Talk about unsettling stories. I’m quite sure Alois Hotschnig will give many an author a run for his money in this genre.
I postponed reading this book for the longest time. It was because every review of it talked about the eery qualities of the stories. The ways they made you think, and constantly reconsider. Zee even mentioned that she wasn’t sure if she should read them before bedtime. Knowing how I often react to the spooky stories, I considered if I should read them at all, given that I’m easily disturbed enough not to be able to sleep.
Luckily, I challenged myself. And here I am, still able to sleep. Having read Maybe This Time, I can promise you a lot of things: eery stories, unsettling ones, a lot of ambiguity, or as Caroline perfectly defines it: they’re what the Germans call unheimlich. But somehow, I was still able to sleep at night. Perhaps I can handle the stories that are creepy in a “making you question and think about everything around you” way better, somehow. I’m rather glad I handled this collection so well. You might even say I felt a little proud.
It is ambiguity that is the real strength of this collection of short stories. In almost every story, you start out with a situation that is unsettling in itself, before things turn out to be rather different, yet never in a less unsettling way.
A good example of this is the way in which the story “Two Ways of Leaving” first makes you think of a stalker who visits her former girlfriend’s house, before realising that perhaps it is the stalker that is being played by his ex-girlfriend. For more on this particular story, be sure to visit David’s Sunday Story Society post of a few weeks ago.
What I found most interesting about Maybe This Time was that so many stories deal with alienation and identity confusion, or even identity loss. The stories offer you a lot to ponder in that respect. What makes them so very eery is that all situations are somewhat magical in their ambiguity, and yet they are all very much related to the real world. Set in that world. And sometimes so realistic that they’re quite scary.
Unfortunately I did not think this collection was perfect. I realise that this was more my own fault, and dependant on my own taste, than the quality of the stories. I just don’t always handle ambiguity very well. These stories never provide clear answers, nor do they end on a note that makes you feel that you have come to understand them from beginning to end. This ambiguity is its strength; as the stories change perspective you learn to ask even more questions about what exactly is going on. But for me, personally, it also meant that some of them left me feeling a little empty by the end: what exactly was I supposed to make of them? I should note that this was more often the case with the shorter stories in the collection, which I’ve learned are usually the stories I have most trouble with in short story collections in general. I loved some of the stories, and I’d love to read them again and see what questions I am left with on a second reading. But I felt a little apathetic about some others.
Other Opinions: Caribousmom, chasing bawa, The Worm Hole, Tony’s Reading List, Notes from the North, Beauty is a Sleeping Cat, Andrew Blackman.
Did I miss your post? Let me know and I will add it to the list.