Story Title: ‘Bitter Gourd Fruit’ by Ben Walker
Collection/Anthology?: Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology 3 (Bristol Review of Books Ltd.)
Date Read: 20th June 2011
Briefly: The narrator wakes up with the feeling of a mild hangover. However, that’s the least of his worries because he soon realises that he is disabled from the neck down. Worse, he discovers that from the neck down there is nothing that can be disabled. You see he’s just a head – a living and breathing head – housed in an hardwood casket, aboard the steamship, Alpaca.
Afterthoughts: It’s down in Yorkshire-born Ben Walker’s brief bio that he has a bit of a thing for penning ‘surreal histories’. I didn’t quite know what that meant until I read this story, but I do now and I can tell you that it’s a highly entertaining ‘form’ (although in this case rather than a historical story this one is more an alternative present). Walker has a wicked and wry sense of humour – which certainly appeals to me – and a sense of Edgar Allen Poe about him. This is a story which has a lot crammed into its short length, and I mean that in a good way, and it’s a story which definitely feels original and fresh; fresh that is, except for the extra eight inches to be found beyond the hinged trap door, in the container that houses the narrator’s head (you’ll know what I mean when you read it :)).
This story was read as part of a review of the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology, Volume 3. If you want to find out more about this anthology then I invite you to head on over and read my ‘forethoughts’ post, and/or visit the the Bristol Short Story Prize website.