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 airb nb 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