Eibonvale Press, September 2011
Review by Matthew Tait
Feather is an intricate latticework of nine separate novellas introducing the reader to a very original form of storytelling. Set against the backdrop of ocean and sea, David Rix introduces us to his dark and often complicated muse: Feather the wandering girl – an orphaned eccentric who embodies the wandering spirit. Someone who flits into people’s lives, touches them with her magic, and ultimately flits away again … often leaving battered souls in her wake.
With the opening novella, Yellow Eyes, David gives us perfect overture for this atypical protagonist: the story of a childhood spent living on the outskirts of a haunted wasteland – the only company that of a domineering Father – one who has escaped the modern world and deprived her of a normal life in the process. After escaping this bleak environment she runs back into the only world that knows her: sand and sea. It’s here that she meets Jimmy Ward and the chorus is taken up The Angels … a small fable bringing love into the equation. (The prose here is often littered with bullet-pointed snippets of signs and revelations that give more insight into both characters – an unusual form of pace).
Touch Wood sees the character of Feather shifting into the lives of a modern world – always told from another central character viewpoint, it’s a small opera of love told mainly in a bar. Although it features a highly unlikable protagonist, it’s blended with the spiritual and philosophical – an amusing cast that prattle on about the study of particle physics and their relation to making up the world of being human.
A central and larger novella, The Magpies introduces us to another character on Feather’s peripheral awareness … one that finds isolation in the Southern European Mountains – the locale where she hopes to find a musical muse again. After discovering a dead Magpie on the front stoop, it sends off a whole chain reaction of feathered ghosts and macabre scenery, ushering her into a confrontation with the muse. Again Feather is on the outskirts … this time with a healthy package to bring it all into place.
In Book Of Tides Feather again returns to the sea and an unlikely male companion – a ghost writer who sees every tale in the next tide. With Feather’s arrival it brings in a story of death – one that forces her to ultimately leave again and with a dawning knowledge that stories themselves are the enemy.
Another long novella, To Call the Sea opens the curtain to Feather attending college. Another rag-tag cast is assembled with a hundred different artistic outlooks – each one like a moon to Feather’s Jupiter. Suddenly normal college life bursts into an alternate dimension … one that seems like a portal into that strange sea-world Feather inhabits. I’ll admit to being confused by this climax – you never know whether to feel palpably perplexed or just enchanted. As a collective whole the tales seem like an epic vehicle for the author’s prose.
It’s the final stories, however, that are the crowning jewels and where David’s talent as a writer is on full display. Displaying a less cerebral style but still showcasing a sharp sting, this is dark and urban gothic at it best as we follow Tallis through the streets of LjubLjana. A tale of bleak and functional spaces – and one that might remind a reader of Gary McMahon or even the early stylizing of Clive Barker traversing the streets of Liverpool.
Overall, this is like one of the more magical books one might read in high-school, but bristling at the intersection of Horror and Slipstream. A strange metaphor for the authors character itself – and at turns mythic and seductive.
Feather is available from Eibonvale Press.