The headline described them as ‘Pungent Observations on the Twists of Modern Life’. Pungent? Well, yes. She pulls no punches, does Tegan Bennett Daylight, with some of her descriptiveness – the death of a friend; the truly awful taste of that diabolical elixir we all drank back in our formative years (Brandivino); the fragility of friendship as we first attempt to reject individuality to be accepted by the herd. And one could not fault the writing.
The headline capped a review by critic and editor Peter Pierce. He lauds the author of these ten tales for being a ‘…morally astute, technically adroit, anti-formulaic and unsentimental practitioner of the short story craft.’ Tegan BD is all that, but for me there was something missing. Perhaps Pierce summed it up when he stated the collection exhibits ‘…virtuous skills but no flashiness throughout.’ He intended it as a compliment, but is that what it needed to have more of an impact on this reader – a dollop of flashiness?
I initially discovered this writer some time ago. I cannot recall which of her previous novels (‘Bombora’, ‘What Falls Away’, ‘Safety’) it was – too many years have passed and I cannot locate the record. It may have been the first listed as I have a vague recollection it centred around surfing. I do know I liked it very much and made a mental note to watch out for future publications. But sadly, they have been a while in the making. ‘Bombora’ was twenty years ago – it won the Vogel. ‘Safety’, almost a decade.
The stories in her latest reportedly did contain linkages with past books. And in some the characters make repeat appearances. They are slices of life taken from various stages of the journey we all make – childhood and through the teens to adulthood. A few characters are seen, as from above, in multiple stages. Conclusions, deliberately, are sometimes open to more possibility for, after all, that is life. They’re not sewn up neatly as a package. Just when this peruser was getting to know a protagonist and settling in, though, often a tale would terminate and we were on to the next. But I will say that with what the author has started here there is plenty of fodder for an extension into the longer form. There are novels awaiting within, Ms Daylight.
Despite the coolness of her observations, for me, this offering did not fully satisfy. Talent abounds – that’s easy to discern – and I do trust it is not another decade before the next title is placed on a shelf in a book store to tempt me.
The author’s website = http://teganbennettdaylight.com/