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Andrew Blackman, Nights on Fair Isle (Review)

September 6, 2012

You probably know by now that I occasionally like to review short stories that are available online, most often those published by the Library of America.  So when author and blogger, Andrew Blackman, recently posted that one of his stories had been published online, I thought I’d check it out.

“Nights on Fair Isle” is, he says, the first time he has had a short story available free on the internet, but he expresses uncertainty about the value of reading online and asks his readers’ opinions. Good question and one I’d like to answer … somewhat anyhow, and then bat it on to you. I don’t as a rule read fiction online. I read novels on an e-Reader but I don’t think that’s the same as online, or is it? And I read short stories and essays that are made available online. But, here’s the rub. I don’t read them online. I print them out and read the hard copy instead. This might just be the product of my babyboomer-dom… I could in many cases, I suppose, download stories and essays onto my e-Reader, but mostly I think what’s the point. It’s just as fast to print it out.

Anyhow, the story. It’s a little story … And I mean that literally in terms of its length not as a comment on its quality. In just three pages (in my printout version), Blackman tells a tightly controlled story of loneliness and how one woman goes about soothing her soul to enable her to keep on going day after day in a big city, London to be exact. We don’t know where Aurelia is from, but we do know that she wasn’t an English-speaker when she arrived in London. Not long after her arrival, she stumbles on the shipping  forecast on the radio and hears a “gentle male voice intoning” words like “Low, Fastnet, nine seven three, falling slowly”. Each night she tunes in to the same words, and thinks it’s a nightly prayer that she’s hearing. Eventually of course she’s put right, but she goes on tuning into the forecast for its soothing sound …

And for the way it reminds her of her mother’s “sweet lullabies … that chased away the shadows and fears”. Blackman neatly segues from the shipping forecast to the sea and Aurelia’s favourite sea-based fairy story, and effectively uses the paradoxes inherent in sea/water imagery to convey both fear and calm. I won’t relate more of the story though … after all it’s short enough for you to read yourselves via the link below. I’ll just say that I liked the way Blackman gently explores the power – and limit – of dreams and reverie to keep you going. It’s a realistic rather than grim or depressing story.

Meanwhile, do you read online? And if so, do you think it changes the way you read, or what you read?

Andrew Blackman
“Nights on Fair Isle”
SolquShorts, 2012
Availability: Online

11 Comments leave one →
  1. September 6, 2012 11:09 pm

    What a suggestive and gently rolling piece. Aurelia’s two lives – one above in the sea dreams in her head, the other below with shards of glass and her glum life – were beautifully conveyed. Great story!

    As for reading, I just love old paperbacks – secondhand and scribbled on – probably even more than spanking new designs. I do love to drag a book everywhere and make it part of my life for a bit. I just wouldn’t do that with an E-reader. Besides, I am so tired of the screen by the end of a working day it wouldn’t work for me.

    • September 6, 2012 11:22 pm

      Thanks Catherine … Glad you read and liked the story too. do you know that site for stories? There seem to be so many out there now …

      And thanks for sharing your reading preferences. I’m still mostly a paper girl, but I do like the Kindle with its e-ink technology. It’s not really like the typical backlit computer screen … But it isn’t paper!

  2. September 7, 2012 1:45 am

    I read online all the time but it is generally essays/ nonfiction while on breaks at work. I don’t do much reading of fiction online since I need quiet time for that which means at home where I have all my books taking my attention away from online fiction. I have no problems reading online and nothing against reading fiction online either it is just a matter of what I have time for!

    • September 7, 2012 7:11 am

      Thanks Stefanie … You are a true child of the digital age and proof I think that our modes of reading will expand rather than contract!

      • September 8, 2012 1:50 am

        I don’t know about child of the digital age. I took a typewriter to college with me and didn’t own a computer until I was 22. But once I had that first computer there was no looking back!

        • September 8, 2012 1:16 pm

          LOLStefanie … Must say I’ve never looked back once I saw computer either … You perhaps switch between the media a little faster than I do? But I do love my iPad and kindle.

  3. September 8, 2012 4:53 am

    I don’t read online if I can help it. Author Victor Gischler recently had a story giveaway. All you had to do was shoot him an e-mail and he sent back a pdf which I sent to my kindle. easy peasy

    • September 8, 2012 1:20 pm

      Yes, Guy, I’m the same … Kindle or paper but not online per se. Partly to do with the eyes but mostly to do with the physical place I like to be in for thoughtful reading … If that makes sense.

  4. September 9, 2012 11:55 pm

    I liked Andrew’s short story a lot – partly because the name, Aurelia, is familiar, and partly because it made me remember…
    I’m not much for reading online, if it’s something short that’s fine – some blog posts, short stories, news, but I would go nuts staring at a computer screen for hours.

    • September 10, 2012 12:19 am

      Thanks, again Delia. I agree re reading on the screen … I do quite enough as it is I think … The kindle is easier on the eyes so I’m happy to read stories and novels on it.

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  1. Out and about | Andrew Blackman

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