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.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

"only when the sun shines brightly" by Magnus Mills (acorn book company, 1999)

An A6 booklet with 4 stories taking 80 pages. The stories were later reprinted along with some other stories in "Screwtop Thompson", published in 2010. I liked most of the characters and the dialog, but only liked the "Hark the Herald" story. "At your service" seemed especially slight.

Other reviews

  • Leyla Sanai (Independent - of "Screwtop Thompson") (there festers, beneath the superficial rustic English innocence, a threatening undertone, reminiscent of Kafka, of being sucked into a life devoid of free will ... Mills' talent for depicting power-play glitters: the proprietor's fawning attention is at odds with his begrudging words)
  • Edmund Gordon (Times Literary Supplement - of "Screwtop Thompson") (It is not unusual for short story collections to be uneven. But Screwtop Thompson is uneven enough to suggest the limits of its author’s talents. Mills can write about prosaic situations and make them funny, peculiar and addictive, so long as he infuses them with that crucial element of menace: when he tries to do without it, his fiction collapses into the humdrum world it otherwise transmutes
  • Eamonn Griffin (Thresholds - of "Screwtop Thompson") (Both ‘Hark the Herald’ and ‘Vacant Possession’ are narrated in the first person by a vaguely anonymous male, a trait shared by each of the eleven pieces collected here ... The two stories each have two speaking characters. They are focused in time, the stories each taking place over two separate days, and space, having their action restricted to a single primary location ... Formal similarities extend further when issues concerning the stories’ themes are explored. There’s a shared mood, an unspoken menace, in the two pieces. ... Magnus Mills’ work – exemplified here by two short stories, and throughout the whole of Screwtop Thompson, and on into his work in novel format too – is characterised by its constraints: Englishness, routine, lack of information, anonymised male narrators, potentially comic situations with an unfolding atmosphere of unease, manual work and its contexts, inabilities to communicate or to approach conflict situations effectively, worry, self-doubt, small-mindedness, conflict developing as closed systems become entropic. In short, things falling apart.)

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