Tag Archive | short stories

Dark Love by various authors

Dark Love, edited by Nancy Collins, Edward E. Kramer and Martin H Greenberg, was published in 1995 and has been sitting on my tbr shelf for two or three years. This is a collection of short stories where “there’s no love without obsession…and obsession is the underlying theme of every story.”

Given the pedigree of the included authors Ramsey Campbell and Stephen King among them, readers should approach this book with caution. Some of the stories are downright icky. “The Penitent” by John Peyton Cooke I’m looking at you. That one starts out with the line: “Every since I was a young girl  I’ve wanted to torture a beautiful young boy.” Trust me, it goes downhill from there.

The Stephen King story, “Lunch at the Gotham Cafe” was a new original story at the time of this anthology’s publication. I like King and while this story has much to recommend it – mainly a narrator I believed in – the story was kinda silly. For some reason, I kep thinking about the Muppet’s Swedish chef as I was reading.

My favourite story of the bunch was “Hidden” by Stuart Kaminsky. It would make a great episode of Criminal Minds – more creepy than anything else.

Fans of the genre will likely enjoy this volume.

Fierce by Hannah Holborn

fierce

Truthfully, I wasn’t optimistic about Fierce when I started it. This Canadian collection of shorts stories and a novella features more emotionally and physically damaged people than it should be humanly possible for one writer to conjure. Doesn’t the author, Hannah Holborn, know anyone even remotely normal?

But then a strange thing happened during ‘The Indian Act’.  I sort of fell in love.  Suddenly these crazy, damaged, sad people started making sense to me. ‘The Indian Act’ follows the fortunes (and misfortunes) of Liam, a kid who is shuffled from one foster home to the next until he finally finds a family who is decent and loves him and his best friend, Callie, whose mother just up and leaves her.

‘We Danced Without Strings’ tells the heartbreaking story of a mother coming to terms with her daughter’s diagnosis of Angelman’s Syndrome; a condition which includes an absence of speech, facial abnormalities, a protruding tongue, hand-flapping, jerky gait and, strangely, a permanent smile and easy laughter.  “If we let her,” the mother muses, “she would be happy.”

‘Ugly Cruising’ gives us a glimpse at another kid, Elvin, with another horrible condition: Treacher Collins syndrome.  “He has a torso and all the usual appendages,” Elvin’s younger sister, Cricket, notes “but what he does lack is a nose and a chin and a voice to confront others with.”  Cricket’s family deals with with Elvin’s condition in various ways: his mother, Wanda, drinks; his father, Bing, makes lame jokes and Cricket and her teenage friends apply horrible theatrical makeup and go Ugly Cruising.

The book’s novella, ‘River Rising’ is a beautiful conclusion to this book.  The story follows the lives and fates of the people of a small northern town called Everlasting. Central to this story is River, a teenager who has spent her life mourning the mother she barely knew.  The choices she makes are both inevitable and heartbreaking and, ultimately, hopeful.

Although there were a couple stories I just didn’t warm up to, by the time I closed the book on Holborn’s strange cast of misfits I felt sort of sad to be leaving their company.

Ice Cream by Helen Dunmore

Helen Dunmore is a prolific and talented British writer, whose work I discovered several years ago when I picked up her novel With Your Crooked Heart in the bargain bin. She began her writing career as a poet but has written short stories and books for children as well. Her novel A Spell of Winter won the first-ever Orange Prize.

The fact that Dunmore is a poet is obvious in her collection of short stories, Ice Cream. Her use of language is spare and precise. But the thing that makes this collection of stories resonate is the subject matter: death, friendship, regret. And even more interestingly, I couldn’t name one story in this collection that has a tidy ending. So if you like a short story that wraps everything up in a neat bow- this volume will likely disappoint you.

I don’t know that many writers, though (Alice Munro excepted because she can write a short story about anything!) who could dedicate a few hundred words to the tale of a man driving at night who really, really wants a cigarette. Or tell the deeply affecting tale of a man watching his young wife die. Or the slightly creepy tale of a world where women have their babies through artificial means and what happens to one couple who chooses the natural route.

For the short time you spend with the characters in Dunmore’s stories, you are entranced, mystified and troubled. And even though we don’t always learn their ultimate fate, the stories are enough because of the writer telling their tale.