The Obsidian Poplar and Other Stories by Lightfall Literary Agency (Editor)
|The Obsidian Poplar and Other Stories by Lightfall Literary Agency (Editor)|
|Category: Short Stories|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: A collection of ten short stories from the people who could well be the new voices in fiction. But forget that they're students and enjoy the maturity and quality of the writing.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 128||Date: April 2014|
|Publisher: Lightfall Literary Agency|
|External links: Author's website|
I'll confess that I was a little nervous about The Obsidian Poplar and Other Stories. There's a common misconception that short stories are easy - something run off quickly before the author gets on with doing the proper job of a full-length work, but the truth is rather different. A short story has none of the luxuries of a longer work: plot development has to be done quickly, characters have to come off the page. Every word must earn its keep. A book can be written - a short story must be crafted. But what made me particularly nervous here was that all the authors are students - and the editor was convinced that there are ten of them who are good enough to be included in the book.
There is a common theme, or themes, within the book - alienation, isolation and loss, which might sound as though I'm taking my pleasure a little too sadly, particularly as some very dark topics are touched on. The title story - by Naomi Rebis - is an elegant retelling of the myth of Persephone, with all that that implies, done with a great deal of sensitivity.
The book opens with Tuesday by Max Gallien and this captures the seesaw of emotions which a man experiences when he discovers his wife being unfaithful to him - and the almost inconsequential thoughts which occupy his mind. Why hadn't she removed her bra? In Logic Lane Jacob Wedderburn-Day looks at the isolation of the middle-aged male by way of an interesting diversion into the purpose of life. There's a particularly compelling moment when Professor Duffy thinks of himself as an outcast from life's feast.
Legacy by A K Arling pinpoints the differences between two brothers when their father dies and they have to settle the estate. The story neatly encapsulates the different values of the men - and the level of suspicion that can surface. I was impressed too by the sense of place which the story gave. Laura O'Driscoll begins An Encounter with a classically catching sentence: I first met Tristan when he broke into my house to get an apple. What follows is a snapshot of two damaged people who might - together - make something of their lives.
I'll confess to having a favourite story - Reflections in a Mechanical Eye by L P Lee. The idea is brilliant - the robot with a mental problem - and the writing is excellent. If I had to pick an author to follow from the book then Lee would be the one. The next story - Folks by Madeline Kerr might have paled by comparison but the story of the Mennonite wedding reception catches the imagination. Kerr has a nice turn of phrase too: Mennonites are born knowing their place in a four-part harmony.
Fergus Morgan's A Masterful Performance touched a nerve. It's the story of a man who is - on the surface - solid and secure but who is deeply lonely. Family, friends, colleagues all assume that he will not mind about their cavalier attitude to him. It's a particularly thought -provoking story. In Aspects in the Flower Garden by Paddy Scopes uses a discarded photograph to examine loss in different forms. Scopes has a talent for the apposite phrase: a woman who had taken a drink of water felt it in her stomach like a puddle.
The collection closes with The Ballroom by Alice Ahearn, an understanding and sympathetic look at the problems of aging. I was pleased by the collection of stories - some are stronger than others, and some will be more to your taste, but none fell flat and I'm looking forward to the next collection of new voices.
For an established writer of short stories we can recommend Lying Under the Apple Tree by Alice Munro.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Obsidian Poplar and Other Stories by Lightfall Literary Agency (Editor) at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Obsidian Poplar and Other Stories by Lightfall Literary Agency (Editor) at Amazon.com.
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