Short stories that will puzzle, perplex, and provoke.
Irishman Hayden’s first book is a collection of 19 stories that invite readers into some puzzling and unfamiliar places: symbolic, surrealist, and language-based worlds. His tales are reminiscent of his countryman Samuel Beckett’s Stories and Texts for Nothing. Hayden’s book might be subtitled Texts with the Stories Gone. “Dick” is drawn directly from the Beckett playbook. It begins: “Dick is buried up to his belly on a cold shingle beach.” Little happens; descriptions of the surroundings are given. “He laughs. He is full of words. They bubble out of his mouth and dribble down his chin.” Hayden eschews conventional plots, characters, and narrative flow for ambiguity and words. Striking images and metaphors and new, compound words—“thatmakes,” “andeverything”—abound. He invites readers to participate, to peel back the prose, reveal the very process of reading. “Reading” imagines readers as writers living in their own books. As the eponymous narrator of “The Auctioneer” tells us: “The essence of the book is another thing entirely, not the words as such but what lies beneath the words, that is what can set you free.” Some stories have a fairy-tale quality to them, like “How to Read a Picture Book.” Meet Sorry the Squirrel—“My real name is Maximilian Liebowitz,” he says, "but you wouldn't be able to pronounce that now, would you kiddies?" He instructs a group of “little darlings” on how to read a picture book. Some stories possess a grisly, Brothers Grimm quality. In one, a platter with the “blackened, smoking corpse of a man” is on display at a dinner party. Another begins: “My name is Leckerdam and this is how my children killed me.” In the ghostly “Memory House,” the narrator keeps seeing (maybe) a stranger in his house or maybe it's himself, a “piece of me.”
Those seeking challenging, nontraditional wordplay stories will find much here to ponder.