Caught by the River deckhand Diva Harris assesses what’s been sitting on her bedside table this month
When I read a book I fall for, I find it very difficult to keep a lid on my enthusiasm. So I’m sorry if I’ve already chewed your ear off about it, but I’ve fallen hard for Eley Williams’ Attrib. and other stories (Influx Press). I read the first story – The Alphabet (or Love Letters / or Writing Love Letters, Before I Forget How To Use Them / or These Miserable Loops Look So Much Better On Paper / Than In Practice) – three times in a row.
It’s really difficult to put my finger on what exactly it is about this book…the wit? The endearing narratorial tangents? The utterly sculptural use of words?
It’s sheer poetry, masquerading as prose:
‘A lion would not baulk at kissing you, toothily’
‘we’re missing an overly busy sky, with a warp and a weft to it. Like tweed. Starlings making a tweed of the sky’
‘today, my eyes are chintz; today, my eyes are tigerskin; today, my eyes are traitors; today my eyes are delft-ware and he’s met them, finally’.
So good it makes me giddy. For God’s sake, buy a copy.
I’ve also been reading How to be Human by Paula Cocozza (Hutchinson) and Fiddler’s Green, an occasionally published ‘peculiar parish magazine’ all the way from California. Both of them are worthy of your attention. The former has a slightly strange premise: that of a woman striking up a relationship with a fox who regularly visits her lawn. He brings her gifts – or at least, that’s how she perceives it. They listen to each other. The immediate appeal, for me, is that the story centres on the confluence of urban life and wildlife. The ‘woods’ behind the protagonist’s house in East London, for example, are really just a patch of wasteland, but are ‘magical for all that – an island of wilderness in the inner city, left to do its own thing while property prices soared and the council forgot it was even there.’ I’ve also noticed that foxpert Lucy Jones has been tweeting about how much she’s enjoying it, which carries some weight for me. And possibly for you. You can get your paws on a copy here.
Fiddler’s Green is an entirely different kettle of fish. Upon sliding it out of its heavily stamped envelope, I found myself thinking: this will either be far too bonkers, or absolutely brilliant. Admittedly, it does belong on the bonkers end of the esoteric interest spectrum. The article entitled ‘Stronger Every Day: How to Practice Autosuggestion’ went straight over my head. In the publication’s defence, though, some of the writing is delightful. ‘Our Bogeys, Our Shelves: The Magician’s Library as Mentor, Companion, and Oracle’ puts forward a palatable case for bibliomancy, whether used for guidance in times of ‘great crisis’, or just for an evening’s entertainment: ‘If our books have helped us grow into the people we are today, then in some sense they tell the story of our lives. And if they tell tales of our past, might they also hint at the next twists in the plotline?’
Aesthetically, Fiddler’s Green is very appealing, and it’s very tactile. It actually reminds me quite a lot of the fantastic Country Bizarre magazines from the 1970s that Jeff collects (and fills our office with). I probably wouldn’t bother if you don’t already have some existing interest in witchcraft and magic, but it’s certainly worth a punt if you do. Here’s the Fiddler’s Green website.