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3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars

on 1 July 2017
I don’t think there’s a better way to approach a review of this collection than by considering two quotations from it. The first is from Clean, a story first published in 1998:
‘As I crossed Vauxhall Bridge I realised that above me there’s a mile of blue and beyond that an eternity of black, a furnace of ice.’
This is a fine example of Rose’s aesthetic sensibility. He has the hard-earned gift of being able to communicate complex thought processes and emotions through prose that is as elegant as it is simple. But this is only half the story. What sets his writing apart is the service to which he puts this sensibility, the use to which he puts his sentences.
The most obvious of his preoccupations in this regard might be described as ‘the role of art’ – the often subliminal ways in which both art itself and the ideas that inform its creation interact with the personal, the everyday. He is also concerned with the structures of different artforms and how they relate to each other, a la Goethe’s famous dictum ‘Music is liquid architecture; architecture is frozen music’: the result is writing that – in its references and allusions – yields more with each reading.
The following quotation is from Viyborg – a novel first published in 2009:
‘God, to think back to the great days. Heroic Abstraction. We more than held our own with the Americans then. Now it’s all installations, and videos a la bloody Bill Viola, ****ing pansy. But ultimately it’s that square of canvas, can’t get away from it. It’s like boxing. That’s the arena. That’s where the fight is. ****ing kids, they’ve funked it.’
Rose’s arena is the page, and he’s funking nothing…
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on 11 January 2014
I'm not alone in having looked forward to this collection ever since its jacket image first reared its headless cagoule online last year. David Rose is an unsung hero of contemporary short fiction, so the publication of Posthumous Stories gives us the opportunity to have a singsong.

Rose's stories always malinger in the imagination, raising more questions than they answer, an effect I first encountered after I'd read Clean from 1998's Neon Lit collection. Who is this character working for? Who is speaking at the end? Who says, `What sort of stupid tosser would kill himself over a dog?' One reason why Posthumous Stories is an event is because until now Rose's twenty-five years' worth of published fiction was dispersed across a plethora of small press publications, many of them defunct or difficult to track down (the acknowledgements page in Posthumous Stories - with its Zemblas and Black Biles, its Iron and Rue Bellas - reads like an atlas of the small-press/short-story archipelago).

I've lost my copy of Neon Lit Vol. II, so finding Clean again here was - another - thrill. Again: the grip of the storytelling. I don't remember (m)any of the stories I read in 1998, let alone where I was when I read them (the house with the mannequin, a street off the Unthank Road, early morning: a workman was using a whirring-blade machine to grind down part of the kerb. The horrible noise shuddered me awake. It was only when it started to rain torrentially that he packed it in, allowing me to read for a while, read Clean). I remembered the story, but not the author's name, not even when I came across David Rose again by way of his metafictional wonder Vault: An Anti-Novel. There are, though, two previously unpublished stories here, The Fall and The Castle, both of which seem stages on the way to Vault.

Rose's precise and vocal prose is often remarked upon and is certainly a draw, but there's much more to these stories than style and language games (Rose favours OuLiPian linguistic strategies and formal tourniquets in the structuring of his stories; for instance, each section of his The Castle uses the same sentences as the chapter openers in Kafka's). After reading the stories collected here and others, I have difficulty defining exactly the leitmotifs of Rose's work, though I always know one when I see one. As John Peel once said of The Fall (the gruppe, not the Camus novel or the David Rose story) they're `always different, always the same.' The stories are always cunning and vocal, full of pathos and absurdity and frequently feature a personality in thrall to some mysterious, maybe damning obsession.

Also, the stories are often unexpectedly funny. Rose can be partial to what Martin Amis, writing about Anthony Burgess, called the `garlicky pun'. In Rectilinear, in which an architect strives to create the perfect modernist home, the narrator describes his eventual wife as `Viennese, liberated, a thoroughly Loos woman.' In Home, a recent arrival explains how Londoners often ask if he makes wigs when he says he's a rugmaker (he works in the carpet trade). I don't know why this makes me laugh but it does. It's certainly the reaction our rugmaker would get in Sutton. Incidentally, it's refreshing to say the least that the stories are often set in outer London and the Home Counties, ground I consider under-explored.

Another hallmark is formal adventure. Rose seems incapable of writing a story straight and splices the traditional short story with the formats of other documents. The first story here, Dedication starts midsentence, midway through a radio interview. It's as if we've just switched on the set as a certain Stevie is being asked about his reaction to the first performance of a dead composer's concerto that was dedicated to him. It then goes on to provide a compelling description of the memory-spurring effects of music, the writing seamlessly moving from a catechism to stream-of-consciousness. The interview as a structure is also used in Home. Viyborg - A Novel is written as a synopsis of a novel. Tragos imagines the death of Raoul Moat from the point of view of townspeople used like a Greek chorus. The charming The Fifth Beatles is told monologue fashion by a cleaning lady who witnessed the Abbey Road photo-shoot but is shot-through by a second poetic narrative strand that recounts the same event from an entirely different, oblique perspective. Nothing is solid in these stories, however much the characters may wish for permanence and clarity. These devices never seem gimmicky. They open up new spaces for the short form, which can seem too in thrall to Carver's minimalism or Angela Carter's fabulation (in my experience as student and teacher).

Like many a committed short-story writer, Rose is able to encapsulate or imply an entire life story in a few pages. However, what's most prevalent here is the articulation of the inner life. Many of these characters are obsessives, driven either by a bizarre personal quest (to correct the imperfections perceived in the work of the Viennese architect Adolf Loos, for example, or gain entrance to Royal society in The Castle), or by the order of some undisclosed subversive organization (The Fall, Clean). Rose's characters nearly always speak directly to the reader, and are often unnamed. This has the sometimes-unnerving effect of offering a confidence we may not wish to accept. What is the narrator of Flora (one of the most memorable stories here) after when he invites a botanical artist to share his space and his books? Who is he? Who is she? Who exploits whom here? How does he live? What else has happened in his life? Who is throwing stones through the narrator's window in In Evening Soft Light? And why? Why does he have no inkling as to why they might hate him? Why is he so passive? Who is the elderly gent in Shuffle, cataloguing his attempts to read the literary canon in the same way he catalogues his visits to east European prostitutes? The shearing away of biographical context makes these characters ineffably strange yet unsettlingly human, `distorted, shrinking, looming as they move,' as the asphalt layers in A Nice Bucket are described at the end of that story. Far from Posthumous, these are stories that live on, daring us to dwell on the mystery of personality and the stories and versions we tell ourselves, that we cling to, that, unlike the characters assembled here, we lack the composure to tell. Rose is a master mason of form and a virtuoso composer of voices. I can't think of a more able commentator upon who we are and how we live now.

Posthumous Stories isn't the complete David Rose. I'd also recommend Sere in Still (Negative Press); Puck (Nightjar Press); Brontesaurus in Red Room: New Short Stories Inspired by the Brontes, edited by AJ Ashworth (Unthank Books); Eleanor: The End Notes and Terra Cotta in Unthology 3 (Unthank Books) and Vault: An Anti-Novel (Salt).
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 25 January 2014
This is a collection of stories, in the main, written for literary magazines over the past 25 years. After a slightly shaky start, the collection finds its feet with an array of stories teasing at the form and structure of the short story. The writing is assured, at times a breathless 'Man who was Thursday" at times a Moorcock style disintegration, perhaps David Rose is a prolific writer of pulp fiction moonlighting as a literary experimenter. Many of the stories feature an erudite, but passive hero, caught up in mystery or meaninglessness.

For me, every story ended with a sense of 'what was all that about', the best I could manage by way of interpretation was that Flora might be about the Persephone myth, with the lozenge shaped impression being a pomegranate seed, but who knows. I imagine a book group might profitably discuss each story, Rose started writing in Creative Writing classes, and the stories seem to invite further discussion. These are stories like modernist poems, where it will probably take a few readings to fully understand.

Although I enjoyed the collection, and will read more by the author, I am marking down to four because
There is not a fully functional contents page for Kindle, which seems inexcusable these days, and I struggle to think of a single person I know, who I might safely recommend this book to.

According to a terse personal website Rose has stopped writing, which is a shame. His writing has given a lot of people a lot of pleasure over the years, and this collection is a fine tribute to his excellent writing, dry wit, and deep thought. This is writing that restores your faith in the importance of short stories.

QUOTE - "Etymology is an odd business. Like lifting a paving stone to reveal a dead frog."
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on 26 July 2014
A wonderfully wide range of stories by a maestro of the form
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on 24 May 2014
Not very keen on this ,most of the stories feel like the beginning of a book but then it finishes leaving you in mid air.
I sometimes feel that book reviewers aren't reading the books they are reviewing.
Not a book to recommend.
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