A series of people, many of them British, make journeys large and small in this short story collection.
Hindle (HMRC: Her Majesty’s Roller Coaster, 2014) offers a collection of tales centered loosely on concepts of travel and distance. Sometimes they present these concepts literally, as in “The Spoonmaker’s Diamond,” about a tourist’s trip to Istanbul and subsequent participation in an investigation surrounding a dazzling gem. At other times, the concepts are metaphorical, as in “Stalking David Sedaris,” which highlights the distance between fantasy and reality. In it, a man obsessed with Sedaris believes he sees the humorist at a hotel and waits expectantly to appear in one of his stories. Readers unacquainted with the day-to-day lives of middle- to upper-class British citizens and expatriates may be unfamiliar with some details in these tales, but the underlying themes will be familiar. Although Hindle is guilty of some repetitive language, as when he refers to Sedaris multiple times as a “Greek-American,” he also has a very vivid way with words, as when his narrator describes a set of apparent “semi-celebrities” as having “professional sycophantic smiles showing off teeth as perfectly formed as a row of SIM cards.” His strongest stories, however, say as much in their silences as in their words. “Fear of Not Flying,” for example, lets readers draw their own connections between a traveling woman’s thoughts, the things she learns from an anxious seatmate, and a teacher who recently died. But not all the stories manage such a feat, and many might have benefited from an additional paragraph to tie up their threads. Warren’s illustrations, however, add whimsy; for example, the opening of “Death on a Reformer” is accompanied by a depiction of a Pilates instructor’s body tangled in exercise equipment.
Tales that often contain witty, compelling turns of phrase, even when they don’t provide satisfactory endings.