‘if a book is locked there’s probably a good reason for that, don’t you think’ by Helen Oyeyemi

I’m an absolute fiend for the second person. In this story it’s so well utilised because it ties in with how short fiction doesn’t need to atone for or justify its own internal logic, provided that logic holds together for its duration. In this story, the strangeness and unknowableness of the narrative extends not just to us, the reader, but also to its protagonist. If we imagine the space between the page and the reader’s eyes as a kind of proscenium, the second person allows a character to reach out, through and beyond, to create a shared experience. In this story, the shared experience is one of not fully understanding what’s going on. It’s also a really beautiful piece of writing about intimacy and cruelty. 

First published in What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, Picador, 2016, and anthologised in The Penguin Book of the Contemporary British Short Story, ed. Philip Hensher, 2018

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