Manchester is fertile ground for the recent trend of flash-fiction writers with nights and groups spread all across the city. Indeed, David Gaffney will be a familiar name to many on the scene. 2006’s Sawn-Off Tales was his first collection of stories, and gave us tales exactly 150 words long. His latest collection More Sawn-Off Tales reprises this format collecting another 69 bizarre, kooky and downright weird snapshots of everyday life.
Reading these stories, it does feel like you are trapped inside Gaffney’s head. And it is a very strange place to inhabit if the stories contained within More Sawn-Off Tales are anything to go by. Serial killers, a man with a penis so large a theatre company has to turn him on and numerous shattered relationships all appear in this addictively bizarre collection.
There are some terrifyingly mundane descriptions of horror. The image of a farmer’s neglected sheep milling around with urban otters in a nightmarish future is one that will stay with you, as is the prospect of your eyes being scooped out with a melon baller. Tales of the Unexpected in its execution, it is a disturbing reflection of the characters inhabiting this collection.
The explorations of love are also diverse. From Graeme’s ranting of what constitutes love in ‘For the Lady’ through to Howard’s love for his overweight wife in ‘Oasis Leisure Lounge’, there is a surprisingly thorough examination of what makes relationships tick. Often life-changing decisions are made with the consequences rippling through your mind.
Gaffney’s narratives weave a taught line between the everyday and the fantastic. Here, the bizarre consequences of one story have an impact on the context of another deeper within the collection. This clever construction is a refreshing way of linking the stories together, and creates some amusing punchlines. Nowhere else will you find a man with “Nando’s breath” rubbing shoulders with a woman who wants to know her neighbour inside out by x-raying his possessions. It is his talent for weaving these strands together in a thoroughly ordinary but compelling way that makes this collection such a delight to read.
This is doubly surprising as all the worlds created come in at 150 words. It is barely time to write an introduction, never mind a story. Yet Gaffney’s creations are meticulously modelled. There are few conclusions to the stories, you’re left to draw your own opinions. Perhaps this is a collection that you’ll have to dip into rather than read in one-sitting, such is the lingering nature of many of the stories.
You’ll laugh, you’ll weep, and you’ll feel disgust and sorrow. It is a rare skill that can evoke such emotions, even rarer that someone can do it 69 times in one book. Thoroughly recommended.More