Men write differently. That’s what made “This Land is My Land” a satisfying read, the distinctly masculine sensibility. As a companion to the collection by women authors, “Came as Me, Left as We,” this book highlights the difference. Whether these are cultural stereotypes or biological realities, the titles alone tell the story. The women’s stories focus on issues of identity, loss, belongingness, connection and romance – the interior realm. The men’s stories focus on atmosphere and action – the exterior realm, hence the title.
Yet for all the differences in style, tone and pacing, the themes are indistinguishable because they’re universal. Winter Light by Henry Mitchell, Deadly Nightshade by Peter Lingard, Presence by Michael Barry, and The Tree by Dr. Robert Clifford all deal with some aspect of love and loss. Rosie the Riviter by Chris Cooke reflects on changes in family dynamics. Rowson’s The Refugee offers political intrigue through the wide eyes of a young man. Grey Matter by John Malone looks at the vagaries of dating in the twenty first century and the ongoing mystery of female sexuality. Michael Mohr’s coming-of-age Tightrope, set along the California-Mexico border, and Tiburcio’s Treasure by G. Loyd Helm, set in the Mojave Desert, both locales steeped in folklore, offer a window into how crazy guys can be when they’re drinking.
In the end, this collection was as feel-good as the stories by women authors. I recommend reading the books back-to-back. Let’s hope Alfiedog offers us another round of his and hers stories this year.
Lori Windsor Mohr 8/9/15
Usually, when I`m reflecting on the book I focus on the story and/or on the author/s. That`s what I`m going to do with this book in a minute. But first I would like to praise the editor for the very thoughtful arrangement of the stories. As in any collection of short stories, some of the stories are stronger to deliver their themes; some are little muddled. Some stories have unusual structure; others are quite conventional. But the strongest point of this book is that if one story has suffered a little, the following one would come up for help. The result – a very memorable collection of good short stories.
Now, come back to the stories. These are my favourites: Winter Light, Presence, Deadly Nightshade, Under the Baobab Tree and A Forgotten Key. There are many ways to describe grief when you have lost your beloved one and have no idea how to carry on with your life. Henry Mitchell in his Winter Light combines reality, dreams and imagination to tell us a story of gentle love which never ends, even after death. His narration is observant, full of music and mountains, snow and poetry. Presence is another story about everlasting love but Michael Barry has chosen very different approach, compared to Henry Mitchell. He is using opposition and contrasts and even very modern technology but the message is the same – when people dedicate their lives to each other they are entitled to live and even die together and at the same time. Peter Lingard structures Deadly Nightshade jumping between the present and past. He declines to give a voice to his main character to make his muteness shout louder than any voice can do. Normally, I don`t like stories in which innocent animals are killed. I`ve made an exception to Under the Baobab Tree by Roger Woodcock. In this story, the animal is killed but humans are saved from starvation. The story is sad and beautiful. Here is one of my favourite passages:
He moved forward cautiously until he was only yards from the animal, his lithe body hidden in the gently waving grasses. The smell of urine filled his nostrils the animal relieved itself against the branches of a thorn bush. Amwali waited his body rigid as the gazelle curled its tongue around the thorny leaves of the bush and tugged. As the animal chewed the young boy was suddenly filled with an overwhelming sadness. This animal too, was trying to survive. But then he thought of his poor parents, and he knew what he had to do.
I`ve got a mixture of feelings about A Forgotten Key by Gerard Taylor Wallace. He is using a rather unusual technique for a short story – `stories walking into the picture` – a technique which is better used in films or novels. It makes the story complicated and very interesting but muddles the themes a little. But nevertheless, this is also a story which I read twice.
To sum up, although the subtitle of the collection states that this is a book of ‘short reads for lazy days’, I think some of the stories can be described as the short reads for reflecting days. One of the best collections of short stories I had recently read.
L Sazanavets 27/5/15
I just purchased This Land Is My Land.
Graybeard (Henry Mitchell) is one of the contributing writers in this short story collection. It’s worth the purchase price just to have Winter Light in print. A nice appetizer to hold me over till the novel is released.
Just thought I’d pass it along.
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