Jai Clare, The Cusp of Something. Elastic Press, 2007. Pp. 191. ISBN 9780955318139. £5.99.

Reviewed by Mario Guslandi

Elastic Press continues its commendable mission of providing a showcase for new writers by publishing The Cusp of Something, the debut collection of short stories by Jai Clare. Little is known of the author, except that some of her stories have previously appeared in literary magazines such as The London Magazine and Nemonymous. This book assembles twenty-five "tales" or, more precisely, explorations in the secrets of the human soul and in the sweet mysteries of sexuality.

Clare has a light touch, a sensitive mind and an elegant use of the language. Her pieces may disturb, disquiet, or simply convey a certain mood. Sadness and melancholy are the most common feelings to be experienced in her work.

You may have noticed that I am reluctant to use the word "stories"; this is because Clare seems either unwilling or unable to build a decent plot. She's a writer but not a storyteller, which to this reviewer is a major flaw, although others may not share my view. The lack of a proper story does not affect some tales, while making others flimsy and slightly boring.

Among the best pieces in this collection are ‘Balloons’ a delicately described love story taking place in the alienating environment of a big city; and the original ‘Ramblista’, where, in the magic atmosphere of an enchanting Barcelona, a man interviews two ladies who disclose to him some unsuspected sides of life.

In the delicate ‘Bone on bone’ a love obsession dries out a musician of his musical talent, while in the brief but effective ‘Eyes like water, like ice’ the essence of sacrifice is represented with cruel realism. ‘The ruins of Lutz’ is an obscure and not quite so accomplished piece investigating the difficult relationship between brother and sister in search of the ruins of a lost city.

Eros is often the subject of Clare's literary efforts. ‘More Moments of Sheer Joy’ is an accomplished example of subtle eroticism described from the feminine point of view through the words of a woman touring the world's islands to raise funds for charities. Two further, interesting trips into the world of female sexuality, either lesbian or hetero, are ‘Man of Shape’ and ‘Vanitas’ both imbued with a deep sense of bleakness and gloominess. The most consistent story, at least in terms of a semblance of a plot, remains ‘The Lightest Blue’, describing with a delicate touch the end of a love affair during a vacation in Greece.

Clare is a painter who avoids strong colours and prefers to employ soft pastels. This is her best quality but also her current limitation. She is an artist showing promise but should exercise her muscles in order to produce in the future more solid fiction, if possible endowed with fleshy characters and more substantial events.

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