At this time of year, magical performances begin unfolding on every city centre street. It’s a touch of the bizarre that I love to see, but it does make me curious.
What could lure or drive a person to such a precarious, public way of making a living? Or are they investment bankers in the week and unicyclists on weekends?
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The tenth instalment in Unthank Book’s excellent series of Unthologies is all about mental and physical journeys, and people on the brink of savagery.
An encounter at a playground has as much unspoken barbarity seething beneath the surface as a meeting with a bear, and a flight on a mythical beast. The characters in the tales selected by editor Ashley Stokes and Robin Jones have little to loose, which makes them all the more compelling. More than one have demons on their shoulders, and reckless bravado seems par for the course within a few pages. It’s a dizzying read, full of bile, venom and tantalising swoops of the imagination. These are worlds to visit, and then disentangle yourself from, breathless and relieved.
In K.M. Elkes’s Ursa Minor, the brutality of IVF treatment brings a primitive urge to the surface.
In The Best Way To Kill A Butterfly by Hannah Stevens, that urge breaks through as something enchanting is turned ugly with shocking speed: “At dinner parties it became customary to have butterfly centrepieces. The insects would be pinned to cork and cased behind beautiful frames.”
Looking at the way crazes take hold and how we can succumb or resist, this story feels like it’s about far more than an influx of insects, examining instead our desire to possess, and to belong.