Monday, February 24, 2014

The Ghost-Eater and Other Stories compiled by Diane Awerbuck & edited by Louis Greenberg #review

Title: The Ghost-Eater and Other Stories
Compiled: Diane Awerbuck
Edited: Louis Greenberg
Publisher: Umuzi, 2013

Short story anthologies number among my guilty pleasures, and it was impossible to resist when two of my favourite South African bookish folk – Diane Awerbuck and Louis Greenberg – put their creative minds together to bring out this selection of 31 tales. There is a little bit of everything here to please most palates, and I enjoyed not really knowing what I was getting into whenever I started a fresh tale.

It’s also far beyond the scope of this review to give detailed mention for each story, so I’ll highlight a handful that stood out for me.

“Revelations” by Jennifer Thorpe is filled with barbed humour made me snigger quietly to myself for the naïveté of the narrator pondering the End of Days and the fate of a beloved pooch.

Ilze Hugo’s “The Ghost-Eater” from which the anthology derives its name offers sly, paranormal humour. Fred Mostert, the ghost-eater, is a character I won’t easily forget – especially for his Klippies en Coke and his penchant for KFC.

Then there are stories like Daniel Bertie’s “The Writing Class” that are just downright disturbing in the most deliciously devious pet-“murgling” ways.

I’ve been following Liam Kruger’s career with interest and his “& Found” features his signature alcohol-steeped observations. Many of his characters offer an uncomfortably seedy vibe and this tale, which features a magician with a rare gift to find lost property is no exception.

Mia Arderne’s “The Fool” amply conveys that dismal “morning after the night before” miasma as the protagonist suffers the depredations of both genders. The crushing despair is painful, and you can’t help but feel that the protagonist is the only one to blame for her misery.

“The Nazi Insurgence Reaches Blairgowrie” by Werner Pretorius brings with it a sense of unrelenting claustrophobia as the protagonist deals not only with a midlife crisis but also his father’s dementia.

As stated earlier, this is but a selection of stories that stood out for me, and I’m certain other readers will resonate with different examples. A sense of Africa in all its diversity permeates this anthology, which brings with it a resonance for locals, and perhaps a taste of the exotic for non-Africans. The tales run the spectrum, from lit fic through to spec fic, and if you’re in the mood to dip into fresh voices worth keeping an eye out for in the future, then you can’t go wrong with The Ghost-Eater and Other Stories. Here you’ll find tales that are humorous, disconcerting, dark or poignant; they will quietly slip you into unexpected realities for a short spell, as all good short stories should.

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