Saturday, 21 February 2009

Clare Wigfall

One of my favourite short story writers, Clare Wigfall, has been interviewed in the Swansea Review

She answers some very interesting questions about her collection The Loudest Sound and Nothing, and the short story as genre. I love this:

'I feel in a way that your safety net is taken away, because when you write a short story you’re relying on an unknown quantity: your reader. With a novel you have the space to fill in all the gaps, with a short story you’re forced to leave these for your reader to complete. I believe this is why the very best short stories can haunt you long after you’ve read the concluding line, because so much of the experience is not just about the words on the page, but is individual to you and the way your own brain interprets and digests what you’ve read. There’s something magical about that.

And here's a copy of my review of The Loudest Sound and Nothing originally published in Transmission.


The breadth of these short stories is breath-taking: Clare Wigfall seems to be able to place a story perfectly in different eras, social contexts and place. She writes authentically in distinct voices and from differing perspectives: the Scottish vernacular of Peigi NicFionnlaigh in The Numbers, the Dallas drawl of Bonnie in Folks Like Us, and the upper class voice of a London socialite in the 1930s in Hero I Have Lost. We are taken to Arizona, Andalusia, an isolated Scottish island, a besieged Paris

Each story is rich with evocative sensory detail. The girl in On Pale Green Walls slips a dead bird embryo into her mitten. Enid Tythe in Norway walks away from her house and observes it from a distance: “there was an oddness to it, a sense of detachment to watching her home javascript:void(0)from such a distance, like looking through the tiny windows of a dolls’ house.” In The Occularists Wife, in Monsieur Pontellier’s shop of eyeglasses “the very air is shot with jewel-like colour”; yet behind the shop “the corridor is dark and the tunnelled effect of the lighted doorway in the distance reminds her of looking down a child’s kaleidoscope.”

I found the whole collection astutely observed. Some details are almost self-contained poems: “She is walking a squall of small Maltese dogs. Johannes counts at least six of them undulating about her feet, their short legs concealed beneath long fur. They remind him of Hokusai clouds, or it could be waves, maybe even snow for a second or two he can’t see them as dogs anymore, only the crash and curl of snow-white surf in a Japanese print.” (The Parrot Jungle.)

Each story opens out slowly as we read it, as though it is happening to us. There are subtle mood shifts, characters observe each other, and small moments are captured between them, very private moments. I needed time for each story to sink in after I read it, as there is so much depth in the writing, and each story deserves to be savoured before moving on to the next.

The Loudest Sound and Nothing is a brilliant first collection from Clare Wigfall, and a real find for Faber. I can’t wait to read what she writes next.

1 comment:

Megan said...

Completely agree Annie - this collection is stunning. Your review is spot-on