Thursday, September 17, 2009

Courage Consort

by Michel Faber
I've been opening up my novel-locked mind lately to the joys of short fiction. Partly because that's what I'm writing so I better figure out what works, and partly because some of my favourite novelists (if you haven't read Faber's The Crimson Petal and the White don't talk to me again until you do!) have some great collections out. That and I have no attention span any more.
Anyway, "The Courage Consort" is the first of three novellas in this collection, each one a schooling in brevity, clarity and depth. The title story involves a vocal ensemble's fortnight in a Belgian retreat and all the personal and professional intimacies that come to the fore in that time. Sexual tension that causes pain. Personal pain that causes tension. And just enough of the supernatural to keep things really tense. No wonder I'm exhausted this week!
Faber's real strengths (and two of my favourite things in writing) are character development and the slow revelation of a character's depth. And nothing in this collection changes that. "The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps" made me want to cry, and to slap someone, and to hug the heroine, and to get a dog. And "The Farenheit Twins" made me want to cry, and to slap someone, and to hug the twins, and to institute universal parenting courses as a requirement for pregnancy.
In short, Faber is a genius at expressing humanities depth and shallowness, and I can't wait to learn more from his writings.

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