Sunday, July 19, 2015

Seven Nightjars


TOUCH ME WITH YOUR COLD, HARD FINGERS a short story by Elizabeth Stott (2013)
Copy 120 of a signed limited edition of 200 copies
Purchased this week from NIGHTJAR PRESS
  1. “The pizza boxes look untidy on the table. They will annoy Tony. She leaves them there anyway.”
    A story that starts almost like chicklit with a woman getting her feet under the table for a future with Tony. Friday was his night for stag dos, Saturday THEIR night. Her looking forward to this particular Saturday night, for which she brings to his place takeaway pizzas … she is halted by a tangible ellipsis, a sudden double-take, and is in for a very creepy ride trying to relieve herself of an onset of horror, not a hard cold pizza, but something hard and cold while cloying as if it is still warm. Jealousy made as if into a fabricated self-rehearsal that can’t be clawed off.
    I was very interested by my first experience of the quality format of this discretely presented short story, giving a ten page work some bigged-up power over you, without impulse towards a gestalt with other such fictions alongside it. I can’t yet explain this effect, in contradistinction to the more normal effect of a mutually cosy anthology accompaniment in a big realbook or as an effete ebook. Maybe I will have more thoughts after reading six other fictions waiting – within this Nightjar-container format – in my eventual reviewing pipeline on this site.


M a short story by Hilary Scudder (2013)
Copy 72 of a signed limited edition of 200 copies
  1. “I crossed the square and headed the way I guessed led west.”
    …which happened soon after she “saw an onion rolling unnoticed on the ground.”
    But who did not notice it? It was as if it was unnoticed till the split second she noticed it was unnoticed. There is a slow motion version of that split second in this resonating story, still resonating as I write these brief thoughts about the second Nightjar today whence I’ve released its genie. A book with a story that has an enormous interior like an emotional Tardis, I’d say.
    The woman (inspired by some Longfellow verse) goes west away from an unhappy marriage, leaving her husband Rolf a letter that exposes her hatred of him. She has planned to meet a man, someone who has swept her off her feet, it seems, a man whose name she’s shortened to M to fit an even smaller book than this. The hotel meeting-place, near the docks (from which docks there is the potential of an even longer journey west as a pilgrim?), seems to have inimical and labyrinthine features. Having encountered another woman called Kristina whereby they share a stolen coat looking like “one lonely fat drunk”, she later rolls unnoticed, like that onion, back the way she came, having been warned against M, and she returns to her husband and her cat Hades.
    A few undivulgeable last lines, still resonating. This didactic or undidactic story is, for me, simply what it is, and that is good enough.


THE HARVESTMAN a short story by Alison Moore (2015)
Copy 73 of a signed limited edition of 200 copies
image“His grandmother always believed that travelling south was easier than travelling north because south was ‘downhill’ on the map, as if anyone trying to go north without concentrating risked rolling all the way back down;”
This atmospheric story is a subtly brutalised seaside scenario, with poignant battles against what fortune brings a young man named Eliot who is renting a downbeat flat from a woman’s boyfriend, a woman who seems to like Eliot…
Well characterised, this story also has various premonitions of leitmotif that, when you finish, you realise in hindsight what a perfect story it actually is. Indeed, it was a pretty good story already in real-time even before the hindsight kicked in.
A creature in a nightjar with long thin legs.
My previous brief review of another work by this author HERE.

SULLOM HILL a short story by Christopher Kenworthy (2011)

  1. image
    “Cloud had closed the gap to the horizon.”
    A simply expressed, but complexly felt, deployment of believable boys at school, one the norm, another the bully, and the third the ‘slow’ miscegenate, all playing themselves as well as roles in a Fylde genius-loci. The bully is bullied by the schoolteacher, in incantatory insulting refrain of verbal ping-pong – later paralleled by the bully bullying the slow one in a similar manner, as they burn tyres and climb hills, mediated by the norm, while watching coastal horizons and eventually passing into a range of inferentially difficult or easy homes or ‘households’ at day’s end, arguably paralleled by mutual interchangeable containers of their own skulls (each a competing storm or calm in a nightjar?)
    The wild landscape of early childhood, towards the eponymous aftermath of the solemn and sullen.

PUCK a short story by David Rose (2012)
Copy 182 of a signed limited edition of 200 copies
  1. “But next to the skull is some sort of pot, seen from above. The pot has been identified as an earthenware jar, a pun on the name Alfred Jarry,…”
    Jars, pots, bowls, pitchers, Longfellow’s Priscilla as a second name, too, echoing my earlier Nightjar reviews, and more.
    This was as if written for me seeking a gestalt from leitmotifs, an extrapolative rhapsody on art, blending textured specific and general painterly references galore letting the real stars through, a countrified escape from light pollution, with birdwatching terminology; estranged marital artists and their singular progeny symbiotically enhanced as well as threatened by art and the disease that is also let through as well as the stars being let through.
    Beautiful and frightening.
THE HOME a short story by Tom Fletcher (2015)
Copy 5 of a signed limited edition of 200 copies
  1. “The landscape has no edges. It goes on forever. There is nothing to see.”
    This tellingly crosses themes with the return of the wanderer wife and the ‘home’ as skulljar, here as TV screen, in two previous Nightjars I have just read.
    In itself, it has a traction of intriguing, worrying build-up, seeing one’s wife on the screen, unable to help her, a ‘jar’ that contains an endless emptiness as well as a claustrophobic relationship. The ending is highly disturbing.
    This is only about three and half pages. I say ‘only’ but it does seem significant that something so physically slight but equally so complexly meaning-full is contained within the quality covers and sleek paper of a single svelteness of container. The overall gestalt works, the story working for the format, and vice versa, something that I have found true about all these Nightjars so far.


JUNGLE a short story by Conrad Williams (2013)
Copy 157 of a signed limited edition of 200 copies
  1. image“You can’t show a child that. You can’t be afraid.”
    Crossing themes with the threatened or enhanced child from the involving-impasto effects of painting as locked in a previous Nightjar of various colours, this wonderful story is of an artist, naive like Henri Rousseau, who lives in the ‘homeskull’ of a one bedroom flat with working-at-home wife, and a toddler son Fred. This protagonist is, for me, physically paranoiac, if there is such an expression. Scared of his own shadow? Overly protective. The eventuality of a jungle adventure gymnasium to shelter from the rain with Fred, as crossed with a nightmare version of the first painting he had not been able to sign, makes a fitting climax to all seven reviews of Nightjars I have just conducted one by one in real-time.
    imageI fondly remember sharing with this author the story contents list of a horror fanzine called ‘Dementia 13′ in the late 1980s.



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