Browser: An absorbing short story collection mixing realism, fantasy and folktale

Brief reviews of: Sudden Traveller by Sarah Hall; and The Twittering Machine by Richard Seymour

 

Sudden Traveller
Sarah Hall
Faber, £12.99
This absorbing collection mixes realism, fantasy and folktale elements. The Woman the Book Read is completely realistic, a delicately sad story, beautifully told, of the lost love for a child, whereas M is a fantasy where a girl, abused as a child, becomes an avenging, angel-like creature, eviscerating men who abuse women. The Grotesques features a vagrant, a scapegoat in a painting but also the overwhelmed main character. In Orton, a woman fitted with a pacemaker chooses to have it turned off at the place of her most vivid memories, to which she has returned. The title story is an evocative story of maternal love set in the Cumbrian fells but with a universal appeal, where a young woman is caught between the loss of her mother and caring for her own baby. –Brian Maye

The Twittering Machine
Richard Seymour
Indigo Press, £12.99
We are all authors. This is the argument that threads its way through Richard Seymour’s brilliant new book The Twittering Machine. We are authors of content which many of us are happy to share freely via social media with friends; ‘friends’; people that we will probably never meet, and more importantly, companies who aggregate that content into vast data repositories and use it to, among other things, sell things back to us, the like of which we didn’t know we wanted or needed. Our payment for our part in this transaction? “Cyber-crack”; a tiny shot of dopamine triggered by someone somewhere pressing the ‘like’ button. This, says Seymour, is “the theft of the capacity for reverie” it is a “horror story” - a must read.– David Capener

Where Shall We Run To?
Alan Garner
4th Estate, £14.99
As a kid one of my favourite fantasy books was The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner. It was set in Alderley Edge, near Manchester, where Garner was brought up, a place brought vividly to life in this autobiography. Garner is a giant of British fantasy writing. Here the stories are told with the same compelling, vivid simplicity as the magical stories of the children in his fantasy books. In this second World War childhood he captures perfectly the child’s sense of being at the mercy of a world of greater powers. Against the backdrop of a magical landscape, with real places like The Wizard’s Well, Garner shows a real world that has all the magical markings of the fantastical already inscribed. Simply excellent. – Kevin Gildea

Outlanders: Stories of the Displaced
Seán Ó Tuathaigh
Mercier, €14.99
Here are stories of 10 refugee and asylum seekers whom Seán Ó Tuathaigh met and interviewed, some when he worked in refugee resettlement in America and others when he returned to Ireland. They come from various countries and have endured horrendous experiences. Their stories are told creatively, with great skill and insight, but most of all with empathy and compassion. The story of Tuqa from Palestine combines glimpses of the oppression of the cruel Israeli occupation with insights into the loneliness, frustrations and indignities of the Irish direct-provision system. Iraqi Kurd Hawraz’s story is told in the form of a dialogue between him and a gecko as he waits in a cell-like room in Kuala Lumpur to see if the International Organisation for Migration will resettle him and his family. As of 2018, there are over 65 million displaced people worldwide. Each has a story. –Brian Maye

The Readymades
John Holten
Broken Dimanche Press, €15
First published in 2011, The Readymades went out of print too quickly for many of us to get hold of a book often mentioned as one of the best Irish novels of recent years. Now, happily, it has been reprinted and it doesn’t take long to realise that it is indeed an ingenious work documenting, in every sense, the circumstances in which a group of artists - friends since they grew up together in Serbia - who participated in the appalling ethnic wars that started after the end of communism in Yugoslavia, live creative, if turbulent lives that can never be separated from the depravity of the violence in which they once took part and which both fuels their art and corrodes their unity of purpose. –Declan O’Driscoll

Against Memoir
Michelle Tea
And Other Stories
Don’t be put off by the cover of this book - kitsch, lipstick, tacky print. In fact, this is just another way in which author, Michelle Tea, plays with the reader’s perception of femininity. Against Memoir explores feminism and queer culture in a series of essays, “complaints, confessions and criticisms”. Tea rejects cutesy “this is what a feminist looks like” icons, choosing to probe, what some may consider, less palatable representations of womanhood; teenage alcohol-abusing goths, Valerie Solanas, lesbian biker gangs. The author’s kindness and intelligence is a barbiturate in the telling of a bold memoir that details abuse, addiction, sex and the communities brought together through American counterculture. –Brigid O’Dea

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