C. G. Menon is a multiple prize-winning short story writer so it comes as no surprise that her collection feels so accomplished. Not only do the stories range across different countries and counties, they cross into the magical real world of myth and mystery as much as the mundane. From Malaysian vampires – pontianaks – to mermaids and magical mountains filled with trolls, Subjunctive Moods is nonetheless a collection that feels very grounded in the real narratives that we use to shape our identities and journeys through life. Continue reading
I found Transit, the second in Rachel Cusk’s trilogy, just as compelling as Outline (which I review here).
The ostensible plot – action, as in Outline, not being the driving force of the novel – is about the narrator moving to London and having her house renovated. Her children are forced to move out for two weeks. Her neighbours, who live below, are aggressive in the extreme – something she was warned about by the previous occupier. She teaches, goes on a date, and visits her cousin who bullies his new wife. This doesn’t tell you what’s actually happening in the novel, however, which expresses a significant shift in the outlook of the narrator.
The distinction between the two novels can, for me, be summed up by the narrator herself who says the following in conversation on a dinner date: Continue reading
I was reading one of those lists – ‘what to read next after watching or reading The Handmaid’s Tale’ – and came across this novel by Lousie O’Neill. Its concept intrigued me. The idea that women were no longer ‘born’ but genetically designed to fulfil certain roles: companions, concubines or chastities. Continue reading
I’ve come to Rachel Cusk late. Having heard so much about her and her work before even turning the first page, I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I found was a very compelling novel almost of absence. It was as if the main character existed only to hear and record what others said to her, as if she herself were only an excuse for others to express themselves and show their best theories and thoughts. Of course, what I read was actually what the narrator chose to tell me. The self-effacement was a choice which I couldn’t be certain existed for the other characters. Perhaps this character was as verbally present as they were, but that part of the story was elided for the purposes of retelling.
It’s delightful to read a novel that has a sense of movement but no discernible plot as such. The narrator goes to Athens to teach creative writing. She teaches, meets some friends and acquaintances, then prepares to travel back. There is no great moment of epiphany (apart perhaps from the moment at the end with the other woman coming to teach screenwriting and live in the apartment that the narrator has been renting), and the dramatic moments fall quietly into the fabric of her days, so that a verbal attack by a student and an attempted kiss from her neighbour on the airplane she flew in on, aren’t the central moments, as they might be, but are instead part of the stories of these other people’s lives who seem to have taken all the drama, all the comedy and tragedy for themselves. Continue reading
I’ll be reviewing Outline by Rachel Cusk in the next few days and have another Author QH interview coming up in July with C. G. Menon whose debut collection of short stories, Subjunctive Moods, comes out in July, published by Dahlia Publishing.
After a weekend with Terence McKenna, Ian Muir Winn takes DMT and not only sees the gods – many of them, most notably Lord Shiva – but comes to believe he is one with the gods, a messiah destined to bring a new awakening to the world through his writing. He is also reminded of a dream he had in childhood about travelling to the pyramids. Continue reading
The novel opens with the discovery of an abandoned baby on a farm in Mazowe Valley, Zimbabwe. An English woman, Natalie, is visiting her aunt and uncle on their farm, riding out over the landscape when she hears the cries of a lost baby that echo the loss she left England to escape.
Alongside her story, and the story of the farm and her family’s legacy on that land, is the story of a Zimbabwean man whose family owned the land long before the white men came and took it for themselves. His is another story of loss and as we read, we uncover his identity, and follow him on his quest to reclaim his birthright. Continue reading
I loved this novel. Hidden within multiple questionable accounts is the story of the One Who Has No Name, the Whatsitsname fashioned from the mutilated corpses of US-occupied Baghdad’s many victims of violence. Supposedly formed by the hands of Hadi, the drunken junk dealer and teller of tall tales in coffee shops, the Whatsitsname takes on the spirit of a bombed man whose body was blown apart and whose spirit was unable to find its resting place. Continue reading
Esch lives with her father and brothers in Bois Sauvage, Mississippi. It’s a backwater place where they struggle against poverty: eating eggs from their multiplying chickens, wearing hand-me-downs from each other and friends and stealing what they can’t afford.
Esch’s mother died giving birth to Junior, the little brother she and her eldest brother, Randall, raised. Their father’s often drunk, his odd jobs not bringing in quite enough.
They like to hang out in the pit, where Skeetah, Esch’s other brother, has found a stray dog to raise into a fighter. There’s lots of money to be had from fighting dogs. Continue reading
They had no idea the old missionary, a woman with a gammy leg, a facility for the local languages, and a domineering manner, was still there. When she moves back into the mission house with them, the difficult situation of managing the local interpretation of Christianity – centred around the need to cast out the devil in nightly vigils filled with singing, young women writhing on the ground and screaming as the evil is exorcised, along with holy water sprinkled around evil properties – is made worse by the additional burden of her presence. Continue reading