Saturday, 29 October 2011
One Man's Opinion: Dig Ten Graves by Heath Lowrance
I feel like I should cut to the chase for Dig Ten Graves. Write BUY IT and leave it at that.
I'm seriously tempted. Let the book talk for itself.
That's easier said than done as there are so many voices here, different styles and genres that will keep you guessing from one to the next.
Heath Lowrance amazed me with the skill he showed in The Bastard Hand, so I was excited and curious about his release of short work.
What did I find?
More shining gold. More brilliance. More black holes to get sucked into.
Lots of these pieces had me genuinely on edge. One in particular had me wincing and wondering whether I could go on (Of course I did. Had to). All of them were great reads and worth the entry price by themselves.
My favourite, though, was the opening piece, I Will Be Carried Away. It's not just my favourite here, but ranks in my top 5 short stories of the year (and those of you who know me will know that I've read hundreds of the things).
It's a superb tale about being haunted by memories, being marked by the tings we do early in life, growing up, messing up and moving on.
Man finds out ex-girlfriend is dead. Memories drip back to him from a rusty bucket inside his brain. There are things he can't remember and things he's going to find out. It's beautiful and powerful and superbly well-rounded, just like I want my short tales to be.
There's something of a theme through the collection, weaving with the 'now you see it, now you don't' thread of an embroidery. It has to do with what is commonly called a mid-life crisis. It also suggests a mid-life crisis following a difficult childhood, troubled adolescence and a mixed-up start in adulthood.
Not that I can imagine a man as talented and handsome as Mr Lowrance struggling with such matters.
There were times in the book where I thought the author had got into my head. Read my thoughts. Painted my own fears onto a wall I couldn't miss. Observed me wondering why alarm clocks and work and routines are still ruling my life when I'm old enough (way old enough) to know better.
A quote from a later piece, a tale of a suicidal man whose attempts at suicide are about as futile as his existence:
"He'd begun to suspect that there'd been no turn, that it had been the road he'd always been on, since the day he was born. If God handed out road maps to every soul about to be incarnated on Earth, he'd probably given Henry the one that traversed all the rocky paths, all the unpaved back roads and quagmires and potholes. The one that led, finally, to a huge drop into the crapper."
With humour like that, the difficult subject of meaning to life is tackled with humour and left for the reader to ponder.