Harrison, M. John Travel Arrangements

ISBN 13: 9780006546030

Travel Arrangements

 
9780006546030: Travel Arrangements

A collection of haunting short stories from the author of Climbers, Signs of Life and In Viriconium – described by Iain Banks as ‘A Zen master of prose’.

Peter Ebert, obsessed by the record of a 1930s journey through an unknown country, is rescued by a woman whose face is a map. Two holiday-makers return from Tenerife haunted by the trinket-seller who has brought them together. Meanwhile a refugee from the East encounters fear and loathing in the bars and patisseries of Soho, and a young man undertakes a series of random rail journeys decided by the fall of the Tarot cards…

A collection of obliquely fantastic tales, grounded in contemporary reality, into which obtrude flashes of a world beyond our world, a world which would transform the lives of the characters, if only they knew how to find it.

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Review:

Having previously published eight novels and three collections of stories, M. John Harrison's latest collection, Travel Arrangements, confirms the abilities of a writer of singular subtlety and intelligence; that he is not more celebrated may in part be due to the tendency of writers to be categorised by genre. The author's previous books have often been labelled as science-fiction or fantasy but the stories gathered here demonstrate the limitations of such categories. Harrison's writing balances disquietingly on the edge of realism and careful descriptions of quotidian life and place, shifting into intimations of worlds of feeling and states of mind briefly glimpsed. Most striking is his ability to unnerve and disturb with the most economical of means, without need for overt passages of terror or excess. If there is the sensibility of genre here, it is that of the everyday observed by an eye accustomed to strangeness--the science-fiction world applied to the dark terrains of sexuality, desire, travel and one's own neighbourhood. A woman executing her brother's will, anatomies of brief relationships, a detective in search of a serial killer, a young man who uses the Tarot to determine and direct random journeys--all hint at the unfathomable complexity of the world in which we live. However, this capacity for observation is not without humour, for in the story "Black Houses" we get a description of the narrator's neighbours--landed gentry fallen on hard times:

Lord Arquiss was 77. He kept a Volvo the colour of a cheap brogue, and a 50-year-old ex-ballerina who claimed to be his wife. From the disaster they had salvaged an amazing 3rd Reich-style bed, the elongated black wooden posts of which were capped with vast polished eagles like lecterns. Every night you could see the two of them sitting up in this thing like two bull terriers in a pram.
Highly praised by writers such as Iain Banks and the late Angela Carter, M. John Harrison's elegant, uneasy fictions deserve our attention. -- Burhan Tufail

Review:

‘Harrison’s new collection is wonderfully haunting. Its subject is the fragility of the “real world” and how it is shattered by unmotivated violence, unusual belief-systems, madness, dreams and death. His stories are full of insight and extraordinary imagery.’ The Times

‘Harrison presents an England where the dead offer you cups of tea, Soho couples wear axes in their heads as a fashion statement and the roads are deserted enough for lonely men to race cars down the M4.’ Guardian

‘Deceptively light, crushingly assured… What impresses throughout is how spot-on Harrison is: emotionally and in the atmosphere he creates… reminiscent of Borges.’ Time Out

‘The sense of place is everything in these stories… Harrison is a visionary writer who deserves far greater recognition.’ Times Literary Supplement

From the reviews of previous books:
‘Like all good literature, Harrison’s stories are worth reading again and again: the more you read, the more you understand.’ IAIN BANKS

‘[The Ice Monkey] puts him in the company of Ian McEwan and Peter Carey, but he is grittier than Carey and wittier than McEwan.’ TLS

‘Imagine Reservoir Dogs scripted by Alan Bennett and you will have some idea of the flavour.’ The Times

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Harrison, M. John
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