Name: Salt Modern Stories Number: 10
The countryside – what is it for? A paradise on earth where you can relax and get creative? Or an outdoor wool factory where every other house is an Airbnb and there are fewer trees than Camden. In his new collection of short stories David Gaffney explores the theme of town versus country through a number of different lenses, including his own experience of being brought up in west Cumbria then moving to Manchester.
A creative residency on the coast of Scotland becomes weirder and weirder in “The Retreat”; ‘I’ve always had the feeling that the countryside has something against me and that one day it will take its revenge.’ In “The Table”, a recluse in Penrith uses mid-century furniture to lure city dwellers into a world of ‘depressed farmers with shotguns and bottomless pits of slurry that will swallow you so hard you'll never be seen again. And in “The Garages” the pressure of city living forces a man to become oddly obsessed with empty spaces. Often funny, often haunting, often profound, Gaffney uses dark humour and surreal characters to demonstrate a deep understanding of how places, urban or rural, can shape, influence and sometimes distort our lives. ‘People who like the countryside tend to believe in things that aren’t really there,’ says a character in “The Country Pub”.
These are indeed stories about things that aren’t really there, and this is why they resonate with you long after you have stopped reading.
‘On The Country Pub: An Arthurian quest for craft ale & moderately expensive grub. A question. A curveball. A runner. Food as art & art as food for thought. Author vs Reader: a hilarious distillation of textworld theory with a killer ending. Be careful what you wish for.’ —Matt Collbeck
‘On The Country Pub: This is a brilliantly sinister and often counterintuitively amusing evocation of a man’s visit with his girl friend to Kendal to launch his graphic novel at a comic book festival, where things become wholly against the expectations of treating themselves to uncustomary posher cuisine and countrified inns with log fires — even the countryside itself is nightmarishly countrified! And so much more that happens after the frame’s margin or a text’s semi-colon, with the subtle or unsubtle clue by sleight of writerly hand of ‘Einstein’ relativity inserted somewhere in the text alongside the static hugging of hello or of goodbye being as ambiguous as a non-existent ‘candlelit snug’!’ —Des Lewis
‘On The Country Pub: Brilliant I concur with the quote on the cover. Bang up to date, but also hauntingly timeless. And what an ending! Great stuff.’ —Joanne Done
‘On The Country Pub: Tho’ set in the north, the urban/rural dissonance & the sense of growing unease might appeal to anyone interested in the west country & the distinct experience of 'outsiders' coming to Cornwall!’ —James Downs
‘A twisted and darkly funny neo-noir with real propulsive energy that produces surprises on nearly every page.’ —Stephen May
‘Ingenious, idiosyncratic and unnerving.’ —Luke Brown
‘Loaded with potent charges, insidious and cumulative in their effects, the stories are sometimes haunting, sometimes comic.’ —The Times Literary Supplement
‘Sad, funny fables recalling evanescent moments of connection and happiness. One hundred and fifty words by Gaffney are more worthwhile than novels by a good many others.’ —The Guardian
‘'A ruthless eye and pitch-black humour.’ —The Observer
‘It would be hard to imagine a book that scored a more penetrating bull’s-eye on the target of the moment.’ —The Independent
‘Witty, clever and poignant, Gaffney's micro fictions work as funny routines, moving insights and illuminating character sketches, often all at the same time.’ —Time Out
‘Utterly brilliant. Hilariously demented and wonderfully succinct. David Gaffney’s Sawn-Off Tales are little McNuggets of pure gold. This is writing at its best.’ —Graham Rawle
‘David Gaffney is, I think, one of very few contemporary British Writers who have mastered the very short form.’ —Nicholas Royle
‘Great read, these twisted wee tales.’ —Johnny Vegas
‘Elliptical, sharp, witty and dazzling, written with a poet’s eye for detail and a novelist’s appreciation of human faults and foibles.’ —Jenn Ashworth
‘Gaffney’s latest is a masterful taster menu, every mouthful wickedly inventive and deliciously absurd. Brilliant.’ —Adam Marek
‘Sharp, poignant, surreal, lyrical and very, very funny, the collection reveals intense knowledge and control of the form, along with a desire to push the boundaries in every direction.’ —Emma Jane Unsworth