Pond

Author(s): Claire-Louise Bennett

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Feverish and forthright, Pond is an absorbing chronicle of the pitfalls and pleasures of a solitudinous life told by an unnamed woman living on the cusp of a coastal town. Broken bowls, belligerent cows, swanky aubergines, trembling moonrises and horrifying sunsets, the physical world depicted in these stories is unsettling yet intimately familiar and soon takes on a life of its own. Captivated by the stellar charms of seclusion but restless with desire, the woman's relationship with her surroundings becomes boundless and increasingly bewildering. Claire-Louise Bennett's startlingly original first collection slips effortlessly between worlds and is by turns darkly funny and deeply moving.

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THOMAS'S REVIEW:
“English, strictly speaking, is not my first language by the way. I haven’t yet discovered what my first language is so for the time being I use English words in order to say things.” Always hinting at experience just beyond the reach of language, Bennett's remarkable book is impelled by the rigours of noticing. Encounters with persons and with the infraordinary are treated with equivalence: acute, highly acute, overly acute, observations immediately plunge the narrator’s awareness into the depths of her response (“My head is turned by imagined elsewheres and hardly at all by present circumstances.”), far from the surface at which outward contact may be made, or may be being made, a process that is both deeply isolating, terrifying and protective. Bennett’s unsparingly acute observations of the usually unacknowledged or unacknowledgeable motivations, urges and responses that underlie human interaction and quotidian existence seem here induced by an acceptance or a resignation that is enabled by despair, or is indistinguishable from despair, both a resignation and a panic, perhaps, a panic on the edge of self-dissolution which is perhaps our last resistance to self-dissolution and therefore fundamental to individual existence: the anxiety which all human activity is designed to conceal. Bennett’s is a very individual voice (
click here to hear her read a sample), resonating at times with other works of irredeemably isolated interiority, such David Markson’s superb  Wittgenstein’s Mistress or the suppressed hysteria of Thomas Bernhard’s narrators, but tracking entirely her own patterns of thought (I have perhaps made an error here of conflating the author with the narrator, but, if this is an error, it is one hard to avoid in the book in which style and content are inseparable) with an immediacy that precludes the artificially patterning, pseudo-assimilable explanation of a ‘story’. In one excellent section, ‘Control Knobs’, the narrator describes the gradual disintegration of the three knobs that control her cooker and speculates a coming time when the last interchangeable knob breaks and the cooker will become unusable. This reminds her of the counted matches in Marlen Haushofer’s The Wall (another novel of irredeemably isolated interiority), which mark the time to the point at which that narrator will no longer be able to light a fire to cook and warm herself. Following a discussion of Bennett’s narrator’s reading and misreading of that book, she returns to an account of the ultimate hopelessness of her attempts to procure new knobs for her cooker. “I feel at a loss for about ten minutes and it’s a sensation, I realise, not dissimilar to indifference. So, naturally, I handle it rather well.”


{THOMAS}

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‘This is an extraordinary collection of short stories – profoundly original though not eccentric, sharp and tender, funny and deeply engaging. A very new sort of writing, Bennett pushes the boundaries of the short story out into new territory: part prose fiction, part stream of consciousness, often truly poetry and always an acute, satisfying, delicate, honest meditation on both the joys and frustrations of a life fully lived in solitude. Take it slowly, because it is worth it, and be impressed and joyful.’
— Sara Maitland, author of A Book of Silence

 ‘I’d heard more good whispers about Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett than almost any other debut this year so, by the time I read it, expectations were high and – as it turned out – not disappointed. These stories are intelligent and funny, innovative and provocative, and it’s impossible to read them without thinking that here is a writer who has only just begun to show what she can do.’
— Eimear McBride, author of A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing

‘Wielding a wry but implacable logic, Claire-Louse Bennett dives under the surface of “ordinary” experiences and things to reveal their supreme and giddy illogic. Like Gail Scott and Lydia Davis before her, she writes an impeccable affect-less prose that almost magically arrives at something extraordinary.’ 
— Chris Kraus, author of I Love Dick

‘Claire-Louise Bennett is a major writer to be discovered and treasured.’
— Deborah Levy, author of Swimming Home

‘As brilliant a debut and as distinct a voice as we’ve heard in years—this is a real writer with the real goods.’
— Kevin Barry, author of City of Bohane

‘A touch of William Gaddis. A touch of Lydia Davis. A touch of Samuel Beckett. A touch of Edna O’Brien. And yet Claire-Louise Bennett’s Pond feels entirely unique. Quiet and luxurious all at once, this will be one of the most sensational debuts of the year.’
— Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin 

‘Claire-Louise Bennett sets the conventions of literary fiction ablaze in this ferociously intelligent and funny debut. Don't be fooled by Pond’s small size. It contains multitudes.’
— Jenny Offill, author of Dept. of Speculation

 

Claire-Louise Bennett grew up in Wiltshire in the southwest of England. Her short fiction and essays have been published in The Stinging FlyThe Penny DreadfulThe MothColonyThe Irish TimesThe White Review and gorse. She was awarded the inaugural White Review Short Story Prize in 2013 and has received bursaries from the Arts Council Ireland and Galway City Council. Pond is her first collection of stories.

General Fields

  • : 9781910695098
  • : Fitzcarraldo Editions
  • : Fitzcarraldo Editions
  • : September 2015
  • : 197mm X 127mm
  • : United Kingdom
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Claire-Louise Bennett
  • : Paperback
  • : en
  • : 823.92
  • : 148