The Myth Of Brilliant Summers
I’ve read some good books this year, but by far my favourite has been Austin Collings’ The Myth Of Brilliant Summers. This is the first book published by Pariah Press and as far as statements of intent go, it’s up there with the Manic Street Preachers first album. Influences are worn boldly and without hesitancy or explanation – Beckett, Ballard, Burroughs, Tony Hancock, Dylan Thomas, Dennis Potter, etc. – a collision of high and low art references fed through sensibilities sharpened as they bore witness to this nation’s slow and attenuated moral suicide. Collings’ book is not long, barely 80 pages of text, interspersed with photography and empty white space, as some stories are no more than a sentence or a paragraph at the most. Brevity is the key here though, as he employs a refreshing economy of words to say a lot, and can capture an entire novel’s worth of expression in a few crisp sentences – “Instinct tells me that things could go wrong here. The death vibe. Kids could stray, or go missing or get lost at a time when the curtains had ceased to twitch”. His territory is that of what remains of the working classes in this country: the cracks in the pavement, the shuttered shops, the litter-strewn playing fields and the failing pubs. His characters are unmoored in this world, looking for shreds of dignity and desire amidst the wheelie bins and the cider bottles floating in the canal. Sometimes they find it, more often they don’t. No happy endings, no light breaking on the horizon. Bleak and uncompromising in its bleakness, the book suggests to me a new kind of prose, one where ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’, memory and fantasy, dream and dread all blur together like a polaroid left out in the rain. For comparisons, look to Ian McEwen’s First Love, Last Rites, Jon McGregor’s short fiction, the lyrics of Jarvis Cocker and This Was Life, the collected writings of George Shaw. Highly recommended. It will be interesting to see what Collings, and Pariah Press, do next.