Imposter Syndrome



James Everington & Dan Howarth

Gary McMahon

Laura Mauro

Timothy J Jarvis

Holly Ice

Neil Williamson

Stephen Bacon

Ralph Robert Moore

Tracy Fahey

Georgina Bruce

Phil Sloman


When I review this appetising anthology edited by Everington & Howarth, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below….

15 thoughts on “Imposter Syndrome

  1. I Know What They Look Like by Gary McMahon

    “I braked slowly, indicated, and did a U-turn so that I could double back and pick him up.”

    I think I just discovered the concept of what I shall call zAMbies. A plain-spoken Power of Powers ever in McMahon’s work. Needs only to be read and then passed on to the next reader without further comment. You will know what I mean when you read it. A perfect opener also to this book’s advertised gestalt, I guess.

    “There was no such thing as coincidence. I believed that with all of my heart. All the strands of the world are connected, like electrical fibres, running beneath the lives we lead.”

  2. In The Marrow by Laura Mauro

    “She peeled back a flap of tangerine skin with her thumb.”

    Imagine twin 13 year old girls, one of them 12 minutes older while further ahead in the process of puberty than the other, but both with a shared long-term secret place in the woods… imagine their still individually variable semi-belief in faeries, alongside a past contiguity in body and mind… and then imagine a life-changing event in the younger twin’s mortal prospects, and, then in your own bespoke mind, please imagine the potential outcome from the baselines above that I have barely scratched through toMorrow and toMauro; and finally imagine a growing apotheosis of poignancy in a pitch-perfect style. Those acts of imagining will eventually become this substantive story. And nobody would begrudge it the accolade of calling it a classic of its kind. Life-changing literally in itself.

  3. 5CEBD1F0-7A00-4EF4-B030-BBB7AE99F773Who Is That On The Other Side Of You? by Timothy J Jarvis

    “—imagine risking life and limb simply to attain a geographic coordinate, a point on a map! What I seek is so much more.”

    Not necessarily an Agartha who-done-it in the Antarctica of Oates, Scott and Shackleton but more a which-of-us-is-it or where-is-it. A very well-written yarn with echoes of Poe and Verne, seeking Inner or Hollow Earth, where two grizzled explorers variously in voluntary or forced love with each other, are dogged by not only themselves as this book’s zAMbies but also their quest “from crotch to craw” as bolstered by intake of blubbery innards or gurgling gruel.

    “It was another clear day, and overhead the sun was dogged by a hazy double.”

    [cf (vaguely) the novel “Nemonymous Night”, another quest for Inner Earth or Agraska, in fact double quests that start from different entry-points but reach the same core where Azathoth squats.]

  4. What’s Yours Is Mine by Holly Ice

    “…and opened the mug cupboard. I grabbed her favourite poppy meadow mug and my own: three grinning cats, mischievous as Cheshire himself. The porcelain rattled…”

    This dislocating story is a sort of mug cupboard, too, inasmuch as it is disarmingly wayward to those of us old enough to fear that we are already old enough or, if still young, already far-gone enough for our own minds already to be fading or morphing. I do not believe some of the seeming unlikelihoods in this worrying story of a daughter visiting her senile mother and the scars of their past. But I suppose I am not meant to believe it as that is part of its intentions (nor, as an only child myself, do I believe the brother invented for me in a story called ‘The Big-Headed People’).

  5. The Insider by Neil Williamson

    “As a rule, he hates air conditioning. Artificial coldness conjured in a hot environment, the way it makes his body feel like it’s experiencing two opposite things at the same time.”

    A powerful, Scottish-timbred bifurcation, involving a business meeting in Pisa, sharp inside-dealing practices and a man twinned by Twitter. If I tell you more, it will spoil this literary fable that packs a punch and deals with sexual harassment in life’s dealings sensitively, too. No mean feat. A story as emotional sculpture depicting a guilt as to what one has become. Indeed, that you have become even more than or even less than just a troll who sits under a bridge waiting for the next gruff encounter.

    “Viewed from one angle, it was a collection of individual pieces but when you moved around it they flowed together into an apparent whole. This is like that.”

  6. Other People’s Dreams by Stephen Bacon

    “I regained consciousness on the 2nd December. By then, ISIS had claimed responsibility, and the whole world had stood in solidarity with the German people.”

    Which possibly means that the bomb is on today’s date (1st December)? This is an intriguing and often disturbing vision of someone grappling explicitly with his own identity, in the wake of a terrorist bomb, and with far-fetched items of “synchronicity” based on the William Wilson archetype and this book’s other themes in Gestalt (this word having been imported – like ‘poltergeist’ – into English, Gestalt being derived from a form of German psychology.)

    “Professor Braten speaks in that clipped German manner that I’ve seen used by actors in afternoon black and white war-films. His office always smells of camomile and hand-sanitiser, neither of which succeeds in stirring any memories.”

  7. Hold My Hand And I’ll Take You There by Ralph Robert Moore

    “There’s a mushroom in my brain, and it keeps crawling around in there, from one ear to the other ear.”

    This is a near masterpiece. Near, because it has crazy bits that are too far away to call them near. Evoking a new view of a theme in Mauro’s Marrow and there is also concept derived from the real word ‘Cicisbeo’ (here in the Moore the Cicisbeo of Audrey is a chap called Bennie), a word that I only learnt about in a concurrent review here yesterday. This, on one level, is a wild extravaganza of this book’s Gestalt, a boy called Noah with the bad Marrow and a girl called Audrey with a Mushroom brain, although the standards of their diagnoses and hospital care in the story treat them with more respect and restraint than these other pickings by me from the story do. There are some truly staggering turns of phrase about food, sex and disease, and the actual positive outcome (as I interpret it) of Noah’s and Audrey’s doppelgängers ganging up on disease and destiny is truly rhapsodic and spiritual beyond any base level. Seminal Ralph Robert Moore. I must pick up his latest collection some time.

  8. The Wrong House by Tracy Fahey

    “The coffees of the day return to haunt me; I can almost see the brown liquid pumping erratically around my body.”

    An affecting refrain, incantatory and relentless about the eponymous house. A man beset not only by everything in his life being wrong (except perhaps the co-worker he has a few pints with in a pub), his family wrong, even small things wrong like the position of a cereal package on the kitchen table… I imagined even the author, this fiction’s skilful architect, desperately swilling coffee (or even beer!) wondering whether this was the Wrong Story, even while writing it. However far he or she could trace…

  9. Little Heart by Georgina Bruce

    “She wanted to break a house in half. Tear it apart in her hands.”

    ‘Wrong mother’ in the ‘picture house’

    “the wrong mother washes up on the beach, and follows the wrong man to the wrong house.”

    “; everyone’s voices streamed in distorted bubbles towards a surface she could not break.)”

    A counterpart to this book’s previous story that might have been the Wrong Story of the Wrong House. However far he or she can trace.
    Once a counterpart, now a cut-up, with phrases and sentences from this story. A cut-up installation, too, of a video of a celluloid black and white cinema film starring the female protagonist’s mother. A film that was so significant to the interpretable hang-ups and breaking of – or breakages by – this protagonist daughter who is also today a teacher of students.
    A cut-up of dream and celluloid implicating the protagonist’s father who called his daughter Little Heart, implicating him as the nightmare forged by such a cut-up. This is a complex, compelling story, and I dare not even attempt to interpret its past as fiction, nor re-tell it, as the story itself does call out the past as a fiction that can be misinterpreted, whether it be rape (explicitly mentioned) or something far more intangible… Dare not implicate myself in the evident strong and personal memories of the protagonist. It is powerful enough a reading experience without my breaking its eggshells to reveal more, something I fear I already have done without knowing. My real-time review that is also a cut-up, a cautious performance in black and white words upon the screen that is the Internet.

  10. ‘Dare not implicate myself in the evident strong and personal memories of the protagonist,’ I said above.

    Virtually Famous by Phil Sloman

    “Interpretation redundant.”

    “He grew up in front of the American public, going from baby-faced sweetheart to teenage heartthrob only to fall from grace before them too.”

    I thought at first this was a natural follow-on to the celluloid of Bruce – cut-up there and now eventual real cutting up as flensing, here, too. An audition of beefcake near-clone actors for the next film to be cut-up or art-installed. But there my interpretation stalled. I did mention the Internet in my review for the previous story, but now it goes into its power to the Nth degree. This actor with a backstory now stars in not only a story that is a coda to this important gestalt-anthology but also this story is this book’s (now in hindsight) inevitable apotheosis.
    “Oversized spotlights faced into the space like miniature suns burning brightly in the dark.”
    Not necessarily beset by that spacey space, or that interpreted Weinsteinery, although the actor has his hair stroked by the impresario with sausage fingers at the end, or as near the end as we can get. But more a massive A.I. Virtual Reality Game that will immerse you in it to the extent that you feel at one stage you will never cut yourself out of it. To the backdrop of an incantatory refrain: “Which one is me? Which one is me? Which one is me?”

    Note my bold. And it is me who did it.


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