This small country’s uneasy adaptation to the present age is charted with varying success in a gathering of 19 short stories written by as many young Welsh authors.
Adolescent alienation and misbehavior are the subjects of Rachel Trezise’s “Fresh Apples,” a dark picture of teenagers idling angrily about in a coal-mining village; Brian Smith’s “Broken Arrow,” a portrayal of violent territorialism; and Cynan Jones’s “The Babysitter,” an arch, amusing revelation of sexual fantasies (true, Robert Coover did it better, years ago). Adult layabouts show how sociopathy really works in Tristan Hughes’s raucous “Twelve Beer Blues”; Jon Gower’s abrasive “TV Land” (a detailed tour of the meanest streets and persons of Cardiff, the capital of Wales); and Niall Griffiths’s efficiently anecdotal tale of a collegiate tour guide provoked into “educating” new students (“Freshers’ Week”). Several more interesting stories explore tensions peculiar to a geographically tiny nation enriched, bothered and bewildered by a multi-racial, multi-ethnic populace. Leonora Brito’s “The Last Jumpshot” riffs amusingly on the culture of pro sports, in the lively, lilting voice of “the first Welsh black who is destined to blaze a trail through the NBA!” Davies contributes a touching, if overly elliptical picture of a cabdriver married to an Indian woman whose biracial son has just died. Ironic understatement is nicely employed in Rhian Saadat’s wry look at a family of immigrant con-persons (“Uncle Mehdi’s Carpet Deal”) and Isabel Adonis’s complex and interesting portrayal of a hopeful writer victimized by a suave West Indian Svengali (“Drawing Apart”). Best of all are Glenda Beagan’s delineation of inherited and feared mental instability (“Messages”) and Thomas Fourgs’s richly, rudely comic reproduction of an antisocial drunk’s eloquent misanthropy: a story with a powerful rhythm and a truly individual voice.
Some clunkers, too, in a mixed bag collection. But it’s always good to know what the Welsh are up to.