Captives – Angela Meyer




I’ve finished the fourth draft of my novel and its out with four (mainly friends and family) beta readers over christmas/new year. I’m feeling a bit deflated rather than elated for some reason but looking forward to a two-month break from it (I was starting to hate it at the end of this draft!).

I’m now moving into short story mode, aiming to write six or so short ones over the holidays. So I’ve launched int0 the first of a few collections to see how its done. I don’t normally read, or write, short fiction so this is new territory for me.

First up is Angela Meyer’s collection of ‘flash fiction’ published earlier this year. Angela blogs at Literary Minded and has been published in Crikey, The Australian and The Big Issue.

Captives is a beautiful book in every way. It’s small and perfectly formed, just like its stories and is made with one of the most touchable covers and paper I’ve encountered in a long time.

There are 37 flash fiction stories, usually defined as somewhere around 300-500 words. Reading these stories is an exercise in how to generate a sense of time, place, character and emotion in an instant. There’s not one single word that can be wasted in such a short space. Thus I felt immediately transported to the endless day of a Norwegian summer, an Amsterdam dorm and the claustrophobic confines of a locked toilet. There are no answers, explanations or satisfaction to be had in these stories, just an opportunity to be plunged straight into a situation or character with absolute immediacy.

One of my favourites was ‘Brand new’, about a visit to a patient in an asylum who had his hippocampus and thus short term memory removed. In two paragraphs, Meyer conveys both the possible advantage and then the physical reality of such an existence. Then there’s the chilling ones – a man making preparations to kidnap and imprison someone and a woman who swallows impossible objects.

I also loved the ones that evoked the feel of America – ‘Halloween in America’ and ‘California’ about a girl on her way to make a name in ‘those moving pictures’. I loved the way she picked at the seam of her glove, which perfectly plants you in the early days of cinema.

The hints of a story untold are also lovely, such as the feel of a cool stone. ‘Fire retardant. If only she’d known.’ You can’t help but start thinking about what’s behind the small taste you’ve been given.

These short slices of fiction are almost like poetry – they make you feel and think but don’t offer any solutions. Its such an interesting concept and I feel like I should try and write some just to challenge myself to see how well I can capture a lot in a small space.

A beautiful little book that I’d highly recommend to anyone who loves words.