‘Morning, 1908’ by Claire-Louise Bennett

The title refers to an image by photographer Clarence H. White, in which a solitary woman walks through a misty landscape carrying a glass globe. There is a kind of constraint, evocative of the repression which haunts all Bennett’s interlinked stories. It is an exquisite story, tense and banal in equal measure. This book holds a record for me, for the amount of times I abandoned it part-read, only to be haunted by its voice, to return to it and abandon it time and time again. It still has the force to irritate me, yet has become a book I return to almost monthly. The notion of self as alienating and enigmatic rather than familiar is ever-present. It calls into question recognition and perception.

Included in Pond, Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2015

‘Words Escape Me’ by Claire-Louise Bennett

It’s difficult to choose only one piece from this book, which was published as a collection of short stories, so I’ll pick this section I published at 3:AM around the time of the book’s initial publication in Ireland by The Stinging Fly. Like Lydia Davis’s ‘puzzling’ stories, it doesn’t so much tell as offer a set of things to thing about, and think about again. And Claire-Louise is very interested in things: “bon à penser” Lévi-Strauss wrote: goods are good to think with

First published at 3:AM Press. Collected in Pond, The Stinging Fly/Fitzcarraldo, 2015

‘Morning, Noon & Night’ by Claire-Louise Bennett

How can I recommend just one banger in a book that is absolutely chock-full of bangers?

I bought Pond on the strength of this interview, in which Claire-Louise Bennett seems like quite an extraordinary kind of human being – absolutely singular and perverse, exactly the kind of human who should be rendering consciousnesses on behalf of the rest of us.

But then ‘Morning, Noon & Night’ is the second story in, and as I started reading it I got a little bit concerned that we might be venturing into the territory of the lyrical or even the picturesque, and I wasn’t having any of that – but, no fear! That’s not what this story is at all.

From Pond, Stinging Fly/Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2015, Riverhead, 2016. Read it online here