Claire-Louise Bennett: Pond: Stories

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Claire-Louise Bennett Pond: Stories
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    Pond: Stories
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    Stinging Fly Press
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    Современная проза / на английском языке
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Pond: Stories: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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How much should you let in and how much should you give away? Feverish and forthright, Pond is an absorbing chronicle of a solitudinous life told by an unnamed woman living on the cusp of a coastal town. The physical world depicted in these stories is unsettling yet intimately familiar and soon takes on a life of its own. Captivated by the stellar charms of seclusion but restless with desire, the woman’s relationship with her surroundings becomes boundless and increasingly bewildering. Claire-Louise Bennett’s startlingly original first collection is by turns darkly funny and deeply moving.

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Claire-Louise Bennett

Pond: Stories

For now in every exuberant joy there is heard an undertone of terror, or else a wistful lament over an irrecoverable loss. It is as though… a sentimental trait of nature were bemoaning the fact of her fragmentation, her decomposition into separate individuals.

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy

Could it be that any apartment, any one at all, might eventually become a burrow? Would any place eventually welcome me into its dim, warm, reassuring, kindly light?

Natalia Ginzburg, A Place to Live

Wolves in shells are crueller than stray ones.

Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

Voyage in the Dark

First of all, it seemed to us that you were very handsome. And the principal windows of your house were perfectly positioned to display a blazing reflection at sunset. One evening while walking back from the fields this effect was so dramatic we thought your rooms were burning. We liked nothing better than to rake the tinkling gravel on your drive, then to climb an impeccable tree along its passage and wait. We would hear the engine loud in the valley, followed by a thrilling silence within which we would wave our boots and imagine the leather grip of your hands upon the steering wheel, left and right. Oh, but we were only little girls, little girls, there on the cusp of female individuation, not little girls for long. The other two hung back by the brook with cups on sticks while I made my way over the wall into your ornamental garden, laid down upon the unfeasible grass and fell to sleep wrapped about a lilac seashell, which was of course my most cherished possession.

Morning, Noon & Night

Sometimes a banana with coffee is nice. It ought not to be too ripe — in fact there should be a definite remainder of green along the stalk, and if there isn’t, forget about it. Though admittedly that is easier said than done. Apples can be forgotten about, but not bananas, not really. They don’t in fact take at all well to being forgotten about. They wizen and stink of putrid and go almost black.

Oatcakes along with it can be nice, the rough sort. The rough sort of oatcake goes especially well with a banana by the way — by the way, the banana might be chilled slightly. This can occur in the fridge overnight of course, depending on how prescient and steadfast one is about one’s morning victuals, or, it might be, and this in fact is much more preferable, there’s a nice cool windowsill where a bowl especially for fruit can always be placed.

A splendid deep wide sill with no wooden overlay, just the plastered stone, nice and chilly: the perfect place for a bowl. Even a few actually, a few bowls in fact. The sill’s that big it can accommodate three sizeable bowls very well without appearing the least bit encumbered. It’s quite pleasant, then, to unpack the pannier bags and arrange everything intently in the bowls upon the sill. Aubergine, squash, asparagus and small vine tomatoes look terribly swish together and it’s no surprise at all that anyone would experience a sudden urge at any time during the day to sit down at once and attempt with a palette and brush to convey the exotic patina of such an irrepressible gathering of illustrious vegetables, there on the nice cool windowsill.

Pears don’t mix well. Pears should always be small and organised nose to tail in a bowl of their very own and perhaps very occasionally introduced to a stem of the freshest redcurrants, which ought not to be hoisted like a mantle across the freckled belly of the topmost pear, but strewn a little further down so that some of the scarlet berries loll and bask between the slowly shifting gaps.

Bananas and oatcakes are by the way a very satisfactory substitute for those mornings when the time for porridge has quite suddenly passed. If a neighbour has been overheard or the towels folded the day’s too far in and porridge, at this point, will feel vertical and oppressive, like a gloomy repast from the underworld. As such, in all likelihood, a submerged stump of resentment will begin to perk up right at the first mouthful and will very likely preside dumbly over the entire day. Until, finally, at around four o’clock, it becomes unfairly but inevitably linked to someone close by, to a particular facet of their behaviour in fact, a perpetually irksome facet that can be readily isolated and enlarged and thereupon pinpointed as the prime cause of this most foreboding sense of resentment, which has been on the rise, inexplicably, all day, since that first mouthful of porridge.

Some sort of black jam in the middle of porridge is very nice, very striking in fact. And then a few flaked almonds. Be careful though, be very careful with flaked almonds; they are not at all suitable for morose or fainthearted types and shouldn’t be flung about like confetti because almonds are not in the least like confetti. On the contrary, flaked almonds ought not to touch one another and should be organised in simple patterns, as on the side of a pavlova, and then they are quite pretty and perfectly innocuous. But shake out a palmful of flaked almonds and you’ll see they closely resemble fingernails that have come away from a hand which has just seen the light of day.

Black jam and blanched fingernails, slowly sinking into the oozing burgoo! Lately, in the mornings, Ravel, played several times over, has been a very nice accompaniment indeed. And this, for now, is how, with minor variations, the day begins.

My own nails are doing very well as a matter of fact, indeed, I’m not sure they have ever done better. If you must know I painted them in the kitchen last Wednesday after lunch, and the shade I painted them right there in the kitchen is called Highland Mist. Which is a very good name, a very apt name, as it turns out. Because, you see, the natural colour of my nail, both the white part and the pink part, is still just about visible beneath the polish, it hasn’t been completely obscured. And as time passes the polish doesn’t chip away as such, it just sort of thins out around the edges, so now, as well as being able to see the white part and the pink part, the soot beneath the tips is also clearly visible. There, through the mist, which is of course the colour of heather, I can see coal dust beneath my fingernails. When the nails aren’t painted at all this dirt has no other effect besides looking grubby and unkempt, but under the thinning sheen of Highland Mist something further occurs to me when I consider my hands. They look like the hands of someone very charming and refined who has had to dig themselves up out of some dank and wretched spot they really shouldn’t have fallen into. And that amuses me, that really amuses me.

Indeed, it wouldn’t be entirely unwarranted to suggest that I might, overall, have the appearance and occasionally emanate the demeanour of someone who grows things. That’s to say, I might, from time to time, be considered earthy in its most narrow application. However, truth is, I have propagated very little and possess only a polite curiosity for horticultural endeavours. It’s quite true that bright green parsley grows out of a pot near my door but I did not grow it from seed, not at all — I simply bought it already sprouted from a nearby supermarket, turned the plant out its plastic carton and shoved its compacted network of roots and soil here, into the pot next to my door.

Prior to that, some years ago, when I lived near the canal, I could plainly see from my bedroom window a most idyllic piece of land, encircled by the gardens of houses in back-to-back streets which thereby rendered it landlocked and enticing. It seemed impossible to get to the garden yet when I tore after a cat early one day he led me directly to it, whereupon he skedaddled sharpish and left me a tortured wren to cradle and fold. The wren had sung above my head for many weeks in the sunshine while I wrote letters in the morning and so it was only natural for me to cry out when I found it maimed and silent on the moss beneath the privet hedge. I was so upset I wanted to take that cat to a hot pan and sear its foul backside in an explosion of oil. I’ll make you hiss you little shit. Never mind. I was in the garden that nobody owned or imposed upon and now that I had come here once I could come here again, surely. That’s how it worked when I was a child anyhow, and I don’t suppose these matters change a great deal.

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