Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

"Furniture" by Lorraine Mariner (Picador, 2009)

44 pages, but many of those are more than half empty. You end up with about 30 pages (a pamphlet) for 9 pounds.

How intense is the text that remains? Consider the following examples

  • After you told my sister that there was no one else but you no longer wanted her, she went to bed and tried to work out what she had done and what was wrong with her and spent the night awake
  • In childhood memories I am never still. Being bathed, running towards the camera with fists clenched, or crashing my tricycle into kitchen chairs, I'm always slightly blurred

One starts a 2000-word story of mine. The other is the first half(!) of a Mariner poem. I think that by midway the poem's irretrievable, though it ends pretty well. I think Lorrie Moore would have scrubbed such a start from a first draft (mine's the second example). Several of the poems sound like beginnings of stories, with potentially promising ideas left undeveloped. I think all the Jessica Elton anecdotes could have been packed into a decent short story. Even when there's a final pay-off, the set-up (which can be more than 50% of the poem) is merely that - existing only so that the ending works.

None of the poems do nothing (though "Adam", "The Bank of England", "From now on" and "Dans le Cabinet de Toilette, 1907" and "Poetry dreams" hang by a thread) , but many of them do little, and most of them have generous doses of inert material. "Bye for now", "Feathers" "Injured", "Many happy returns" are pleasant. My favorite is perhaps "Say I forgot". "Thursday" attracted attention from the Forward judges. It doesn't take off until "ask her which is the best bus". By then it's too late. "Heart" reminds me of Kirsty Logan's "The Rental Heart" in "Best British Stories 2011".

I think this book must have come out far too early in the writer's career.

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