Asked to review an anthology of writing, A Boxful of Ideas, you might have noticed a hesitancy in my voice as I accepted with enthusiasm. I could not easily refuse a friend, yet the history of reading mediocre writing was catching in my throat. Would it be like that? The answer I can affirm is no. I have enjoyed reading the book, and more pieces than I can mention have moved me.
The concept of a boxful of ideas is a writer’s practice in the opening story by Jeffrey Doorn , which is a charming and useful tale of finding inspiration to write, drawing on memory, randomness, and association.
In Les Brookes’ ‘Yo Farsan, Me Duane’ we are treated to an evocation of the perceptions and thoughts in youthful love, the descriptions are honest and surprising, ‘the sky clear and pricked with stars’ and from a well written and tender sex scene ‘ I watched his face buckle, felt the violent shudder of his release.’.
The Tenth Chauffeur by Elsa Wallace is a crisp, acutely written short story, from a young woman’s questioning viewpoint with a great twist ending.
The Worm Boy by Simon Dessloch is very direct writing, a tough and powerful account of sex on the street, ‘I cursed myself for being a coward. Scared of a pregnant girl. Scared of the possibility of, the very idea of, a pregnant girl whore. How pathetic. How could she possibly harm me?’ Thought-provoking and beautifully written.
There is an hourglass-shaped poem on the journey of a love story by Daniel Clements, a great pattern and shape as metaphor.
Julie and Carol by Alice F. Wickham is a complex story of older sex and love. Carol thinks of Julie and remembers as she goes to meet Lysander. It is written in a sparky and challenging style. ‘She put a finger into her vagina and felt the old slippery sensation. A left-over egg? Her finger, when she extracted it, was drenched in blood. The final thought that Julie Brocklehurst had that morning was ‘Wow, I could still get pregnant’.
Chris Beckett’s poems are exciting in their lines, and he uses the space on the page effortlessly to enhance the pictures and the meaning,
‘knowing he will see the same loved, breathing body of the
behind the gauze of each re-working
adds to his excitement…’
Binkie and the Snowbirds by John Dixon is a colourful but quiet tale of time passing. The narrator describes events through his dog, Binkie’s life, punctuating it with arresting and strange metaphors. It is an oblique yet subtle story of ageing.
Yes, the book is a success, opening us to many styles of writing, all natural and uncontrived. It is a selection that as we read always delivers something different, and the anthology is definitely worth rereading.