Captives

Angela Meyer

Captives
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Captives

Angela Meyer

That night we made love like teenagers. By the time we got to mum and dad’s we had shrunk down to half-size, and we walked hand in hand, smiling, with sugar floss for thoughts.

Captives
opens with a husband pointing his gun at his wife. There’s a woman who hears ‘the hiss of Beelzebub behind people’s voices', a photographer who captures the desire to suicide, a man locked in a toilet who may never get out, a couple who grow young, and a prisoner who learns to swallow like a python.


There’s a touch of Annie Proulx in these stories, the way a lonely death can creep up on you and the way our sexuality will not be denied, though we may try to cover it up. Some stories feature flights into the magical, reminiscent of Roald Dahl, with the space and perception of Raymond Carver. Every story inspires us to re-think the extraordinary possibilities of life in an ordinary world.

This chapbook-size collection of very short stories covers a genre that has come into its own in the digital age. Jorge Luis Borges, Margaret Atwood and Raymond Carver are the elders of this form now also known as short shorts, sudden fiction, micro fiction, postcard fiction and prose poems or flash fictions.

Review

Works of flash fiction – short stories of up to 2000 words – are enjoying a surge in popularity in Australia, with publishers such as Seizure, and now Inkerman & Blunt, championing the form. In Angela Meyer’s first published book of flash fiction, Captives, we encounter the daughter of a tightrope walker momentarily distracted while her father balances over the Grand Canyon, a young George Orwell behind the counter of a bookstore, the Hot Dog Queen of St Louis, and a kidnapper on the precipice of his crime, among others.

As you may deduce from the cover line on this book – ‘Bad things happen. At any moment. Or they might.’ – many of these vignettes are disturbing, providing the reader with glimpses into dark corners and access to the characters’ most private moments. Meyer’s language is subtle and skilful, giving us flashes of unsettling truths, peppered with dark humour.

One of the most successful stories in this collection, ‘Bag of Wool’, mirrors Teju Cole’s Small Fates project, in which individual moments of misfortune are captured in a single sentence. Cole used the medium of Twitter to share his work, but Meyer depicts these snapshots of mischance just as successfully on the page: Charles McPherson is crushed by falling bags of wool; Peggy Fraser steps from a train.

While this book is slender and its stories brief, each moment takes time to digest. The stories require pause and reflection, which, given the often disconcerting subject matter, makes for a surprisingly calming reading experience.


Brigid Mullane is a freelance reviewer.

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