Friday, 2 September 2016

'The Receiver of Tales'

The first story in You'll Know When You Get There (see previous post) concerns Aisha, a middle-aged woman with a secret. In her youth she fell in love with a young artist whose tragic suicide transferred something - a power, a curse, or both - to Aisha. Now she is seemingly immortal, but also tormented by the woes of others. People tell her the stories that 'poisoned their lives', and Aisha carves these tales onto the floor and walls of her apartment, and onto her flesh.

As a tale about tales, this one is a doozy. I particularly like the way a whole backstory for the 'vampire' is implied but never explicitly outlined. Instead Aisha receives a series of gnomic letters that eventually compel her to act. But does she do the right thing? The conclusion is fascinating and satisfying, with its emphasis on the need for human connection at almost any price, the author's humane conviction that acknowledging our humanity is worth the effort. This is also classic modern horror in its depiction of the paranormal as something that happens on the margins, to people we overlook or find ludicrous, contemptible, pitiable.

Another snippety little story review tomorrow, I hope!

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