This year’s prose fiction anthology contains twenty-eight broadly ranging stories from a Princess who wishes to be a Private Detective to a man who is beyond this world imagining how his ashes will be cremated and cast across the sea. The reader is taken on a journey around the world, introduced to different places, different cultures and very different characters. It is this diverse way of perceiving the world and the expression of these different perspectives through the imaginative creative writing process that makes for an outstanding collection of stories.
Something which is wonderful about an anthology is the changing style of voice from writer to writer. ‘The Thaw’ by Jess Lowry tells the tale of a farmer who loses one hundred sheep in a snow storm. The reader is kept back throughout the story, never fully knowing the interior of Faustus Smith, the closest the reader gets is in sharing his flashbacks of a memory where he hits a deer while driving. Yet the narrator leaves us wondering if there was more to this story and character than we are told, through Smith’s conviction of repeating “It was a deer…It was only a deer.”
As an anthology by writers who are studying the creative writing process many of the stories touch upon this process and the formation of art. One very clever and unusual story in its style is ‘How to begin a Short Story/Garage Sell’. It begins with the first line of the story and then the critical taking apart by the writer who changes it and then changes it again. The chatty witty style of the analysis makes for a fascinating insight into the writer’s thought process of reaching that point of ‘good literature’, “The Writer knows this is a good usage of metaphor” to scrapping it completely and “The Writer also now hates the snow metaphor”.
One of the most overwhelming themes of the anthology is change, how characters experience change in their lives and how others deal with change. One such story that expresses this is ‘The Inhabitants’ by Collete Sensier. A feral child is being observed by a doctor and others, she is wild and those round her fail to understand her, seeing her as practically unhuman, “I’m sure she is a demon”. The interesting point made with this story is that although she has been taken from her world and is in a new environment, she won’t change but continues to be animalistic, whooping “like monkeys calling to each other” while “dancing a jig on the roof” and then escaping. This story points to the idea of accepting change as a very developed attitude that only some master in life, whereas this child, the furthest from reasoning, refuses to change.
The refreshing thing about this anthology is that the writers don’t shy away from events that really happen in people’s lives. This collection of stories are about life and the immense experiences everyone faces, ordinary or extraordinary, both equally as powerful.
The satisfying thing about this anthology is that it doesn’t just demonstrate good writing complemented by clever techniques, it is also most definitely an easily enjoyable read.