The Knife That Killed Me by Anthony McGowan (2008)
Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell (2013)

The Rental Heart by Kirsty Logan (2014)

The Rental Heart
The Rental Heart
Kirsty Logan's The Rental Heart (2014) is a slim volume that packs a whale of a punch. Although the collection's 20 stories are all (to generalise wildly) on the theme of 'love', it captures a huge variety of emotional nuance: from heartbreak to resentment to loneliness to pure, unwatered desire.

Logan's style is deceptively ephemeral - the stories are often phrased like fairytales or delivered like children's stories, but they're neither: they're meaty, visceral and, on most occasions, utterly ruthless. Virtually all are genre-inflected: Logan captures twenty worlds where relationships are unbounded by the 'rules' - physical or otherwise.

A personal favourite is "Underskirts", the story of a beautiful countess who hand-picks peasant girls to become her lovers. Told from a dozen different points of view, the tale is alternately horrifying and uplifting - is the countess the saviour or the villainess of the piece? The story spirals in closer and closer, with every perspective adding something new to the mix.

Another of the book's best entries, "The Broken West", is less ambiguously forlorn. Two brothers search for their missing father - in the most heart-breaking of ways. Their own lives degenerate into a haze of self-destructive sex and alcohol, as their (impossible) quest takes its toll. As with "Underskirts", "The Broken West" describes the lingering impact of a single person's actions - a domino effect of broken lives. 

"The Last 3,600 Seconds" is exactly that: an apocalypse story. But rather than a story of redemption or salvation, this is a story of the completely ordinary. These are two people who more or less fit together, are special only for their ordinariness - two of O'Henry's 'other' four million - sitting out the final minutes of the end of the world. It is, as with the other tales, both heart-breaking and strangely satisfying.

Logan's stories occasionally veer towards the abstract, but even then, they are never sentimental or twee. Similarly, as much as they address the notion of desire, they're never prurient. Be they about boys operated by coins, girls with antlers or completely ordinary people, Logan's stories capture - in gorgeously direct prose - the powerful connections that arise between people. An excellent collection, and well-worth reading. 


A version of this review first appeared on Pornokitsch (September 2014)


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