Wrote for Luck, by D.J. Taylor, is a collection of fifteen contemporary short stories. I am a fan of the short story form. With so few words available to tell a tale each must earn its place. I lost count of the number of times I had to set this book down in order to absorb a phrase or appreciate the imagery that the author had conjured up.
The collection opens with ‘Some Versions of Pastoral’, a snapshot of lives lived. A younger couple pay a visit to an elderly couple, taking tea with them in their small, charmless garden. It is a world within a world, enclosed by high hedges and anachronistic attitudes. The hostess implores that they be careful with the china cups, causing her guest to wonder:
‘What heights had the tea-cup scaled in its past life that such efforts had to be made to preserve it?’
I found this story along with ‘Wrote for Luck’, ‘The Disappointed’ and the concluding tale, ‘Wonderland’, particularly poignant. The deft writing wove life and depth into the times, places and people with a satisfying gift of cleverly spun prose.
The stories made me question what draws us to particular individuals amongst all those we encounter in a lifetime. Perhaps it is a fleeting glimpse of a characteristic we admire, something that we long to share with them or learn from them. In time, as we get to know a person better, we may discover that this glimpse did not herald a major part of their being. Perhaps it was merely a thought, a momentary act that they feel no requirement to repeat. What they are, what is important to them, what they strive to be, may be something quite different. In spending time trying to reignite the spark admired we say more about ourselves than about them.
This collection of stories takes us into the lives of a variety of characters and examines how they see themselves and how they are seen by others. The writing is nuanced, teasing out flaws and gently mocking arrogances.
I enjoyed the author’s depictions of men holding forth on subjects they were convinced they knew more about than their listener. Be it the music of Pink Floyd, the talents of a footballer or a character’s place within a hierarchy at work these men displayed a patronising contempt for those whose talents or views differed from their own. There was an all too familiar refusal to accept that thinking may be flawed.
Literature can be an ameliorating force which encourages us to see ourselves in perspective. This collection of stories offered variety of place, time and people yet each of its snapshots appeared both universal and personal. I saw aspects of myself and of those I know. The mirror held up was entertaining, discomforting and enlightening.
This is the first book in a new short stories list being compiled by Galley Beggar Press. If subsequent titles are as impressive as this one then we may anticipate a welcome injection of quality writing to come.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Galley Beggar Press.