on 6 November 2007
These stories grow on you. Some intrigue with their obscurity, cruelty, and even delight in the unspeakable; some tickle, amuse, and leave you longing for more (Gyges), and even the odd tale that leaves you perplexed and totally in the dark (Mashed Demon) remains a bizarre nut to be cracked at a later date. But they definitely grow on you. James Waddington's world is not what it seems at first reading, or even at second - and maybe you never apprehend what his world really is. The huge range of subjects, the blurring of time zones, the mingling of past, present and parallel universes, the contrast of steely-sparked prose and sensual descriptions create the feeling of standing on your head, a sense of fascination, curiosity, and even irritation - but positive irritation: an itch that you want to scratch.
It's been said before, but there's no shame in saying it again. Who is James Waddington...?
on 3 November 2007
`Bad to the Bone', James Waddington's first novel, revealed his arrestingly original voice - a storyteller with an acerbic wit and complex narrative style. It is a thriller written by a poet.
In `Torc' Waddington almost seems to set out to subvert the formula of the conventional short story genre, and look for new forms. The stories cover a diverse range of topics: Africa, genetics, Catholic double-think, alternative terrorism, ancient myth and modern day relationships. His voice, which perhaps links these stories, is one of a philosophical commentator who has a chessboard of characters which he moves with a thoughtful `what if ...' or `imagine that perhaps ...', and looks at what lies beneath the surface, the skin, the spoken word, to the complex and often bizarre viscera beneath. To this end, he employs a wry elliptical style that can challenge, baffle and ultimately transfix the reader.
The stories that most grabbed me, were `Real City', `Torc', `The Hedge' and `Kwambili,' all wonderfully rich and original narratives. My favourite, `Death at the Grange', is a delightfully playful and satisfying twist of the genre, with an almost Greenaway ambience. `Gyges', another favourite, is a funny erotic story in the style of a plausible ancient legend, perhaps distantly based on a conundrum posed by Plato on what the gift of invisibility would do to an honest man ( or in this case a delightfully bestial one!) It is by far the most sensuously descriptive story in the collection, `Information Theory', `Mashed Demon' and `The Creative use of Wobbles' needed to be wrestled with and puzzled over, but this is part of the challenge that Waddington casts at his reader. One cannot do justice to this collection of stories in two short paragraphs, but only say that it is a very diverse and challenging read.
on 15 October 2007
I enjoyed these 15 stories enormously, especially for their wide variety of narrative styles, characters and locations; some are very amusing and accessible, others challenging and disturbing in their both their structure and content. Waddington is clearly a very accomplished and assured writer who is not afraid to experiment and take risks, which is all to the benefit and greater pleasure of the reader. I particularly enjoyed the shades of humour that pervade all the stories; at times comically absurd and fantastical, at others ironic and mordant. This book would undoubtably make an original and welcome Christmas present.