Ten Journeys
by Various Authors

Legend Press
2010, Paperback
Part of the series of " The Short Story reinvented" anthologies
Book Website

Authors Guy Mankowski, A.J. Kirby, Anne Devereux, Dave Foxall, Alistair Meldrum, Ari O’Connell, Paul Burman, Josie Henley-Einion, Cassandra Parkin and Brendan Telford

"They invited you in, you're sat right here on the Money train with the crisp linen napkins and the bottles of champagne. Just a few stops. Just a few stops and then, I swear, I'll get off. "

Reviewed by Pauline Masurel

These short stories are generally on the longer side of short, being in the 7,000 – 10,000 word range. Consequently, you have the chance to settle into the voice of each of the authors and travel with them. Interestingly, almost all are told in the first person person by a narrator who is involved in the story, even Dear which is a series of (unsent) letters. Perhaps this concentration on personal, conversational narrative apes the travel writing genre, where we expect our narrator to be part of the landscape and to interpret it personally rather than in the impersonal third person of a travel guide.

In most other ways the book's title seems little more than a "McGuffin". These are no more stories about journeys than they are about any other thematic aspect of life. You might equally well have titled this collection 10 Deaths or Memories and Betrayals. But the journeying hook has worked as a launchpad to produce an entertaining, well-written collection with plenty of surprises and intrigue. This book is the fifth in Legend Press's series "The Short Story Reinvented". To my way of reading, this tag-line is something of an over-statement for 10 Journeys, given that only some of these stories are novel or experimental in form, voice or content. Perhaps "The Short Story Revisited" would be more appropriate description in this case?

The journeys featured are often metaphorical or, alternatively, the physical travel portrayed is an incidental backdrop to the internal journey taking place. The stories are rarely travel pieces in the sense that they're revealing new landscapes and cultures, more often someone is encountering an alien situation within a world around them that otherwise appears quite commonplace. For example, in The New Head of Deaths, Alistair Meldrum depicts a man who takes up this appointment just after the death of his ex-girlfriend. He's worked for the same company before, but now he sees it in a new light.

Interview #17 by Cassandra Parkin is "a fable of the streets, a true morality tale for our times: a story every wet-behind-the-­ears starry-eyed idiot ought to hear, at least once. This is the story of a man who managed to get himself a ticket for a ride on the Money Train." I revelled in the pizazz of her street-dwelling narrator's point of view. Assertions such as "Cows can be quite attractive, you know, in a big-tits-long-eyelashes kind of a way" made me smile.

Dave Foxall's I'm Afraid to Fly manages to combine a plane flight with a man's memories of his marriage and a recipe for winter chilli. It sounds rather tasty – the recipe that is. The tale ends with an extraordinary twist that I'd defy any reader to predict. However, this might be because it's just a tad too extraordinary to quite ring true without prior warning in a story this naturalistic. But don't take my word for it, make a trip to the ending yourself and see what you think.

"Time, like distance, is not a constant, whatever they teach you in school" (Paul Burman – At The Rawlings' Place). Some journeys in space are also journeys in time. In particular, the Curious Case of Jenni Wen by A.J. Kirby. A dawning realisation regarding its chronology makes for an interesting journey for the reader, even if it's not the first time that this path has been traversed in literature. Anne Deveraux's story What If You Slept also questions our perceptions of time and reality.

This collection does get out of its cars, planes and gravy trains, to see a bit of the world. Angel Wings by Brendan Telford is set against the backdrop of the extraordinary journeys of monarch butterflies. Ari O'Connell's story Ukini Nageni is about a girl who travels from Australia to become a bargirl in Japan, not something she planned.
"It grew up around a goodbye I couldn't speak, the way flesh encircles an embedded splinter of glass. You feel it but its hidden....My hometown is full of light and heat and room to breathe but I couldn't find room for my grief. So I packed my life up tight. I moved fast, so it couldn't keep up."
However, it turns out that the protagonist isn't the only one who decides to run away.

If you're seeking reading material for a journey of your own then this book may be just the ticket for you to escape with.

Pauline Masurel  travels more than she once did. She read this book on a flight to Africa. One of her stories, set in Sicily, was runner-up in the Chapter One 2010 International Story Competition and her audio story The Colour of Infinity accompanies a journey around Staple Hill, South Gloucestershire. .

Pauline's other Short Reviews: Erin Pringle "The Floating Order"

Jim Crace "The Devil's Larder"

Mark Budman, Tom Hazuka (eds) "You Have Time for This"

Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities

Carson McCullers "The Ballad of the Sad Cafe"

Jeffrey Eugenides (ed) "My Mistress' Sparrow is Dead"

Kasia Boddy, Ali Smith, Sarah Wood (eds) "Let's Call
the Whole Thing Off"

Ben Tanzer "Repetition Patterns"

Paul Meloy "Islington Crocodiles"

Dan Rhodes "Anthropology"

Frank Burton "A History of Sarcasm
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