How The Light Gets In by Clare Fisher

Influx Press, June 2018, 179 pp

Influx Press, June 2018, 179 pp

“Blessed are the cracked for they let in the light.” This is the premise for Clare Fisher’s How The Light Gets In, a collection of short stories that, with a few exceptions, are only one or two pages in length. Whether this is to be called flash fiction, or “very short stories” as the back cover blurbs it, is a question of preference. What’s certain is that these flickers of narrative present a promising new author, who writes in a humane, yet insightful, way about our everyday life. “Learning to live with cracks – both my own and other peoples’ – will win me no prizes. But I don’t care. I’ve been doing it for years now and it feels like life,” says the narrator in the first story. This refreshingly positive ethos is carried through the collection, but the life-affirming tone does not eliminate acuteness: these are also sharp portrayals of 21st-century urban existence.

Fisher is a careful observer of people, jumping into the shoes of numerous different protagonists as required by numerous different stories: there’s a schoolboy looking for validation via questionable choices; a tourist guide at Victoria Station observing tired, nocturnal travelers; a man who promises his partner to clean up the apartment as soon as he’s finished writing his Magnum Opus, while the truth is that he’s just uploading photos onto Facebook; a 35-year-old woman has been in a relationship for most of her adult life, but doesn’t believe she’s ever really loved anybody. These are just a few random examples. Interspersed with these individual stories are some recurring features, such as the 5-part “dark places to watch out for,” where Fisher shows her comic side by listing such “places,” sprinkled across the book:

The desire to laugh in what everyone agrees is a Very Important Meeting and which, the more you remind yourself How Important This Is, only grows to a cough that even thoughts of massacres and holocausts and the death of your family and the nuclear apocalypse cannot suppress.

On the sentence level, Fisher excels at denouements. She has a penchant for writing long final sentences, which twist and turn in order to delay the revelation at the very end, like at the end of “this city’s roaring edge:”

Some nights, as I am rushing towards the cardboardy comfort of my Ikea bed, I see you; you are still here, still at the roaring edge, the second to last person I will see today, and I smile at the gap in the railings to the left of your head, knowing that your question is no question, that you know something I, in my salad-munching hyperactivity, may well never learn: how to be still.

The care with which Fisher arranges her words and sentences shows that she writes with the sensitivity of a poet, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her write in verse someday. Although How The Light Gets In might not leave the longest aftertaste – largely due to the sort of in-the-moment observations of everyday life that more likely amuse than change one’s life – it is, as said, a fine collection of stories in a refreshing format. I’m eager to see what she comes up with next.