Breadth of material and dictionýthese qualities in a story collection convince you of a deft authorial hand, an ability to weave a fictive dream that takes you from world to world. In Stripe (Black Bile Press, $6.00 paper, ISBN: 096800976X) , a recently published chapbook of five stories by British writer David Rose, there are worlds in which we witness a bilingual dialogue between a fin-de-siecle Italian operatic tenor and his English manager, a learned riff on Chaos Theory, and the thoughts of a prisoner being flogged while the other inmates look on. Rose's chapbook, then, is a five-panelled canvas, a quintet, in which diction illumines each tableau.
Mastery of language is the poet's trump card, but the best prose writers are also wordsmiths able to reproduce a vernacular, an argot, a slang that slips you into a willingness to read, believe, and learn. "A Nice Bucket," Rose's coming-of-age story features a young man toiling with a road crew. Before the work day starts, the van driver tells "kidder" to take his sandwiches out of the inner bucket when he loads a stack of them into the vehicle:
"Right, sling them in. Hang about, don't leave your sarnies in there, be squashed to buggery. Bung them under the seat. All set, then? Ron and Mickser'll meet us there. They're in the lorry with the asphalt. Wearing their pith helmuts. Asphalt jungle, get it? Sydney Poitier. Never seen it? Wind down the window, get some carbon monoxide into your lungs."
The careful attention to verisimilitude in Rose's workman's dialogue and black-humour recalls David Adams Richards and, on the other side of the pond, Glaswegian novelist James Kelman. But Rose can switch dictional strokes and shade in a resonating image. In "Owl," a man suffering from impotence lies abed waiting for his wife: "I watched her undress, watched her shadow melt down the wall." In "Stripe," the prisoner returning home by train crosses a bridge: "Antique soot and lichen stained the rust of the girders into an epiphany." And Rose's prose often surprises; sudden shifts in diction jolt the reader, sharpening tensions already aborning in a story. In "Gravel," the widowed keeper of a public lake recalls his wife as he looks for a trapped fish in the weed-choked water: "He waded out further, waited for movement in the weed patch, a stir float up like Millais' Ophelia, to see her just once whole, full-figured, full face, hair streaming in the water of silver, a sudden fold in the blanket weed." The italicized intrusion, the man's thoughts crashing into his action, heighten your awareness of the man's lost love.
Rose's short fiction has been widely published in Great Britain, but Stripe is his first collection. It's published by Ottawa-based Black Bile Press, and readers interested in procuring a copy should contact Matthew Firth (firstname.lastname@example.org) for details. Ú