Monday, March 31, 2008

Balancing on the Edge of the World reviewed on Stuck in a Book

Simon Thomas at Stuck in a Book reviews Balancing:
Baines' stories are executed with a subtle smoothness, and a precise portrayal of human relationships - both the surface of them, and what goes on underneath.

His favourite in the collection is 'Compass and Torch', of which he says:
The story I wanted to pick out is 'Compass and Torch' - in the third person, an uncertain boy on a trip with his Dad, whom he doesn't often see. 'The boy is intent. Watching Dad. Watching what Dad is. Drinking it in: the essence of Dadness.' The awkwardness of their relationship - with its latent closeness, and surface of discomfort - is portrayed so exactly. We see it first in relation to the torch, of which the boy is so anxiously proud:

The boy is chattering: 'Have you brought one too, have you brought a torch?'
'Oh, yes!'

Is this a problem? the boy suddenly wonders. Does this make one of the torches redundant? For a brief moment he is uncertain, potentially dismayed, a mood which the man, for all his distraction, catches.

'We can use both of them, can't we, Dad?'


'Oh yes! Yes, of course!'

Then a swoop of delight: 'We can light up more with both, can't we?'

'Oh yes, certainly!' The man too is gratefully caught on a wave of triumph. 'Oh, yes, two are definitely better! Back-up, for a start.'
I shouldn't dream of telling you the end of this story, except that it is done calmly in a couple of sentences, and won't leave your mind for some time.

He reviews it alongside Vanessa Gebbie's wonderful collection, Words from a Glass Bubble, also published by Salt, and which he also loved.

The whole review here.

2 comments:

Dean J Williams said...

sounds like a fine publication, good luck

Elizabeth Baines said...

Thanks, Dean!