MORTALITY by Nicholas Royle


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Love, murder, space travel—Royle rounds up all the usual subjects in this entertaining but uneven collection.

A rainbow turns to solid matter above the 19th arrondissement. A character morphs into a camera while squatting in an abandoned railroad property. An old man recalls his journey around Manhattan in search of the elusive Avenue E. Such is the curious stuff of Royle’s stories, a set of seemingly familiar landscapes made strange. Unfortunately, his tale’s initial mystery is by the end reduced to stale shtick. In “The Cast,” for instance, a soccer player is frozen in midair at the moment of his greatest triumph. The idea of a man freezing with ecstasy is odd, lovely and otherworldly, made even more so by the curiously matter-of-fact way in which the event is narrated. It turns out to be, though, merely the setup for what becomes a fairly routine tale of domestic woe—the man finds his lover and his best friend together in a similarly frozen state and runs off in a rage to find a baseball bat. Time and again, the author puts delightful ideas to banal use. And a few pieces could stand a bit of tightening, the murderous “The Inland Waterways Association” foremost among them.

Frustrating in its unfulfilled potential.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 1-85242-476-1
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Serpent’s Tail
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2006