30 July 2005

Three Cheers for Iris

I recently finished reading Wildthyme on Top, and overall it's rather fine -- not flawless, but enormously enjoyable.

I'm not going to review all the stories, because that would be far too much effort, and would also run up rather obviously against my complete inability to be objective about a volume I appear in. But one fascinating aspect of the volume is to see how different authors' takes on the same batty, cheerfully self-centred time-traveller can be. Wisely, Paul Magrs hasn't attempted to force them into consistency together, so that the individual interpretations shine through clearly.

Two of my favourite stories in the book are extreme in their differences. Craig Hinton's "Came to Believe" is the very personal tale of Barry, an alcoholic whom Iris helps through his early days in rehab. It's emotionally the most powerful story in the book, just edging out Jon Blum's finale (which I'll come to shortly). The only metafictional element is that Barry is a writer, and in the story Iris is entirely sincere and effectual in what she does.

Lance Parkin's "The Mancunian Candidate", by contrast, is rooted in Iris's habit of barging in on other characters' fictional universes, and relies on her being far too lazy to solve even the most transparent mystery. It's probably the funniest story in the book, being a satire on children's fantasy and the Narnia books in particular, full of metafictional pyrotechnics and political irony, and with a splendidly nasty final twist.

I also particularly enjoyed Stephen Cole's "Beguine" -- a story in the style of Paul Magrs' mainstream fiction, which dances cleverly between future dystopia, horror and a rather touching love story -- and Jon Blum's "The Evil Little Mother and the Tragic Old Bat", a fascinating study of fictional archetypes and the real people who underlie them, whose ending provides the volume with its perfect finale.

It's a shame that Paul Magrs wasn't able to contribute a story himself, but I found Wildthyme on Top fascinating to read, and so should you.

And having said that, I'm going to shut up about it.

No comments:

Post a Comment

(Please sign comments -- it helps keep track of things. Offensive comments may occasionally be deleted, and spam definitely will be.)