The Illiterate Ghost (Fictions of Fear, Absurdity and Madness) by Alan Price. Review

The Illiterate Ghost (Fictions of Fear, Absurdity and Madness) by Alan Price

Publisher: Eibonvale Press, p/b, £3.96

Reviewed by Dave Jeffery

THE ILLITERATE GHOST is a collection of flash fiction, cut-up fiction and short stories that are over and done within a mere sixty-six pages. This is not to say that these pages are not noteworthy, but readers of this book need to be prepared for a challenging read that encompasses a wide variety of themes and writing styles.

From a reviewer point of view, Price’s collection is an intriguing oddity, giving plenty to explore and debate, while accruing enough discussion points to stretch the wordcount to thesis proportions. For the purposes of a succinct review, the following were standout moments.

The titular story is an intriguing tale of a spirit doomed to haunt a library when in life they were unable to appreciate the art of reading. The ever-increasing boredom of eternity is both a curse and a focal point for rumination as the ghost is doomed to relieve its biggest regrets ad nauseum.

In the short story OKURA’S TREE, WILLIAM’S BRIDGE, two obsessed lovers lose their most predominant physical features and have to learn to love again based on the people they are rather than the aesthetic. There is an aching sense of regret, fear and loss associated with this story with each lover mourning the impending death of a relationship that never truly comes.

TARGET is a brisk tale of the skewed morality of corporate infrastructure as a man is driven to extreme lengths by an obsession to make up for a percentage deficit in his production figures. Dark satire help make this piece of flash fiction comedic yet edged with a sense of melancholy. 

Price’s narrative flows like an easy stream, the writer in total command of the linguistic pace and the imagery this creates is quite sublime. There are some pieces that may frustrate, especially where there is a reliance on the reader’s existing knowledge of the core themes driving the story, as well as their levels of patience with tomfoolery. Take the cut-up fiction piece, INDEX TO THE 1896/1907 FILMS OF GEORGES MÉLIÈS in which Price artfully, using the film titles in this index, pieces together a bizarre narrative that, while engaging and no doubt skilful, makes little sense. Ultimately it will be up to the reader to decide if such literary chicanery is something to which they choose to subscribe or not.

THE ILLITERATE GHOST is, overall, an accomplished piece of writing that works on many levels. The approach is an acquired taste, and may cater for a narrow market but, from the point of view of an entertaining and intriguing reading experience that is a little out of the ordinary, certainly worth the investment.

Highly recommended.