Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Recommendation: (Slight Return) by Neil Schiller

I first came across Neil Schiller's fiction when I read his debut collection, Oblivious. And what a debut it was: dark, brooding tales of people dealing with (or failing to deal with) everyday life, written with such an eye for detail, both physical and emotional, that saying things such as he's like a British Carver didn't seem entirely stupid. Or, if you prefer a more genre-related comparison, he's like a Gary McMahon without all that supernatural stuff.

Schiller's new collection, (Slight Return) is a set of stories based around music, with nearly all taking their title from a song, usually from the 90s (you can listen to a Spotify Playlist of them all here). If you think this might mean these stories are more hopeful and upbeat than those in Oblivious then, um... no. Not noticeably in most cases. While music might provide temporary release for some of the characters here, it's also a source of frustration for failed musicians, an indication of the lack of communication between father and daughter, a reminder of a lost and irrecoverable past.

If this all sounds to bleak, then it's worth pointing out that it's all wrapped in prose as insightful and gorgeous as this:

"There's something exciting about waking up in a city. Not the suburban sprawl that most of us spend our lives in[...] I mean right in the middle of a proper city—clattering heels, laughter, fast-moving traffic. The clamour of the stirring sheets reverberates; it echoes back from the municipal stonework and spirals up into a vast empty sky [...] I've felt this every time I've opened my eyes in London, no matter how grey and dirty the bed or couch or floor I've been on, and I feel this way now."
I guess if that doesn't convince you to buy this book (and Oblivious, if you haven't already) no further words of mine will. So I'll just end this review with one of my favourites of the title songs from this brilliant collection of stories. Play on:

(Slight Return) (UK | US)

No comments: