In Wendy Holborow’s new collection of stories, home is where the heart is vulnerable. Violence, events around the world, family schism and infidelity displace its center and sometimes threaten its very existence. Every once in a while it’s something being born or about to wake up; it’s elusive or taken for granted. But everywhere in the clearly demarcated domestic scenes of Holborow, it is a desideratum.
Ngozi’s eponymous subject is a woman in search of domesticity; what passes for him in his subcontinent search for the camp where she could find her absent husband – absent even though his wife finally gave him the son he wanted – is the daily chore of finding food and water for her and her cubs in a war zone. Yet we have the feeling of an endless quest, the “camp” being an impossible destination, as much metaphorical as it is real.
Compare his fate with that of Theodore Wainwright the third in possession. He’s a wealthy American (the reader assumes) who has everything but nothing, including a bunch of palaces in which he lives alone, except for a “woman who has them.” He doesn’t want anything but he covets everything. His first edition paintings, ceramics and books are appreciated for their monetary value rather than for their intrinsic value. It begins a rapid decline. He loses his house and his belongings and ends up on the streets as Theo the Wanderer. He also loses his possessiveness: even the stray dog who befriends him cannot be coveted.
In Theo’s story of doom (although there is a moral element attached to the character himself on his downward learning curve), Holborow’s third-person narrator refers to the mysterious “They” who are the agents of its decline and its fall – the Fates, perhaps, in a certain cooperative uniformity, and emblematic of a multifaceted series of bad luck. In his cardboard “mansion” in the streets, he may be maneuvering to put his heart in the right place. They may be there to teach him a lesson, unlike their African counterparts, who do not need to impose themselves on Ngozi and his family as humanity has created conditions worse than they could. to imagine.
Even in a story as short as Possession – six pages – Holborow uses the ubiquitous asterisk to indicate that time is passing. It’s all over his collection. Excessive use of the device is often hated by short fiction purists, as it indicates the excision of material that would otherwise make the stories too long. This would hardly apply to a writer like Alice Munro, some of whose stories are more like short stories or choked novels at birth.
Time passes in the stories of Holborow and it must be indicated; but it is possible to organize the material so that the reader has a direct route, perhaps by starting the events in a different place, avoiding the need for time spaces and using the perfect past or the past. imperfect. Just a thought.
Huw Morgan’s life in Moving Through Mountains has to be divided into significant events. The reader is invited to take a look at Huw as he is seated for the last time in the school classroom; marks the death of his mother and father (the three live and work on the Pen-y-Mynydd farm); welcomes children evacuated from London during World War II; and begets twins on the body of their teacher, Grace, who return much later as her male heirs.
Holborow is not tempted in this story of the guillotine opening with a happy ending. Grace has her own war legacy to deal with and does not return with the boys to marry Huw, alone with a faintly beating heart. It is the recognition of this indefinite impulse and his own self-realization that governs what he decides to happen.
This might be a useful place to mention what some may consider unnecessary jerks to the reader’s ease of procession. Pen-y-Mynydd is accessible by a steep climb – well, it’s a hill farm. When Mr. Prythero, the schoolmaster, pushes his way to remind young Huw and his parents that he must start school, we are told that he is walking “priestly”. He later “looked across the trail from Sisyphus to the house” and declined the offer of a cup of tea.
Prythero is only to attempt the ascent once, unlike the task of Sisyphus, whose lifelong punishment was having to roll a boulder up a hill for eternity because he cheated death. This is Greek mythology for you.
But even if Prythero was priestly and classical in appearance, the adverb “august” and the adjectives “stiff” or even “rushed” could have been less cumbersome.
Indeed, it takes a little far from the heart-wrenching situation of the narrator in the story of the title to learn at the end, when she drowns with the baby she killed, that the waves “kill” her lungs as she drowns. ‘she goes to the’ esurient ‘sea. Repeat? That said, Elizabeth, for it is she, is a librarian and, like a fortune teller reading the future in tea leaves, has an anagrammatic interest in any foreboding suggested by new words made from the letters of those that exist – Barrington, his name. a husband’s monster, for example. The concentration of the horrors of the story inside the house and their release into the open air is an extreme form of the dysfunction – or dysfunction – that occurs elsewhere.
In Frieda, a story seemingly toned down by her many family relationships involving death, divorce, remarriage, bankruptcy, newcomer, and forced accommodation, it is the eponymous, octogenarian hippie, named with a slight variation after artist Frida Kahlo, that gets the heart beating more evenly when fixed with adhesive tape.
Words and their slippery nature are a hallmark of Crows Caw in Cwmdonkin Park in which James, a poet, does a Dylan but doesn’t write much. Before reaching the paper, his words may have soared to the crows ‘nests, like the ball thrown upwards in Thomas’ poem “Should Lanterns Shine,” which does not descend, and the ball of the son of Lucy, Barry, that he is more prosaically lost in the bushes. Barry is intelligent and a lover of words, characteristics that might draw James to his mother – her husband ran away – in Holborow’s equally clever juxtaposition of literary allusion and romance. Lucy wrote her phone number on James’ hand. He must have smiled when she did. A little ahead, as my grandmother would have said.
The last and longest story, The Color of Words, is not so much a story, but rather a play in half a dozen scenes – and not so much a play. Centered around Lawrence Durrell’s desperate attempts to get Dylan Thomas and Caitlin Macnamara to visit him and his wife in their Corfu paradise, it also features Vernon Watkins and Henry Miller. Dylan, who died in 1953, never makes the trip. The story has been dramatized, but there isn’t much drama for the reader to care about.
Dylan is described as speaking in his “Welsh tone”. I have to say he still looks to me like a pompous squire from Buckinghamshire who left Wales at the age of ten.
Holborow is a realist, with a down-to-earth sense for genuine and often embarrassing incidents and individuals who, by dint of personality, overcome him. Violet, in Violet Rocks the Boat, is dying but has kept the secret of her son’s “love child” for 25 years and is about to divulge it. Patience and self-control are therefore not the least of its virtues.
This is another story in which a unraveled narrative has an ending that could have been reassembled anyway. Holborow the realist chooses the most probable, which is not necessarily the least interesting.
Dusking through Waves, by Wendy Holborow is published by Lucy Quieter Press and you can purchase a copy here.