This mega-volume, the third edition of Far Off Places, must be the current best buy in modern creative writing. It is stuffed full of prose, stories and poems. (Disclaimer: I have a story in it, so this may have allowed a degree of unconscious bias to colour my review…)
The theme of Under the Bed has been interpreted in imaginative and inspired ways. There are the frighteners: sharp toothed prose and stabbing stiletto poetry, and there are the odd, sometimes surreal pieces whose authors seem march to the beat of a different drum. They are no less enjoyable for this – very much the opposite.
Kicking things off is ‘The Readers’ by J Johannesson Gaitán, a dream-like story of intense relationships with books. And then there is ‘Contenders,’ which not only makes gentle mockery of abandoned commas and full stops but references ‘On the Waterfront,’ which is a poetic first for me.
The loss of childhood is mourned by Joely Badger in ‘The Space Beneath’ and Pippa Little’s prose, ‘Under the Bed’ is rich with intense imagery. In ‘Shutters,’ Joan Lennon’s protagonist is taken by a thief in the night; whether by the occult or by poverty the reader must decide. Emma Cooke’s ‘Three Sisters’ show no mercy, their cruel taunts seem alarmingly familiar.
Guilt and regret sway in a fugue-induced waltz in Anne Goodwin’s terribly sad, but completely non-mawkish ‘Winnie the Pooh’s Dance Macabre.’ Germinal emotions seem to offer redemption in ‘Frankenstein’s Monster’ by Simon Jackson and in Stephen Shirres’ evocative story, ‘Drawn Memories,’ the narrator finds a very satisfactory solution to the pain of rejection. Liam Holgen’s ‘Ana’ discovers that it is not only monsters that lurk under beds; a story with an lovely twist.
Dave Clark’s “Little Baby Jesus” will make you smile while Seth Crook pins relativity, or something like it, down as he smooths away anxieties in ‘The Regress of Fear.’ Alexander Hamilton, in in a double bill, stays just this side of safe in the sinister ‘Looking for a Bogle’ and makes us (and the kids) laugh in ‘A Poey, Poey, Poem.’
I’ll review the second part of ‘Far Off Places: Under the Bed’ very soon. Meantime you can download the whole thing for £1.99, an absolute steal, by clicking here.