Trunk Stories #3 November 2005. Hang Fire Publications. Pp. 44. $4.00.

Reviewed by Djibril

This small format, independently produced, small press magazine is well put together, original and daring, and very good value for money. We have not seen the first two issues (although issue #2 apparently comes in a "pop-up special edition"!). All of the stories and non-fiction are very short, with the single exception of the opening piece, which runs to sixteen pages including the effective, childlike illustrations. Some, although by no means all, of the shorter pieces seem a trifle incomplete, as though hurriedly put together or lacking much by way of direction, but they are none of them a complete waste of space, and the collection clearly represents the ecclectic editorial tastes, which it would be unfair to expect this reviewer to share completely.

Carole Lanham's ‘The Good Part’, the longest story, is part vampire tale and part the story of kids growing up isolated in the hicks, their dreams, fears, loves, hates, and fantasy fulfilments being closer to reality than in most people's lives. This is a convincing story, well told and deeply unsettling, the youth of the protagonists lending both an unreal quality and notes of tragedy. Not an easy read, at the end of the day, but a worthwhile one.

Other stories are much shorter: Nate Southard's ‘Silent Corners’—about a music engineering student whose hunt for the silent spot in his room becomes dangerously obsessive—and Michael Northrop's ‘Unvincible’——are both complete stories with plot, tension, and resolution achieved in two or three pages. Neil Ayres' ‘The Tamer’, on the other hand, is a two page story about a girl feeding mince to a meat-rook; the main character is nicely sketched and the writing is fine, although I was slighly bothered by the omniscient narrator intrusively becoming a character half-way through. William's Wilde's ‘Manfleas’ is likewise short, although it paints a far more surreal picture of anthropomorphic fleas being hunted down in fields. Both of these stories feel incomplete to this reader, as if they started out with gratideas but didn't know where to take them. They are really vignettes rather than stories—but as vignettes they do work very well.

Brett Alexander Savory's ‘Subliminal Verses’ is perhaps the most subtle-surreal piece in this issue, leaving you with plenty to think about. It is fair to say that this piece—along with the two poems by Christoph Meyer and Kristine Ong Muslim—defies description and is best left for the reader to discover at first hand.

The two pieces of non-fiction in this issue are quirky and entertaining—no review articles or debates on the nature of weird literature here. ‘Baby Secret’, by Margaret Crocker is, creepily, a more-or-less verbatim transcription of the random whispers of a 1960s talking doll. This toy must have been pretty weird in any case, but taken out of context in this publication, it is pretty damn freaky! The second article, Veronica Schanoes' ‘Why I hate Penn Station’, is a discourse on the beauty of New York, on the history and culture of the railway, and a rant on the ugliness and inconvenience of the Pennsylvania Station itself. Now while it's true that Penn is a pretty shitty station, I can't imagine getting this emotional about it...

In summary, this is an enjoyable, quirky little publication. Maybe light-hearted, and on the short side at 44 pages, but good at the price. Reading it was certainly not a waste of time: there's a shortage of genuinely eccentric creativity out there, and Trunk Stories goes some way to redressing that.

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