I’ve had this collection a while. I finished it sometime ago and yet, despite that distance between reading and reviewing, I’ve found that the characters and stories continue to live with me.
Ashley Stokes has managed to compress engaging lives into the confines of the short story and in doing so has created a very powerful collection of tales.
These stories are shot through with history, the dark grain of old photographs, the brutality of failure and unrequited lust. Tales that refuse to fade long after reading, characters as flawed as you and I are thrust into situations that hopefully we never will be.
The Syllabus of Errors takes us across Europe and through time. It takes you from the edges of the rise of fascism in Italy, and the after-glow of the Weimar Republic, to the anxiety of the near future.
To go into detail regarding any of the stories would be to do it a disservice; you just need to read it. However, having said that, The Short Story About A Short Film, needs a mention if only for its ambition.
The Short Story about a Short Film is wonderfully adventurous and whilst it doesn’t fully work, you have to admire it for its sheer energy. You can’t help thinking it would be far better as a voice over for a real DVD, and that’s the whole point I suppose, but nonetheless, it is inventive and powerful, viewing the collapse of a relationship through the need to make a film. The director’s narrative becoming far more powerful than the story he’s trying to tell. I felt it was ingenious how the two strands weave together; the directors need to complete the film and his desire to resurrect his relationship with the leading lady, both of which are ultimately flawed but equally compelling.
You should never judge a book by its cover. The Syllabus of Errors may look like a dry, 1970’s, OU text book, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. It is, in fact, a cracking collection of short stories; stories that are well worth your time, money and effort.
So, go hence from here and buy, read, enjoy.