I have just purchased this book from DarkFuse. It is a sweetly aesthetic, strongly built, pocket-sized hardback with 170 pages, signed by author and numbered 43/100.
MENACE (2014) by Gary Fry
My previous reviews of Gary Fry books linked from HERE.
MY REAL-TIME REVIEW WITH NO INTENDED SPOILERS WILL TAKE PLACE IN THE COMMENT STREAM BELOW AS AND WHEN I READ THIS PRESUMED NOVELLA:-
Pages 5 – 28
“They were invariably enlivened by her presence, like puppets snatched into life by some fastidious master.”
…which is the effect Jane, an attractive model protagonist of our modern times, has on all men of a certain demographic. Here, not yet big with child as her backstory, she is on a professional photo shoot in Whitby to appear on a cover of a book, the photo’s big house setting providing a 1950s aura that is neatly menacing in Fry’s customarily immaculate, sometimes fastidious, plainspokenness of a prose style holding deceptive depths … and I am always a sucker for photos in fiction that are either airbrushed or whatever-the-opposite-of-airbrushed-is.
Pages 29 – 57
“He’d spotted her at an aspirants’ photo shoot in London, one of those cattle markets where the chance of a bid could be ascribed as much to astrology as careful preparation.”
I always found astrology more synchronously useful than careful preparation, myself.
We learn more about Jane and we feel the growing anxiety about both the pregnantly mysterious photo and another more physical matter taking its due course … Or not? The text somehow makes me feel for real that anxiety within myself. An obsession, too, with that word I was trying to think of that is the opposite of ‘airbrushed’ … and how it relates to these matters and to a dark suspense writer for whose bookcover the photo is intended to be used. Are parts of our bodies (inner or outer) capable of being cut out rather than simply airbrushed or, by contrast, replaced, by palimpsest process, without us knowing? – is, so far, a completely nonsensical question I find myself asking myself.
Pages 58 – 85
“Something — in truth a lot — about this comment had deeply unsettled Jane,…”
Nowt normally fazes me, though. Except possibly this book, today, in my current mood. There’s something deadpan, seemingly awful, happening. But, unlike Jane, who changes or simply builds with the words, the reader (if I am anything to go by) is changed or simply built by them.
The book is physically like a miniature old-fashioned prayer book or a 1950s children’s book of verse they have to learn by rote – that significantly adds to my aforementioned mood. Except they wouldn’t have put such a dark craquelure of a child-like shape on a children’s book … would they?
Pages 86 – 112
“— he looked in his midsixties, which squared nicely with what Jane knew to be his ’50s upbringing –“
Plainspokenness with deceptive depths, I started by saying. And by this means I ineluctably feel colonised by a parasite that is the past, an ‘unusual past’ – and somehow it is as if Jane even as a young model (a model for what?) is somehow older than me in my own midsixties…
Pages 113 – 139
“She commonly found herself muttering nonsensical litanies,…”
And having uncharacteristically suffered in recent days with a bad back (honestly), my anxiety is actually turning to dread, as we approach the denouement of what is surely more than just a plainspokenness within a brown cracked missal of intergenerational, interfictional infections?
Page 140 – 167
“…she returned to their creeping history.”
Although, for me, there are a few trite and predictable elements to this denouement, I remain as if paranoiacally ‘enceinte’ by what is hardly more than a long short story in size, entrammelled by its containing book’s physical context and by the author’s skill at a driven plainspoken art as if he, too, was caught by it as well being its catcher. The Catcher in the Lie as well as of it. An ultimate lie to which Jane is born by first being born as an innocent in this story and then giving birth to it as a vicious circle. And I the reviewer feel as if I myself have been photographed inside the book itself, with my hands grasping at the words, wringing out the flow of meaning and of feeling. It wouldn’t have worked so well, perhaps, if I hadn’t read it effectively in one sitting and simultaneously reported upon my conscientious rite of passage with others reading my words as well as the book’s words as I duly proceeded. Even if nobody eventually reads this review or the book, it was important that I actually believed I was thus being read as I wrote my real-time review for my involvement as such an ‘active’, rather than ‘passive’, reader to have been airbrushed in (if that’s not a contradiction in terms).
In my first photo of this house shown at the beginning of this review before I had read the book, you can actually see the slot whence she was born.