Friday, June 5, 2015

Rachel Kendall's Stranger Days

For over a decade I've been a fan of Rachel Kendall's short fiction, which ranges from taut psychodrama to macabre horror, and her first novel just hit the shelves. In it, a diarist and her boyfriend Z land in Paris with the aim of tapping the city's creative energy to finish her book and reinvigorate his painting, but while quaint shops and gardens basking in the summer sun tease the couple with the city's romantic reputation, a pervasive reek of filth taints their fantasy. The diarist stumbles in the labyrinthine streets, broils under the relentless heat and can't escape the incessant stench, but she keeps crossing paths with a peculiar girl, Elodie, who quickly embraces the diarist as her friend but also invades her thoughts, her dreams and even the book she's writing. Stranger Days reads like The Diary of Anais Nin shot through a David Cronenberg lens. Kendall laces her surrealism with doses of strange of hyper-reality that make you question what's real and what's fiction--if there's a schizophrenic artist creating a replica of everything in the world out of trash, then the insectoid fetus might not be so far fetched (although I'm fairly certain the insectoid fetus is pure least I hope so). In the first two paragraphs you can feel the tension vibrating like rusty guitar strings, and with each page Kendall inexorably tightens the screws until her characters are cracking at the joints and finally something has to snap.

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