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, 30 June 2018

"How the light gets in" by Clare Fisher (Influx Press, 2018)

61 stories spread across 165 pages. Pieces range from 5 lines long to 7 pages, though I think only 3 are shorter than a page. The collection began life as part of a live art installation, reviewed at thestateofthearts.

The most common topic is "insecure people in recovery". The writing's not literary, nor are the characters - "placid" (p. 131), "leaping into the uncomfortable groove of routine" (p.154), "discern" (p.154), etc sound out of place. Sometimes, not often, there's dialect.

Several pieces are lists - "dark places to watch out for" is in 5 parts, each part a list. "trying" is a list. I don't mind lists, but I think they're a rather forgiving form - the odd weak item won't break the whole piece. A few pieces are character studies of people who aren't in other stories -

  • "the other lady of the night" - a container-imported call-girl
  • "how to talk about potholes" - a father, widower for 9 months, obsesses about pot-holes. At least now we've something to talk to him about, thinks his daughters. But then he starts a web-site about potholes.
  • In a rare escape from realism, Richard III comes back to life and decides it's best to remain incognito

"more than lunch" is long enough to be closely plotted - the protagonist, "you", is walking across a car-park with her husband. As a youth she got up to all sort of things there. Her parents-in-law are behind. They're going to a smart restaurant. Shje wonders how she ended up in this situation. But where's their little daughter? Mother finds her imagining being a princess - "she is only six, but already you can see it - the hunger in her eyes for something more than Sunday lunch" (p.172). "no further than a selfie stick" is longer too - a boy and girl brought up as siblings discover when their mother dies that they're unrelated, and have an affair.

Overall I felt rather frustrated by the pieces. Many had a line or two which I liked (see below) but few stuck in the memory. I prefer the longer pieces. I liked "something else" though it's a bit heavy handed, and "one woman's love". I liked the ending of "the guardian of travellers". I didn't like "mistakes" or "discovery in the dark".

  • "The drink leached our conversation of significance - universal or otherwise", (p.61) - sounds out of register.
  • "The derelict warehouses around the canal, and the darkness in their bellies, and the way their windows, distill the sun and the moon with equal finesse ", (p.65)
  • "I'm gonna show that bastard I'm not like all the other slags at Yates or whatever he said because I know he said he never said that but he did", (p.66)
  • "your face flash-flooding with emotion", (p.81)
  • "I'm pissed off, he'd say, flapping his arms, as if, he thought, on one of the many occasions he replayed this and every other significant and insignificant moment of their relationship in a neverending quest to decide whether or not to break up, he was trying to take off", (p.94)
  • "User BJ45 found Unknown User CrabbyCakes crying in the disabled toilet, but that she wasn't crying about her pregnancy, but about her cat, which had recently died", (p.99)
  • "Everything would be much easier, for you, for me, for us, if I just turned into your phone", (p.110) - I suspect several characters in the book have that thought.
  • "Those mornings when the prospect of the day is like a morbidly obese man sitting on your stomach, stubbornly refusing to let you get up and get on with your life", (p.126) - one of the weak items in a list
  • "you rush for your iPhone, click-click-click, but it's no use; the lens can't capture the play of light against the time-nibbled brick ... Nope, this is just a sunset, not a #sunset", (p.135)
  • "No matter the tongue-in-cheek and cheek-in-tongue self-help books", (p.143) - I don't get that
  • "Some people will step over us, others will laugh, and maybe, if we're very lucky, some might take a few seconds out of the day they've got planned, that perfect day forever shimmering on the horizon, and help us out", (p.179) - typical of the low expectations and self-esteem of many of the characters.

Other reviews

  • fiendfullyreading (a book that can be read in the kind of scenarios the characters are shown to be—on transport, during a lunchbreak, whilst unable to concentrate, etc)
  • Shoshi (Fisher does not write about generalised isolation, but about 21st century isolation and the small victories in her characters’ lives are more likely to be sparked by online dating profiles or eating fried chicken than any more romantic, ‘time-less’ experiences of nature or society.)
  • fabulousbookfiend

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