“Blessed are the cracked for they let in the light.” This is the premise for Clare Fisher’s How The Light Gets In, a collection of short stories that, with a few exceptions, are only one or two pages in length. Whether this is to be called flash fiction, or “very short stories” as the back cover blurbs it, is a question of preference. What’s certain is that these flickers of narrative present a promising new author, who writes in a humane, yet insightful, way about our everyday life. “Learning to live with cracks – both my own and other peoples’ – will win me no prizes. But I don’t care. I’ve been doing it for years now and it feels like life,” says the narrator in the first story. This refreshingly positive ethos is carried through the collection, but the life-affirming tone does not eliminate acuteness: these are also sharp portrayals of 21st-century urban existence.
Fisher is a careful observer of people, jumping into the shoes of numerous different protagonists as required by numerous different stories: there’s a schoolboy looking for validation via questionable choices; a tourist guide at Victoria Station observing tired, nocturnal travelers; a man who promises his partner to clean up the apartment as soon as he’s finished writing his Magnum Opus, while the truth is that he’s just uploading photos onto Facebook; a 35-year-old woman has been in a relationship for most of her adult life, but doesn’t believe she’s ever really loved anybody. These are just a few random examples. Interspersed with these individual stories are some recurring features, such as the 5-part “dark places to watch out for,” where Fisher shows her comic side by listing such “places,” sprinkled across the book:
The desire to laugh in what everyone agrees is a Very Important Meeting and which, the more you remind yourself How Important This Is, only grows to a cough that even thoughts of massacres and holocausts and the death of your family and the nuclear apocalypse cannot suppress.
On the sentence level, Fisher excels at denouements. She has a penchant for writing long final sentences, which twist and turn in order to delay the revelation at the very end, like at the end of “this city’s roaring edge:”
Some nights, as I am rushing towards the cardboardy comfort of my Ikea bed, I see you; you are still here, still at the roaring edge, the second to last person I will see today, and I smile at the gap in the railings to the left of your head, knowing that your question is no question, that you know something I, in my salad-munching hyperactivity, may well never learn: how to be still.
The care with which Fisher arranges her words and sentences shows that she writes with the sensitivity of a poet, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her write in verse someday. Although How The Light Gets In might not leave the longest aftertaste – largely due to the sort of in-the-moment observations of everyday life that more likely amuse than change one’s life – it is, as said, a fine collection of stories in a refreshing format. I’m eager to see what she comes up with next.