A while ago I got a subscription to an independent publisher in the UK called Influx Press. I read the quietly brilliant The Country Will Bring Us No Peace (Matthieu Simard), then Steve Hollyman’s Lairies, which seemed to be my life in the 90’s reflected back to me. Then I got in the post a slim book with a strange black and white photograph on the cover…
This was In the Pines by Paul Scraton and I was an instant convert. It is a collection stories that take place in an unnamed town surrounded by pines and infused with burning nostalgia. Reading it made me feel as if my favourite characters from the books I read in my twenties had grown into slightly damaged yet nuanced adults who could not help but pick at the scars of their younger selves.
The black and white photograph on the cover was taken in collaboration with Eymelt Sehmer, using a 170-year-old technique of collodion wet plate photography and there are more photographs within. One of the delights of this book is the way the narrative of the text and the medium of the photos speak to each other, as if to highlight the clarity of our present against the blurred edges of recollection.
For me this is one of those books I was sad to finish. Sad that the story had run its course and that I had to say goodbye to the characters.
Paul’s Built on Sand, his non-fiction work about Berlin and his experiences living in the city, is equally well written and also infused with a yearning for the past, both recent and distant. I am currently saving up Ghosts on the Shore for my next holiday when I can take the opportunity to savour it.
Paul is coming to the bookshop on Friday, 24th June at 18.30 to talk about his work, and I for one am counting down the day. Please contact us if you wish to attend, or click the box on this Doodle poll. We will be serving wine, water and snacks.
In the meantime, we are selling Paul’s books at the shop, and it’s more than worth checking out the journal Paul edits – Elsewhere: A Journal of Place – which is, “dedicated to writing and visual art that explores the idea of place in all its forms, whether city neighbourhoods or island communities, heartlands or borderlands, the world we see before us or landscapes of the imagination.”