Last Day of Summer | A Short Story by Gareth Hill

Last Day of Summer | A Short Story by Gareth Hill

Short Fiction from Gareth Hill

They’d left England at the start of July, new lovers on a whim of post-graduate liberation.

Ten weeks ago, 29 states ago. It felt longer but not long enough.

“Dialogue moves this story, and there is enough mystery to keep you hooked.”

Eugen

“I loved this. It is haunting and evocative, tense because of the inevitability of what is coming, but never resorting to ‘shock horror.’ This is excellent, an author that can really write.”

Debra

An example of simple genius | from Don Delillo

An example of simple genius | from Don Delillo

“It was the rooftop summer, drinks or dinner, a wedged garden with a wrought iron table that’s spored along its curved legs with oxide blight, and maybe those are old French roses climbing the chimney pot, a color called maiden’s blush, or a long terrace with a slate surface and birch trees in copper tubs and the laughter of a dozen people sounding small and precious in the night, floating over the cold soup towards skylights and domes and water tanks, or a hurry-up lunch, an old friend, beach chairs and takeout Chinese and how the snapdragons smell buttery in the sun.

This was Klara Sax’s summer at the roofline.”

Don DeLillo, Underworld,

A deceptively simple passage that offers so much in so few lines. Stripped away of unnecessary ‘fluff’, no room for those adverbs that pave the way to hell, as Stephen King once opined. DeLillo’s blend of simple description with introspection drops the reader into the scene, a silent witness, viewing and feeling the scene as the narrator sees it. Prose that bears the hallmarks of Joyce, Hemingway, and Woolf, with the added eye for detail and economy that comes from a literary apprenticeship served as copywriter among the Mad Men of 50s NYC. A passage of simple brilliance, a ‘show, don’t tell’ masterclass, hidden within the pages of DeLillo’s Pulitzer nominated American opus.

The ‘rooftop summer’, an immeadiate image, outside, on high, warm. ‘Wedged gardens’ precious, small sanctuaries, high within a crowded city landscape; the elegant quality of wrought iron furniture, its character defined by its rust; well-worn, faded from its former glory, but loved and full of story, perhaps. The heavy metals, the iron and copper, softened by the climbing roses, the ‘maiden’s blush’. It’s an idyll, an image that our narrator may be romanticising, looking back through nostalgic eyes at a time made more glorious through the passing years. ‘Maybe they’re French roses’ (maybe, perhaps, not?). It was lunch, it was night, it was drinking soup, eating Chinese food.The cascade of fractured memory, pieced together to create a beautiful bridge between fiction and truth.

Remembering that time, the warmth, a setting sun on an angular skyline, laughter, the smell of buttery snapdragons.

A time that was over too soon, unreliably, romantically recalled: forever ‘precious in the night, floating…’

A deceptively simple passage that offers so much in so few lines. Stripped away of unnecessary ‘fluff’, no room for those adverbs that pave the way to hell, as Stephen King once opined. DeLillo’s blend of simple description with introspection drops the reader into the scene, a silent witness, viewing and feeling the scene as the narrator sees it.

Prose that bears the hallmarks of Joyce, Hemingway, and Woolf, with the added eye for detail and economy that comes from a literary apprenticeship served as copywriter among the Mad Men of 50s NYC. A passage of simple brilliace, a ‘show, don’t tell’ masterclass, hidden within the pages of DeLillo’s Pulitzer nominated American opus.

The ‘rooftop summer’, an immeadiate image, outside, on high, warm. ‘Wedged gardens’ precious, small sanctuaries, high within a crowded city landscape; the elegant quality of wrought iron furniture, its character defined by its rust; well-worn, faded from its former glory, but loved and full of story, perhaps. The heavy metals, the iron and copper, softened by the climbing roses, the ‘maiden’s blush’.

It’s an idyll, an image that our narrator may be romanticising, looking back through nostalgic eyes at a time made more glorious through the passing of time. ‘Maybe they’re French roses’ (maybe, perhaps, not?). It was lunch, it was night, it was drinking soup, eating Chinese food.The cascade of fractured memory, pieced together to create a beautiful bridge between fiction and truth.

Remembering that time, the warmth, a setting sun on an angular skyline, laughter, the smell of buttery snapdragons.

A time that was over too soon, unreliably, romantically recalled: forever ‘precious in the night, floating…’

THE NOVELS OF JAY MCINERNEY

THE NOVELS OF JAY MCINERNEY

Fiction

The Novels of
Jay McInerney

It’s 6am

DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU ARE?

It’s the question asked of the unnamed central character in Jay McInerney’s seminal debut novel ‘Bright Lights, Big City.’

Since Bright Lights release in 1984 McInerney has released a further six novels as well as two collections of short stories and two non-fiction books about his passion for fine wine. Throughout his fiction we see familiar themes, among which we might see the directionless, hedonism of youth, struggles with fidelity and neuroses attached to growing old or growing up to numerous examples of eccentricity in the family.

Bright Lights, Big City

A week in the life of a wannabe writer. Bright Lights is a frenetic journey through mid-80′s Manhattan.

In the throes of despair following the split from his model wife, we journey through hazy, hungover mornings at work in the Department of Factual Verification of a high-brow magazine, following booze and drug induced nights before.

Written with sharp dialogue and laser-precise observation this is a seminal novel in 80′s American culture as McInerney creates a brilliant portrayal of a man spiralling downwards among the excesses of the glamorous, hedonistic world in which he inhabits.

Compared at the time to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, it is a dazzling debut novel from a writer who would go on to become one of America’s finest modern authors.

Bright LIghts, Big City

Ransom

Christopher Ransom is a young American living in Kyoto, Japan.

Struggling with the guilt of an event in his past Ransom throws himself into Japanese life and culture as if to do so would be to purge whatever wrongs he carries with him.

Although not as sharply prescient as Bright Lights,the book still engages us and if the novel occasionally descends towards cliche it is forgiven due to the characteristically wry episodic style, the well-observed cultural divides and some beautifully crafted dialogue.

And, with a stunning ending that that will surely cut to the bone.

Ransom

Story Of My Life

McInerney returns to 80′s New York for his 3rd Novel.

This time seen through the lens of Alison Poole; sharp-tongued, sexy girl about town. Alison is a drama school student sharing an apartment in Manhattan with her best friend.

Returning to familiar territory this is a terrific short novel with crackling dialogue, biting humour and some of the finest characterisations of the era.

Portraying an empty world of casual sex and even more casual cocaine usage, it’s a hilarious trip through a world of lost nights, absent parents, love-sick drug dealers and awkward moments at the gynaecologist before, as is ever the case with high excess, a tumbling crash down to earth.

Story of my Life

Brightness Falls

Russell and Corrine Calloway are the pioneers of wedded bliss among the rogues gallery of single sinners in 87′ Manhattan.

Russell, an idealistic publisher and Corrine, a stock-broker with an unusual sense of grounding are the central hub of this eclectic look at life, literature and high finance in New York prior to the bubble bursting.

Arguably the finest American novel of the past quarter-century this is a quite brilliant portrait of a city and a time. With some wonderful set-pieces, episodes that move from gut-burstingly funny to heart-breakingly sad in the turn of a page. Remarkably drawn characters that bring to mind creations of Dickens and Thackeray at their finest and a beautifully crafted story that depicts the sadness of a marriage in crisis set against the wider drama of the collapse of America’s capitalist dream.

As prescient today as it was then, this is a book for the ages and deserves to be considered a classic.

Brightness Falls

The Last of the Savages

Told from the viewpoint of repressed lawyer Patrick Keane, this is a look back at American cultural history in the final third of the 20th Century.

He recounts the unlikely friendship with Will Savage, the privileged son of a wealthy Southern land owner who rebels against his heritage, embracing black culture and the soul music that would grow to define an era. It’s a soulful journey of a friendship spawned in the boarding rooms of an elitist New England school in the 1960′s, surviving the tribulations that follow over the next three decades.

This is a beautifully written story of enduring friendship, of political and cultural divisions and the weight of expectation and history upon the shoulders of those growing up through the period.

Long since compared to F. Scott Fitzgerald, this is the novel that bears closest resemblance; Savage is the Gatsby of his generation, Patrick Keane is McInerney’s Nick Carroway.

Last of the Savages

Model Behaviour

Returning to New York this is essentially Bright Lights, Big City for the 90′s.

Inhabiting the same world as McInerney’s debut novel, albeit a decade on, we are again afforded access to the fashionable side of Manhattan life through the experiences of Conner McKnight, reporter for CiaoBella magazine.

If the central plot shows a passing resemblance to Bright Lights…(aspiring writer despairing over the split with his model partner) the novel itself is anything but a recreation and more than stands on its own merit.

This is arguably McInerney at his satirical best, beautifully skewering the foibles of an eccentric landscape whilst retaining a likeability and sense of pathos to the central characters. With some wonderful set-pieces among the bold and beautiful of New York culture and some Wodehouse like wit in the dialogue this is a wonderfully funny and prophetic look at a culture obsessed on appearance and celebrity.

Model Behaviour

The Good Life

Not to be confused with the classic BBC sitcom this is a thoughtful, well-crafted novel that deals with New York life in the aftermath of 9/11.

The story revisits the central characters from Brightness Falls which, a treat for those so invested in those lives. Their evolution through the intervening years is, for the most part, believable if at times uncomfortable and there is a sense of pleasure in reading about them after all these years – a re-acquaintance with old friends as it were.

The absence of a key character is, however, as keenly felt by the reader as it is the characters left behind, and the novel is the weaker for it.

However, this is not a sequel as such and readers new to McInerney will just as easily pick this up and run with the story in its own right. Given the subject matter and the rawness still felt by those involved it’s a fine novel from a master of the craft, portraying a city and a culture deeply wounded and the struggles we have as we grow older to accept that things can never be as they once were.

The Good Life
THE HUNDRED YEAR OLD MAN WHO CLIMBED OUT OF THE WINDOW & DISAPPEARED – A REVIEW

THE HUNDRED YEAR OLD MAN WHO CLIMBED OUT OF THE WINDOW & DISAPPEARED – A REVIEW

100 year old man who climbed out of a window and disappearedWe meet Allan Karlson on the morning of his 100th birthday, sitting alone in his room at the nursing home within which he resides in the Swedish town of Malmkoping. A party is being planned to celebrate his reaching a triple digit age, with local dignitaries and press coming along. Allan, however, doesn’t want to attend.

So, being a man of fairly fine fettle considering his advancing years, he decides to make a break for it, climbing, as the title of the story informs us, out of the window and disappearing.

And so begins a remarkable, funny and frequently absurd adventure.

Author Jonas Jonasson moves the story on with a feverish pace and with the lightness of touch that perfectly matches the ‘Que Sera’ mentality of the protagonist. Weaving between Allan’s shuffling, farce-laden road trip as he encounters all manner of eccentric and shady characters we are also taken on a journey back through Karlson’s long, and astonishingly eventful life.

With more than an hint of similarity to Forrest Gump we find that Karlson, a man of simple means and desires, has played a significant role in shaping many of the major events of the twentieth century. A man who remained vociferously neutral on all matters of politics and religion we find Karlson inadvertently mixing with the great and the decidedly not so great at some of their more pivotal moments. From Franco to Chairman Mao, Stalin to Nixon, Karlson manages to meander his way through history with a weary sigh and a constant craving for good vodka.

While the parallel to Gump is clear, where the story differs is in its telling; Jonasson always managing to steer well clear of anything resembling sentimentality, drawing the reader at all times towards the absurd and comic with some glorious set-pieces, a motley crew of characters that wouldn’t be out of place among the pages of a Douglas Adams novel.

If you thought Swedish fiction was all about grisly murder, long dark neurotic nights and troubled cops, then this delightful romp through modern history will redress the balance.

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