DOCTOR CUCKOO by Douglas Thompson


“To be banished from the Eden of your mother’s body for no conceivable sin of your own? To be supremely innocent, and yet to be nonetheless punished, condemned to the long punishment of life, without trial or explanation?”

This is a classic! Unmissable! I’m so glad I set up the catch-all gestalt of a ‘Single Story to a Novel Universe’ conduit so as to catch stories like this story, one that I would have otherwise missed, because it is difficult for personal reasons to review the whole book that contains it. It represents the essence of the pessimism of Ligottian Anti-Natalism now being thwarted, a fact which is preternaturally ironic as earlier today I reviewed Walter de la Mare’s ‘The Village of Old Age’ (here) that confirms Anti-Natalism rather than thwarting it. But both stories, in their own ways, perhaps paradoxically, confirm and thwart it at the same time, but from different directions…


This work stems from the ostensibly insane testimony of a trans man or woman who is also a trans bird and human. Yet is it so insane, whatever separate testimonies surrounding it indicate? It even has moments of joking  with a bird’s nest hairstyle of a government minister. It even seems to obviate Bird Flu, that may have become more paramount since it was written.

This narration of these testimony-surrounded memoirs is couched as a story with titled chapters and  perhaps represents a transmogrification of some authorial entity into what is described and felt, i.e. the author’s words have shape-shifted into the actuality of their meaning? It is utterly powerful and I am spoilt for choice in quoting prime examples from the text, so I will keep these to a minimum. It depicts a doctor who could say “I took so little from them, but gave them back immortality. I watched their dreams take flight, often with a wistful tear in my eye, and a scalpel in my hand.” And the layered coquettish eyelids leading later to “The fields all like patchwork quilt, the roofs of the nearby hamlets like the eyelids of noble peasants, plunged in dignified sleep.” And when the reference to ‘Sing a Song of Sixpence’ turned up, I seriously felt that I had died from some form of  literary overdose! I really did.

“Bird birth seems better. What must it be like to be a chick inside an egg, just about to break out?”


This story can be found in the recent Ornithologiæ anthology book from Egaeus Press.

My previous reviews of Douglas Thompson:

My ongoing reviews of single stories by living authors as part of ‘The Single Story as the Novel Universe’ project :

THE DISSOLVING MAN by Douglas Thompson 


NIGHTJAR PRESS 2022 (my previous reviews of this publisher HERE)

“A colossus of Rhodes made of grey Meccano, all mad gantries and trusses and ladders.”

Honestly a major story for our times, from the narrative vantage point of that Glaswegian crane, as well as wearing all the threatening Done men merging or dissolving as one [resonating HERE].  “Thus, he hated himself. So, I am quite sure, did Hitler.” All those Bodgers, Trusses, Trumps and Stammerers…. A story here of a singular meddler who actively meddles himself into passive quarried manipulations. As perhaps we all vainly do.

“Nothing less, nothing more. Oil, the reason for all our endless meddlings in the Middle East.” 

And a merging or dissolving of all those political so-called leaders , as conveyed by this compelling story of a policeman coping with all the plots, conspiracies, deep states, as well as losing a dear wife by his desire for a woman meddler celebrated by the TV screen everyone watched. 

On a dissolvingly different  level this work is being spread over time’s history, and becomes a spookily memorable crime story of what our narrator sees as a crime-collusive  man dissolving and undissolving, not as a Wellsian Invisibility  but something far more complex and frightening as part and parcel of the crimes and corruption in a staggering portrayal of the physical city of Glasgow which needs to be read and have its tags tattooed inside you. And a highly believable self-portrait of the narrator  himself in a conjunction of vain tension  with such subsuming factors being factored in.

“We can only be sure of our existence in relation to others, how they reflect our light back.”


My many previous reviews of this author:

Best British Short Stories 2021



Edited by Nicholas Royle

My previous reviews of Nicholas Royle: Salt Publishing: Best British Short Stories:

Stories by Tom Bromley, Yasmine Lever, Meave Haughey, Simon Okotie, AJ Ashworth, Uschi Gatward, Emma Bolland, Gary Budden, Mel Pryor, Hilaire, Alice Jolly, Julia Armfield, Roberta Dewa, John Foxx, Jen Calleja, Douglas Thompson, Isha Karki, Matthew Turner, Josephine Galvin, Iphgenia Baal.

For anyone interested in modern short stories, I would be grateful if they could please mention to others my endless journey into the stories of Elizabeth Bowen whom I consider to be the greatest experimental and traditional pioneer of these. I don’t think any reviewer has travelled such a public journey before, with amazing discoveries along the way, including her many elBOWs! This includes her collected, uncollected and once previously unpublished stories. I am currently about two shadowy thirds through this literary adventure, and it started here:

My real-time review of BBSS 2021 will appear in the comment stream below in due course…

Nightscript #7



Edited by C. M. Muller

My previous reviews of Nightscript and C.M. Muller:

Stories by Clint Smith, Joshua Rex, Douglas Thompson, Timothy Granville, Elin Olausson, Gordon Brown, David Surface, Douglas Ford, Alexander James, Jason A. Wyckoff, Rhonda Eikamp, Steve Toase, Tim Major, Ashley Stokes, Regina Garza Mitchell, Marc Joan, Danny Rhodes, Charles Wilkinson, LC von Hessen.

When I read this book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

The Neo-Decadent Cookbook


Edited by Brendan Connell & Justin Isis

My previous reviews of this publisher:

Work by Brendan Connell, Justin Isis, Ross Scott-Buccleuch, David Rix, Catherine Dousteyssier-Khoze, Jason Rolfe, Daniel Corrick, Colby Smith, Jessica Sequeira, Quentin S. Crisp, Damian Murphy, Douglas Thompson, Ursula Pflug, Lawrence Burton.

When I read this book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…



Edited by Sarah Doyle and Allen Ashley


Work by Paul Stephenson, Elaine Ewart, Gary Budgen, Sarah Westcott, Cheryl Pearson, Holly Heisey, Oliva Edwards, Scott Hughes, James Dorr, Kerry Darbishire, Jonathan Edwards, Tonya Walter, Lauren Mason, Setareh Ebrahimi, Ian Steadman, Kate Wise, Frank Roger, Jayne Stanton, William Stephenson, Sandra Unerman, Megan Pattie, Kristin Camitta Zimet, Douglas Thompson, Amanda Oosthuizen, Lindsay Reid, Tarquin Landseer, Elaine Ruth White, David Hartley, Diana Cant, Mary Livingstone, Bindia Persaud, Michael G. Casey, Jane Burn, Jane Lovell, Tracey Emerson, Jenny Grassl, Kerry Darbishire, Hannah Linden, Ian Kappos, Jason Gould.

When I read this book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…