NIGHTJAR PRESS 2020
Edited by Nicholas Royle
Introduction by Angelica Michelis
My previous reviews of this publisher: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/nightjar-press/ and of this editor: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/14748-2/
Work by Cheryl Sonnier, Matthew Adamson, Rachel Genn, Josephine Galvin, Yasmine Lever, Livi Michael, Megan Taylor, Catherine Fox, Kieran Devaney, Cate West, Joe Stretch.
When I read this anthology, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…
Top storey of picture above is Nemonymous Four (2004).
Nemonymous Six (2006) was arguably the world’s first non-existent publication.
Nemonymous Two (2002) inarguably contained the world’s first published blank story.
I happened to read and review the two Nightjars above yesterday, originally sharing the same delivery of post as this anthology, and, following the latter’s start below today, I can now see the scaffolding and that gradually diminishing house in a new light…
WHAT YOU WISH FOR by Cheryl Sonnier
“When you’re thirteen and your breasts start to grow…”
…and also this telling work shares the incantatory refrain devices of both those Nightjars, here with the diminishing jar with you within it and the growing night outside it. A refrain addressing your second person singular ‘whens’ through a lifetime of ages and the end refrain of each address: the counterintuitively ironic wish to become invisible, as your Dad and other men betray you through your ages. Ironic? Yes, because the way it all ends.
OFFICE-BASED by Matthew Adamson
Office-based, that is, as opposed to WFH. A nifty portrait of a key worker during the first lockdown in the UK, resuming the earlier pervasive second person singular refrain, and here its incantations at outset are acronyms such as PPE. I did not know what WFH meant till I looked it up. The key worker’s tussling with red tape and other special measures made me want to laugh and cry at the same time. To laugh and cry “at the absurdity of it all” and at the faulty device he was made to wear on his face. Better than coughing in your face. The incantatory acronyms, meanwhile, grow sparser, finally losing their meaning and vanishing into the invisibility of what even badges mean to mask. My take on this work, if not yours. No mean literary feat to inject all those thoughts into my thoughts.
Cross-referenced above with the section headed ‘No alien flu bugs’ here: https://elizabethbowensite.wordpress.com/xx/#comment-1181
SEE-THROUGH by Rachel Genn
“He could only recall that his dreams had been melted through a delicious crypsis and he had slept in a glut of all he wanted.”
A somehow refreshingly sophisticated prose of a story, an unfolding of Manny’s many Proustian selves, only a few of which we gather as if readers are beachcombers. For example, his cloying catches, one here that seems to replace the other various women he brought home, his otherwise clinical maths, and his financial proclivities of investment, encouraged into buying this property on the coast. A densely rich panoply with satisfying poetics and some startling turns of wise phrase, with the enticing female pronoun hanging in a bag, and he makes invisible all his Prousts for ‘her’ sake, by tarring up all the light’s crevices in his now lockdown. The raising stanchions of the loft left still not working for him. Ironically, this tarring makes her invisible, too, the only non-fiction in this fiction, now in a satisfyingly and unconsciously restful, inarguably mathematical existence’s tank?
Arguably cross-reference to ‘Chariots Without Gods’ here, exactly simultaneously: https://elizabethbowensite.wordpress.com/xx/#comment-1183 ?
SUNNY SATURDAY by Josephine Galvin
“The darker clouds begin their unfair advance towards our gardens.”
So not so freakishly sunny after all, this particular faulty forecast for this particular Saturday? Reading this tantalising story is like peeking through the curtains at neighbours of a securely gated lockdown of a community of homes, whom you don’t seem to know too well, other than by this inscrutable observation by crafted prose detail. And states of dress or undress of a boy when sun bathing? You even seem uncertain as to their chronology, including the comparative age of this boy in particular when compared to your own length of tenure here, as his father pumps up a new paddling pool for him on this sunny Saturday. Like the weather, the father seems to have changed his mind … about the brand of pool that he leaves through the gates to purchase and then pump up. Like the age of his son. You don’t even know who YOU are, I wonder. And who’s going to inflate or inflame you next? A story’s inscrutable siesta for our times.
“The full story remains untold.”
DEFINITELY NOT by Yasmine Lever
“, like an orchid planted in the middle of a tar pit.”
Or a tarred over video camera lens like the tarred lockdown ironically in SEE-THROUGH above? Whatever the case, this is a compelling turn each page of a young sexual couple in a series of modernised Hopper paintings that belie our ‘streaming’ age, a couple we see originally as attracted to each other, playfully having sex with the help of a video camera. The latter his idea. A story of an eventual sexual revenge porn? But at whose instigation? This story is believable and makes you pick over one’s own prejudices as to what.happened and what future evolving implications later arose as an invisible retrocausality. Some very neat evocative writing. A loooooooong story for this book, one that ribbons or spools out with a fascination for the dust that we all eventually become: the unavoidable triggering of blocked events?
THE PARAMETERS OF FLIGHT by Livi Michael
“Over the years, you’ve turned your life into a soundproofed room.”
Don’t you know it! To match the previous story’s tarred-over see-through?
Is it a cat or something you stalked, here to be more open? Admit, via fiction, what you have thought and pursued, and not crept into a shadow like a shy cat yourself. A prose poem that ends with some involuntary act of denial. You can no longer follow her scent because of the disease that put you here in the first place? But you may now be blind to the last sentence written. A page that not only opens itself immeasurably with its implications but also reveals how vanishingly small its extent of words really is to think yourself within its parameters of unlighted and unflighted praying. Preying preternaturally upon a different invisible ‘you’ from this book’s first story?
THE HITCHER STORY by Megan Taylor
“I take in the brief gleam of the grille of the closed-up Co-op on the corner and another hairy mass of trees.”
An effective horror story, where the driver tells horror stories about hitch-hiking to the 16 year old girl on the back seat just picked up. The identity of each opens the co-opted dream, I reckon, the mutual hitching of the other, the car just a bystander. Thin-skinned as the attenuated angel statues in the cemetery, to get one’s hook in…
And the next story arguably is another hitcher co-opting someone else as herself…their memories as yours, or a summoning of everyone’s childhood ghosts?
EVERYONE YOU’VE EVER KNOWN by Catherine Fox
“Martin Pippin in the Daisy-Field”
My Martin Pippin was in the Apple Orchard, I recall, not exactly the woods, but certainly trees!
This is a wonderful story of one train traveller seeing someone – a stranger whose name that traveller seems to know – stretchered off a train, possibly dead, and the deep empathy one can reach in such circumstances. The towns’ names on the line that one might otherwise have chosen as one’s last memory? Death as the start of a stop-start bus journey from the station, with rain pouring down the blurred windows.
My brief story EM published in 1989 as humbly suggested oblique accompaniment to above story: https://etepsed.wordpress.com/em/
And from ‘Everyone You’ve Ever Known’ previously, aptly now to the next story…
My blog post in 2014 headed ‘James Joyce and Iritis’: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/james-joyce-and-iritis/
by Kieran Devaney
“‘Who is this “us” into which the “I” so effortlessly disappears?’…”
An intriguing story where I learned about Peter Gidal. And about the ‘I’ who writes an article about his film CONDITION OF ILLUSION…
ULYSSES as the original Nemonymous Six?
“Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.”
― James Joyce, Ulysses
“…the distortions of sense are pervasively semantic, making us feel as if the Wake shows us some alternate world, so that we have no way of understanding any Wakean sentence as expressive of anything like our thoughts.”
— Brett Bourbon on ‘Finnegans Wake’.
My bold. His italics.
Starting here is my own detailed real time review of ‘Finnegans Wake’ and its ‘Here Comes Everybody’ (HCE), i.e. us not I: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/finnegans-wake-james-joyce/
From Internet to gestalt? Everybody got their first Internet between 1992 and 1998, it is said.
My previous review of Kieran Devaney: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/07/17/best-british-short-stories-2019/#comment-16678
Us not eye?
THE BLUE POOL by Cate West
“Please can you drop us by the Co-op?”
….which takes on a deeper meaning for this moving story at its ending, especially if there is also factored-in Megan Taylor’s earlier Co-op, one of co-opting individuality into coviduality. The co-vivid dream, “an underworld dream”, that started as ‘dozing’ by the eponymous ‘haunted’ pool as we move towards the ultimate “Wagwan” of this work. As well as that word, I also learnt here the meaning of ‘PCSO’, ‘mandem’ and ‘ket gang.’
A story of schoolboys dare-diving in this otherwise hidden and banned urban pool…
DANGER OF DEATH, its notice read.
“The dead leave and they don’t come back”, even though potentially coterminous with those who belie it by staying and recalling? Nothing was left, it said. Meaning nothing had left?
“Their box, their great common anxiety, what was it, in this grim breathing−space, but the practical question of life? They could live if they would; that is, like herself, they had been told so: she saw them all about her, on seats, digesting the information, recognising it again as something in a slightly different shape familiar enough, the blessed old truth that they would live if they could. All she thus shared with them made her wish to sit in their company; which she so far did that she looked for a bench that was empty, eschewing a still emptier chair that she saw hard by and for which she would have paid, with superiority, a fee.”
― Henry James, The Wings of the Dove
…an author who has a namecheck in…
THE BOX by Joe Stretch
“We’ll nap as the Spanish do.”
‘A story’s inscrutable siesta for our times.’ – as I have already commented above about ‘Sunny Saturday’. The Henry James quote with its box and bench seems to complement this Stretch? Ian McEwan — another namecheck here as well as, separately, someone else’s ‘The Shining’! — wrote a novel called ‘Saturday’, one I once enjoyed …. and ‘Sunny Saturday’ seems also complementary to this Stretch…
A moving stretch of time broken up and repositioned like a collage of Caroline’s life from the same era of schooldays as my own in the 1950s, she with nuns and sums. And has gone through various eras, such as tracking a past lover on Facebook. and grandchildren being FaceTimed at Christmas. Her cancer, too, with which I resonate. The hospice with which I don’t — yet! The periods in between, the state of marriage and non-marriage compared, spinsterhood and widowdom. A vista of interwoven siestas and action scenes, a tranche of recognisable time passing, now in lop-sided stages of aged, debilitated review. A whole chopped-up panoply or gestalt of clues as to what is missing at the end. Just like this story’s pervasive and continuous box game whereby its contents of different objects are spread out, here described on a train journey, with life’s bystanders as co-passengers, and then the contents stored in the memory, like life’s events, so as to provide a guessing-game as to which object has now been taken away? Not the plastic pig, I guess, but this truly great concatenative publication and its fine discrete stories, now become invisible for real!
Cross-referenced with XX here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/24406-2/#comment-15376
I shall now read this book’s introduction by Angelica Michelis for the first time, something which may give me further food for thought. But whatever it contains, I shall not be back here to describe it.