How the Light Gets In, and other solstice reads
On the longest day of the year sunlight floods Hyde Park Book Club for the launch of Clare Fisher’s short story collection How the Light Gets In.
I arrive at the launch to find HPBC living up to its ever-growing reputation. The little independent venue has thrived over the last few years on an excellent line-up of tasty vegetarian food, live music and literary events, and Fisher herself has hosted a long-running book club here, drawing a varied crowd of readers in a way she has a knack for. As long as I’ve known her she’s had a talent for bringing together people who might otherwise never have met; people who connect, despite everything, under her easy auspices. This evening bears witness to that, as friends and acquaintances gather together among indie publishers and established authors on the summer solstice to celebrate Fisher's latest work.
Supported by Influx Press and Leeds Big Bookend, Fisher is joined for readings by northern author and academic Naomi Booth, and publisher, bookseller and author, Samuel Fisher. It’s an impressive crowd, but even still, it would be hard not to feel welcomed by HPBC’s friendly red exterior and cosy corners. We’re coaxed indoors by our host, Kit Caless of Influx Press, who introduces Naomi Booth for the first reading.
Booth ensnares us with a work in progress, which is clutched inside the pages her published novel Sealed. Reading from a story featuring a neurotic parrot, she leaves no doubt that her assay into short fiction will be every bit as captivating as her novels. Sealed, her second novel, is told from the perspective of pregnant Alice, who is obsessed with conspiracy theories behind cutis; an epidemic that is literally sealing people up in their own skin. Expertly nauseating and incredibly readable, the novel’s Sci-Fi elements underscore disturbingly relatable female experiences such as maternal anxiety, gaslighting, and the gendered imbalance of emotional labour.
Booth is followed by Samuel Fisher (an ink relation, rather than a blood relation, to Clare Fisher), who asks that we momentarily follow him into the consciousness of… well, a book. His debut novel, The Chameleon, is narrated by a book called John, who has lived over 800 years while “dressed” in the various guises of real volumes such as Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, and Dorothy Richardson’s ‘Pointed Roofs’. It is at once a fable, a thriller, a romance, and most definitely, “a strange little book”, with a premise so novel I'm sure readers be talking about The Chameleon for as close to 800 years as they can get. The brief extract we hear is witty, reflexive, and promises a narrative that takes pleasure in being surprising.
As Clare Fisher reads from How the Light Gets In, the eclectic triad of authors is complete; the works in this new collection are short, pithy, and completely adept at swallowing you up with distinct, evocative voices. Caless sums it up when he says she is capable of writing lyrically about modern modes of communication, like Skype, even while addressing the gaps they create. Indeed, Fisher solves the creative writer’s riddle, conjuring something profound out of the almost sordidly mundane here and now. This is evident when she reads the story titled ‘like, the best night out ever’, in which unruly syntax and a scarcity of full stops express the emotional rollercoaster and impressionist confusion of images that comes with being pissed, and sat on your arse in the street. If anything articulates millennial beer fear, it’s the moment the narrator witnesses her friend whacking a guy with her stiletto which, the narrator tells herself, “must have fallen off your foot which no longer has anything to do with you because what even are you?”. As a collection, How the Light Gets In is not just “a good toilet read” (although Caless is right when he makes this joke about the shortness of the stories within) but a case study in the art of creating fictive voices.
As the event draws to a close, it seems like the sun will never set on this beer-serving book club doubling as a bookshop. For us bibliophiles, there could not be a better setting to celebrate new fiction, hear authors read unfinished work from within the binding of published books, and discover that novels written by booksellers are narrated by books themselves…
Title image sourced via clarefisherwriter.com