tender and evocative pieces of flash I have read in ages, Art Movement. I could almost feel the female character’s hair brushing my own face as I read. Aromabingo is a triumph of the blurring of literary boundaries. Popular ideas, the love of stories, contemporary culture invited by unruly media… rubbing up against a purely anarchic desire to agitate the norm and our political fops and their counter-balances; obliterating the literary purpose with a dose of unabashed comic bravura and honouring British writing with the awkward, self-conscious, yet jagged aplomb it so deservedly needs.

Melissa Lee is a Northern UK writer of poetry, drama and fiction, and a member of The Fiction Workhouse.

Melissa's other Short Reviews: Elizabeth Baines "Balancing on the Edge of the World"

Jason Brown "Why the Devil Chose New England for His Work"

Delmore Schwartz "In Dreams Begin Responsibilities"   






PublisherSalt Publishing

Publication Date: 2007

Paperback/Hardback? Hardback

First collection?No

Author bio: David Gaffney is a much revered Indie northern writer whose first  collection, Sawn-Off Tales, received such acclaim as to secure its place in the wider literary world. Gaffney was born in West Cumbria, was educated in Birmingham and now lives in Manchester.

Read an interview  with David Gaffney

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The Publisher's Website: Salt



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If you liked this book you might also like....

Roald Dahl "Completely Unexpected Tales", "Tales of the Unexpected" and "More Tales of the Unexpected" 

Alan Bennett "Talking Heads"

Vanessa Gebbie "Words from a Glass Bubble"

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