Carter’s first collection of short stories, covering themes of loss, and telling dark edged fairie tales without cosy happy endings.
The Loves Of Lady Purple has its own review. Other stories are reviewed and summarized here.
A SOUVENIR OF JAPAN A woman with a head full of romantic notions and finding joy in the spectacle of a Japanese town carnival fireworks display meets a sullen, seemingly bored Japanese man, for who romance means tragedy and a love doomed to end in grief. In his culture, fairy tales in death, rather than happy ever afters. The narrator realizes they are poles apart in their beliefs.
THE EXECUTIONER’S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTER In a town of mutated people spawned from generations of incestuous relationships, only one family seems unaffected. The executioner, his son & daughter. Discovering the children enjoying incest, the executioner has his son executed, but he himself is committing incestuous rape on the girl, and he is above the law. The girl knows she will never escape her fate, and pines.
THE SMILE OF WINTER A lonely woman reflects on the coming of winter in a fishing village where the women wait for heir husbands coming home from sea with the catch.
PENETRATING TO THE HEART OF THE FOREST In a beautiful primordial forest that seems utopian and perfect, two youngsters explore further and further, only to find a tree with strange fruit – yes, it’s an Adam & Eve story.
FLESH AND THE MIRROR – Another lament for the illusion of youth and the illusions we se in seeking love. The mirrors lie to us or tel us the cold hard truth about ourselves.
MASTER – A big game hunter travels to Central America to hunt Jaguars. He barters for possession of a slave girl from a tribe who worship the Jaguar, and as he wipes out the big cats for sheer fun, the girl he repeatedly rapes begins to mutate into a cat, and also to learn the secrets of his rifles. A clever study of the balance between primal savagery and the cruelty of human skills with firearms.
REFLECTIONS A very scary tale and unusually for Carter, one with a male hero, and villainous women. A man is wandering through some woodland, when he finds a mysterious heavy sea-shell, hundreds of miles from the ocean. Picking it up with difficulty, he is immediately assaulted by a pretty girl carrying a gun, and accompanied by a fierce dog. The girl leads him at gun-point to a large house, where a woman’s knitting spills down stairs and totally covers the floor. The knitter is a hideous witch, who seems to have both male and female genitalia. She is the gun girl’s mother, and orders the girl to throw the shell into the mirror, through which it plunges into another world.
The hero is then forced to enter the mirror world, and the girl, Anna (her palindromic name is used with some ingenuity), goes with him through the mirror house into a reverse image of the forest, (a dark, negative version of itself). Here the girl rapes the man, but he takes her gun, killing her and the dog, and goes back through the mirror, killing the Mother too, who cackles at him that he is death. He sees the reflection of his new murderous self in the mirror and clearly freaks out over what he might have become.
ELEGY FOR A FREELANCE A group of neo-Bolshevik revolutionaries in a future set London, live with a slum landlord, and plot the assassination of a British politician. The narrator’s lover spoils the plan by killing the landlord, for money or in a fear driven practice-run for the assassination dreamed of. The team, including the killer’s lover, decide to hang him, oblivious that the revolution has taken place while they have allowed their private troubles to blind them to reality.
An eclectic collection of stories in varied styles, but always very readable and entertaining.
© Copyright. Arthur Chappell
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