Always Never, Rarely Sometimes by Alexander Raphael
This is a collection of short stories by one person,yet they vary in style and content so much they elegantly demonstrate the versatility of Alexander Raphael as a writer. Only seven stories, but each has a different tone and flavour, from the brash showman to the small boy working hard, the importance of names in someone’s life to the reunion of two people who were once important to each other. They are all more or less contemporary, and show the way that sometimes the domestic settings of coffee shops, bars and small towns can be enough for vibrant fiction. This is a short book and an entertaining one, as with commendable economy the author establishes the setting, often during the lively dialogue which he seems to revel in. The characters which he evidently enjoys creating are consistent and often surprising, but always intriguing. There are twists sometimes within the stories, but they are not essential to tell the story. There is sometimes a surreal theme, but all are within the range of experience; the human context is well developed. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this fascinating book.
The character of Jimmy Nirvana is a failed magician and disappointed showman, but has a talent and an appreciation of how to have an effect on people, not always for the better. In another story the question is “what to say next” after many years. The nature of luck and timing is a very real topic for some, as a man comes to know the power of a name and much more. There is a chilling element in a story set in an everyday pub, despite outward appearances. This is in direct contrast to a delightful story of innocence and attraction, appearances and contrivances. A smart and clever story of intense motive is an intriguing story of a marriage. The final tale features Christmas from a particular point of view and is a touching tale with a few surprises.
This is a lovely book of stories for reading and thought. They do not always go in the way that is expected, and are the stronger for that, but do not indulge in showy tricks. It is an entertaining collection which I recommend as an enjoyable read and well written treat.
“1801 – I have just returned from a visit to my landlord – the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with… A perfect misanthropist’s heaven: and Mr. Heathcliff and I are such a suitable pair to divide the desolation between us.” These are some of the classic lines that are at the heart of this story, a sort of short tale of the summer of love. Royal weddings, romance and an increase in weddings are the stuff of a summer season in which people are doing romantic and frankly daft things and this “short story” captures some of the sense of desperate acts. For this extremely slim volume has quite a powerful image of a man who is willing to try anything. Alexander Raphael has skilfully caught something of a particular summer so well that it is almost possible to visualise the main scenes of this narrative. A sort of romance, a sort of discussion of what lengths people will go to, and the effect of publicity on real lives is looked at in this well written story. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.
The way that Heathcliff and others were summoned to help in a book form was because a woman got fed up with her relationship. After two years together, it appeared that she was fed up of him spending more time with his friends and video games than her, and accordingly leaves a farewell note on his gaming console. She tells him not to be in contact. However, Kurt Vannes refuses to take no for an answer, and he tries in every way to contact her. His voicemails, gifts and gestures are unsuccessful, even when he spends a lot of money. He accordingly hits on the idea of finding a public place to stand and read Wuthering Heights aloud. His appearance and normal shyness is memorable to those who gather around to hear his reading of his ex girlfriend’s favourite book. Some are curious, especially when he offers no immediate explanation of his actions. Some come because they love the book and want to hear it, and some come because they spot someone in the crowd they like the look of very much. As a reporter is attracted and the story spreads, will this unusual stunt have the desired effect?
This is a deceptively interesting and deep story. A very short read, this is an interesting book and has something to say about the desperate power of love. I found it an interesting read.