Category: Short Stories
Author: Jen Campbell
I finally got around to reading The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night, an eclectic collection of stories that sadly, didn’t impress. Much as I adore Jen’s book tube channel and I truly wanted to love her collection, I couldn’t let it jade my actual experience and thoughts. Not to sound the least pretentious, but having read a decent number of collections, I feel much more confident in determining if a collection is for me and pointing out what worked & didn’t. So here’s discussing all my thoughts.
- The tricky thing with absurdist fiction is that, I for one, need enough substance to counterbalance the ‘unrealism’ of a story, and mere ideas don’t suffice. Jen’s collection didn’t adequately provide me with that. This collection felt more like a collection of ideas, than stories. Ideas with potential, but largely under-developed. And it’s not like it hasn’t been done before. I think Karen Russell and Kij Johnson are two authors, I have previously read, who have managed to spin incredible stories within pure magical realism.
- It draws on myths, fables & fairytales interweaving stories within stories. While I certainly love the concept of stories within stories, I feel it’s much more effective in a novel form. The longer length of a novel better affords the implementation of this style seamlessly, but within single stories it felt a little too disjointed and jarring.
- I wasn’t blown over by the writing style which is whimsical, simplistic & poetic using shorter sentence structures. Though I can see why it might appeal to certain kinds of readers, it didn’t leave much of an impression on me, the abruptness of the sentences, at times, breaking the flow. I enjoy longer, eloquent and descriptive sentences, and this really is just a personal preference.
- Which leads me to my final point, where I felt her style works brilliantly for the voice of a child. One of my favourite stories was Jacob, where a young boy writes to a news weather-woman speculating his sister’s sudden change in personality and decision to alter her name. His questions so pertinent yet dosed with innocence, was a delight to read.