Only the Visible Can Vanish, Anna Maconochie’s debut collection of short fiction, crackles with an electric energy. It’s extremely present and the humour is trenchant. Eleven stories, dealing with big city themes: urban alienation to the point of wanting to vanish; internet romances; pressure-cooker media jobs; trying to connect with the opposite sex; encounters that could succeed and bloom into fuller, more permanent relationships only to be destroyed by their creaky foundations.
Familiar types populate Maconochie’s stories, acutely observed and nicely judged; they seem just like you or me, or people we know or maybe ones we would rather not know. They meet on the internet, in bars, cafés and restaurants or at parties.
So far, so good.
But while these encounters lead to apparently pedestrian relationships – a workplace affair, sex whilst house-sitting, two townies escaping to a country hotel, an internet dating disaster, a liaison wrecked by sport – there’s nothing mundane about the way things develop, often in the dark and dangerous no-man’s land between the single and the smugly coupled. Dysfunction and chaos are revealed like the mess of wires in a telephone junction box left carelessly open. Maconochie gets under her characters’ skin and her deft scalpel slices through layer upon layer until she exposes the rippling, heaving viscera of paranoia and insecurity.
Maconochie’s London, her city, never relaxes its grip on her characters – and the pace is refreshing and brisk; white water rafting down the narrative rapids. The reader is left gawping and grinning at the scope and variety of her distinctive human landscape as it passes by. A brand new talent has emerged. Don’t miss it. It’s sharp and very funny.
Anna Maconochie’s Only the Visible Can Vanish
is published by Cultured Llama Publishing; paperback,158pp; £12.00.