Chosen by Susanna Crossman
‘And Back Again’ by Eley Williams is a DIY of how I’d like to declare my love this year, not in ”units, deeds, quests, behests” but through an imagined trip to Timbuktu staying in a cheap hotel with a blue painted face, because, as the 1960 Oliver West End musical song goes, “I’ll do anything. For you dear anything.” As the narrator’s romantic daydream unfolds, mesmerizing details lure us to a Mali hotel where a fan “slices the air into swallowable rashers.” A lorry draws up outside, advertising La Vache Qui Rit, driven by a guy wearing Chelsea away strip smoking cloves-scented cigarettes.
In ‘And Back Again’, language is dissected, turned inside out and upside down. Song lyrics thread through the story, and words are examined from all angles, metaphorically and visually: the word Timbuktu “has just the right mix of spiked and undulating letters…the verticals of boat masts riding easy waves…” Yet the conceptual nature of ‘And Back Again’ doesn’t override the vivid narrative and delicate poetry, as love will be declared on a morning “woken by the starlings…shouldering the dawn.”
Following my reading, for Valentine’s Day, I have booked my flight to Timbuktu, and for the blue face paint am contemplating a Klein bleu. Thanks Eley!
First published in Attrib, Influx Press, 2017
Susanna Crossman is an Anglo-French prize-winning essayist and fiction writer. Her debut novel Dark Island is currently under submission. More here.