“I know a woman who sleeps with a unicorn tucked under her arm because it’s stuffed with the kind of security that people just aren’t.” This is the entirety of Dreaming Grown-Up Dreams, from Gray Crosbie’s flash fiction collection Love, Pan-Fried and those twenty-five words set the tone of Crosbie’s collection for me – a sort of… sadness. It’s the world as it is, rather than how we might desperately wish it to be. Even if that world is filled with werewolves.
While initially grounded in the queer-conversations of now, magical realism seeps into almost every story – each only a couple paragraphs long, or less – and there’s the occasional bit of science- fiction as dark as any black mirror. You go from tea-parties with bigfoot to the mundane horror of a loved one’s self-harm scars, to the uncomfortable way someone’s birth name sits in memory and in your mouth. The work is visceral; you can feel the blood under the fingernails, the fish scales, the fruit juice, the shit.
Some stories feel so much like secrets that it feels wrong to reveal their charms, and it’s not hard to make comparisons to Carol Ann Duffy’s The World’s Wife, Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, or Neil Gaiman’s Smoke and Mirrors. But Love, Pan-Fried is more digestible. It’s the kind of book you read all at once, almost propelled by the desire not to linger in the darkness – as well as by the desire not to be tricked by the stories that seem ‘safe’.
The cover illustration by Johanne Licard and the internal illustrations by Murphy Winter work perfectly with Crosbie’s prose. And I’m sure Winter’s accompaniment to Inside We’re Wild Things will be sure to provoke at least a few nightmares.
Pick up for £8 (and currently free delivery) from Knight Errant Press.
Words: Ana Hine
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