Blog: Of Words and Wings
|Posted on June 2, 2017 at 7:00 AM|
Since my accident, I have had plenty of time to read, or at least that’s the theory. But the reality is that with the pain and the fuddled mind I easily fall asleep and wake to find my fingers squeezed inside the covers of a book, often only within the first couple of pages. So I have given up trying to read novels and instead I have been reading poetry and a selection of short stories from my favourite anthologies (more on that later), but even these need a couple of sittings in my reduced state.
Nevertheless, I have found a new source of reading satisfaction: flash fiction. The short burst of an idea, cleverly wrought into a story leaves me feeling at once dissatisfied and alert, waiting for the power of the words to do their work, and they do, often in the most unexpected ways.
When the Emma Press asked if they could send me a copy of Leanne Radojkovich’s book of flash fiction to review, I was delighted. Here was my ideal reading material. Not only would I have some of Leanne’s stories to read (I know a little of her work because we have been friends on Facebook for some time) but the book is interspersed with the artwork of a greatly admired illustrator, Rachel J Fenton.
I began by reading the title story, First Fox. I wonder if a title story is chosen because the author believes it carries the tone of the whole collection – that’s just my assumption, but it often proves to be the case. In this story, the protagonist experiences the sight of snow for the first time. She is visiting her boyfriend’s mother’s house and is distracted from the social mores and testy disapproval of the mother as her attention is drawn through the window. She spills her glass of wine on the mother’s blouse, red wine, in a vivid juxtaposition to the pure white of the snow.
The protagonist takes us into that moment when, perhaps, we too first saw snow – that innocent, childlike, breath-taken-away sight ‘spinning through the light of the streetlamps.’ In the morning, the garden has ‘burst into crystals’. The protagonist rushes outside and throws herself onto the snow, tasting it, making snow angels. The disapproval from the mother, ’you’re letting out the heat,’ - is where the sensible adult world intervenes. This theme is repeated throughout the book – relationships, often complex, that exist in families, or between mother and daughter.
There are fairy tale elements scattered throughout the stories and often the images are surreal, but at the same time they could be rooted in a child’s lived experience and imagination. In ’The bookkeeper’s tale’, ‘Mama brushed the daughter’s hair for a long time. A smile would begin deep inside the girl and grow out of her pores like soft, warm fur.’ This story is given more space – a full five pages. Whereas First Fox is told in a page and a half, and is one of the shortest in the book, that does not mean that the reader goes away with anything less. In fact, the title story acts as a tincture, the essence of a collection that explores the realms of fantastical possibility. The accompanying monochrome illustrations add to the dream-like state, somehow allowing the reader to explore the narrative a little further. This first collection is a joy.
Categories: Broken Back Reading