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, 7 October 2017

"The New Uncanny", Sarah Eyre and Ra Page (ed) (Comma Press, 2008)

A themed anthology of stories by many big names (in the short story world, anyway) - AS Byatt, Adam Marek, Hanif Kureishi, Alison MacLeod - and a useful introduction by Ra Page.

  • Ramsey Campbell's "Double Room" was ok.
  • I liked Matthew Holness's "Possum"
  • Sarah Maitland's "Seeing Double" began with a good idea. The development seemed rather rushed and the ending disappointing.
  • Gerard Woodward's "The Underhouse" began well too before becoming predictable in the middle.
  • Nicolas Royle's "The Dummy" had too many Roylean tropes for my liking
  • Christopher Priest's "The Sorting Out" was atmospheric. For a while I thought it was going to be more than that.
  • Jane Rogers' "Ped-O-Matique" has storyline A (about shoes) then storyline B (the relationship) then storyline B ends, then storyline A ends. The End.
  • A.S.Byatt's "Doll's Eyes" was the story I liked most (I thought the dog would die in the end)
  • I liked Adam Marek's "Tamagotchi" until the final few lines
  • Alison MacLeod's "Family Motel" is another good story
  • "The Un(heim)lich(e) Man(oeuvre)" by Ian Duhig contained many fun riffs. Here's a sample - I'd even loved Dad sometimes, sometimes showed it in that man-code, hedged-around, bushido-ritualised way - i.e. totally wordless, a punch on the shoulder for a hug, walking together like chimpanzee males patrolling their territory. Secret, non-verbal communication. Circles and lines. Dots and dashes. Morse. If Inspector Morse is so anti-Mason, why is he father-figure to someone called Lewis, a Mason's name for his uninitiated son, like me? Was his author playing a double game? Was Colin Dexter really Colin Sinister?
  • I liked Hanif Kureishi's "Long ago, yesterday" once the main character was alone with his dead father
  • I liked Frank Cottrell Boyce's "Continuous Manipulation" for a while. The final line was telegraphed.
  • Etgar Keret's piece was easily the worst in the book.

Other reviews

  • Sally Vickers (Many of these stories are accomplished; some, such as AS Byatt's horribly creepy doll story, or Frank Cottrell Boyce's unnerving moral tale ... The other stories were waylaid by the lines laid down by the exercise and tended to confuse the scary or the spooky with the capacity to suggest fissures in the known universe which reveal undisclosed, and thus unnerving but not necessarily negative, aspects of nature - our own included)
  • Anita Sethi
  • Paul Kincaid (A number of the contributors seem to see the uncanny as establishing atmosphere, but don't really know what to do with it beyond that point. Gerard Woodward ... has no plot to develop, so his contribution consists entirely of set-up but no story. Sara Maitland ... fails to find any way of resolving the story ... Etgar Keret ignores the precept of the collection completely in "Anette and I are Fucking in Hell," which consists of an account of what the title tells us and nothing more. ... "The Un(heim)lich(e) Man(oeuvre)" by Ian Duhig (a title that has, I think, rather too many parentheses to be quite as clever as he wants it to be), but by the end I was rather wishing it had been shorter. It reads, to be honest, like an exercise in cramming as many literary references as possible into one piece while telling the story of a student who becomes increasingly unhinged, and since it is impossible to tell whether any of the characters our narrator comes into contact with are real or not, so it is impossible to tell whether any of this is real, or whether we should care. "Possum" by Matthew Holness is a much more coherent story, but it is similarly over-stuffed with references ... the best stories in this collection, by Priest, Campbell, MacLeod, and Boyce)

1 comment:

  1. Dear Tim

    Thanks for this review. You often put me onto books that I would otherwise miss. My 'Homage To Edward Lear' is now available from Amazon Kindle for just £1.99! Its first review describes it as hilarious.

    Best wishes from Simon R Gladdish