Wild Gestures – Lucy Durneen

img_3576-1Wild Gestures was my first invocation of the “book launch exemption” for this year of no new books.  Book launches are far more than the celebration of a new book’s journey into the world. As an author, launches and signings are events where you have the opportunity to talk about the book to prospective readers and as a result they are often where you sell the most copies.

Despite the sales boost, book launches are usually catered events and unless you are a VERY important writer you can guarantee that the publishing house will not be paying for the wine and canapes. In the vast majority of cases, the writer will be footing the bill. So, if I go to a book launch and drink the wine, then I buy the book and say lovely, congratulatory things to the writer when they sign it for me, knowing that they may have spent more on the event than they will recoup in sales. Drink the wine = buy the book. Book launch etiquette 101.

I am so glad I drank that sauvignon blanc because Wild Gestures is a seriously good collection of short stories.

While each of the stories is a stand-alone piece and can be read independently, I think that the stories work brilliantly as a collection. All the pieces share a certain dark vision and psychological depth. They are slow burners; stories that you will be thinking over long after you’ve put them down.  These are tales peopled with characters whose yearning for love, meaning or control is deeply embedded and translated to the reader in a visceral way.

At the launch, Lucy spoke about hearing a master of the short story, Robert Olen Butler, speak at a conference in Vienna about how crucial “manifest yearning” is to the success of any piece of short fiction.  She has taken this to heart. Yearning in myriad guises permeates each of these stories.

These narratives are intense and captivating but so is the writing style. It’s easy to see that Durneen is also a poet; her imagery, concision and depth unmask her.  Despite the dark tones, Durneen is playful when it comes to using various points of view and tenses, but the most enthralling aspect for me was her mastery of suspense. As a reader, she grips you within the first few paragraphs then keeps you hanging, drip feeding until the final lines where there is always a resolution tainted with a lingering sense of mystery. These stories are far more than simple narratives; they are psychological encounters with exceptionally well-crafted characters.

Wild Gestures is a brilliantly written collection that taught me a great deal about both the art and the craft of the short story.