14 thoughts on “After the Fires – Stories by Ursula Pflug

  1. Memory Lapse At The Waterfront
    “Before Mum died she used to forget things all the time. I can’t remember what it was that killed her in the end.”
    Dear U, A series of letters from one to another, the same writer and the same recipient, with no intervening replies, giving a rhythm of meaning, a rhythm of life being collected together, about ‘rodents’ that came to check up on us, about the the clutter, about the surfaces upon which the letters are written, the other people named in that deadpan or oblique rhythm, and the tree or more than one tree with these letters about them … or on them. Love, Des.
    ps: the last book of yours I read was fronted with a story with ‘water’ in the title unless my own memory has already lapsed at last.

  2. Blue Gloves
    A cigarette in another story, or a U for Umbrella or Ursula? This is a patchwork story that conveys life as a patchwork of relationships, feeling engulfed by a grey whale, times are hard, jobs hard to get, but a wry humour is a hope of a post-modern art hindsight that makes life something worth experiencing? I loved this story and can’t do justice to it.
    imageThis story really complements another story, one by Rosanne Rabinowitz I reviewed here an hour or so ago. And vice versa. My morning has been made of collections of downtrodden life bits uptrod by words.
    Impulsively, earlier today, I had this slight caricature made of me in a slot-machine booth on an empty Clacton pier (it was too early in the day for ordinary weekday visitors to be walking on the pier in October)… It cost me two pound coins which I now feel rather guilty about.

  3. Python
    “People mill about as though it was the last day on Earth, as though there are no longer any jobs to go to, as though, at last, they can do anything they like.”
    …as though the ice is melting, and this work is a sinuously fluid symphony of blending inverse, often cynical, anthropomorphisms of men, plus general skin colours as well as prime colours, genders, sexual orientations, friendships… While wielding the moon… Surely, the Apotheosis of the Pflug.
    “In the bath she looks at her submerged body, confused,…”

  4. A Dog’s Life
    “people in the television could never see him, / they just told him news of the war.”
    Broken by cannibalising enjambment, this is a very disturbing work where the Pflug fluid identity tropes, as I have come to know and love them, emerge, pass and re-emerge, like the same war does, in a Toynbeean backdrop of rhythm to a human challenge and animal response.

  5. The Exit Sign
    “Paper airplane pen pals.”
    …our grandmothers in a residential microcosm with several floors, even basement windows looking out upon inner pipe work. Top floor people, middle floor folk, lower floor, too, all vying their place or accepting it, and two of us with dinner parties between like up and down Caleb Wilson’s Scree elsewhere. This is my favourite Pflug story ever. Top story.

  6. Basement Alembic
    “I showed you all my old books that I’d collected in my travels, some with the paths of worms etched in their pages like scribbled hieroglyphics. / What do worms know? / Enough to eat books.”
    Like the previous story, the Pflug world is a house or a home, here a sororal Alembic between stories or a theosophical one with a ‘guide’, a guide who is a reviewer or a character in the story?

  7. The Eyes of Horus
    “They didn’t have multicoloured push pins in clever geometrical shapes back then, Pinka thought,”
    A marvellously substantive story about a para-cultural ambiance that one may call the Isis State, where Pinka works for an ornament firm, good at apportioning baubles on a Christmas Tree, but taken back and forth by a microcosm of a commune of friends and colleagues, who drift or focus by turns, conversing with each other, loving each other, sexing each other, in permutations, with roleplaying visions of Egyptian deities as a form of telepathy. Or real deities as a form of a real alternate world.
    “And as they left the dawn lit streets to climb the stairs to the third floor, dragging themselves, wishing for once they lived on the second floor and not the airy eyrie of the third,…”

  8. Ramona’s Baby
    A baby under the borage, this is a dreamily stoical tale of a smelly abandoned woman, undrowned by possessions, helped by an equally stoical fishing-hole man, without intentions, and by whatever help she could get to go shopping. It is extremely haunting, poignant, and I am beginning to see \ what I should have already seen, by dint of the many stories I have by now recently read by Pflug, i.e. that she is a major short story writer albeit one where, I sense, many readers have not yet crossed that retrocausal \watershed.
    Not that I am claiming any special critical perspicacity, but only luck from dreamcatching books.

    Red Velvet Dust
    “In fire shadow Chelsea imagined there were birds, little swallows cut from paper and hung there, thousands of them, like the origami cranes she and Esther and Julie decorated their tree with at Christmas. Who had done that? Cut out and folded all those little birds, hung willows with them?”
    Pinka? But I, too, tinily helped hang a willow with them – and later became the willow tree itself? This story I obviously first read in 2007, and I can’t remember reading it since then, and today I feel I see so much more in it, but I saw a helluva lot in it then, so now it bursts with meaning, teems with it…and it sheds new meaning on much else I have read by this author in recent weeks: vice versa, too. I am too close to it to comment further. But, just as one of many aspects of this story, I have today been able to refresh how to blend already departed people with their continued presence, also how to blend people who have not yet departed with the promise of their future presence. Even self with self. Story with story.

  10. Fires
    “A ghost leading ghosts.”
    A very telling coda to ‘Red Velvet Dust’ (‘In fire shadow…’)?
    A single fire as a gestalt not of leitmotifs as in my real-time reviewing but a single fire as a gestalt of an infinite number of fires, ‘after’ which this book came, hand in hand.

  11. The Tesla Tower

    The Tesla Tower

    The Wizard of Wardenclyffe
    “‘Earth,’ Ada said and started to cry, still missing Yonge Street. She’d have given anything to see a fine blues player at The Colonial instead of yet another theatrical adaptation of a Russian speculative fiction novel.”
    Harvesting the Earth, while living in Nikola Tesla’s City of his Mind, this is an engaging enough fable of some length, yet it seems more a bonus track to this book rather than an intrinsic part of it. It has traces of the book’s leitmotifs of relationship and drifting, posting oneself, as it were, an alternate world or Isis State, yet it seems contrived and over-didactic towards the end, whether Nabokov’s Ada or Kapek’s ‘War of the Newts’….or a transcribed graffiti beyond any fire’s reach ….it certainly has its moments. Unpflugged electricity in the main, though.

    For my personal taste, a mind-tantalising book, and when coupled with the ‘Harvesting the Moon’ collection, evidence of a significant North American short-story writer in the history of general literature, I propose.

  12. Pingback: Recent Reviews and Interviews - Ursula Pflug

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