This collection of 18 short stories is a mixed bag redeemed by David Cohen's love of the ridiculous and the pathetic.
David Cohen's The Hunter and other stories of men.
Collections of short stories like these are often a welcome addition to our bookshelves. Readers will hardly need to be reminded that it is worth resisting the temptation to read such a collection as if reading succeeding chapters in a book, because the flavour of one story may not mingle well with that of the preceding one.
This collection of 18 short stories by David Cohen is a mixed bag that ranges from the amusing to the dull, though those in the latter category are perhaps redeemed to some extent by Cohen's love of the ridiculous and the pathetic. In the title he signals that his stories are about men, and for the most part about men who also deserve our sympathy or at least our understanding.
In the opening, eponymous short story, Cohen use a wry sense of humour to poke fun at property developers, conservationists and those given to un-informed decision-making. It is among the best of Cohen's tales. Even some of the villains in the piece, the ibis, don't escape his wit.
'Pioneer' also exhibits Cohen's storytelling at its best. It is easy to identify with the hero, Dennis, and his transformation from lawyer to handyman to log-cabin-builder. And when, like a true pioneer, Dennis decides to use only locally available material, we can but applaud and marvel at his ingenuity. In this story, as in one or two of the others, a woman gets in the way of what a man wants to do.
A number of the stories deal with the severe memory loss suffered by some old people. In 'Lament of a Bus Stop Outside the Benrath Senior Centre', Cohen develops an almost plausible solution to the memory-loss problems of the inhabitants of an old people's home. He tells the story from the point of view of a bus stop in a small German town. In 'The Archive’, Cohen deals with memory loss from the point of view of the elderly sufferer and, while the sadness of his predicament is palpable, there seems little point to the story unless it is to emphasise the misery of the condition.
Two more of the stories deal with decision-making. In 'The Duke of Wellington’, Cohen has a go at those who like to list the pros and cons to help them determine the way forward, while in 'Tony's Farewell' he describes the decision-making process of an employee of an established organisation.
Many of Cohen's characters are lonely, such as Angus in the short story 'Washing Day'. The improbability of the events recounted therein should not obscure the quality of the writing. Cohen reveals that Angus 'was amazed by how quickly he reverted to the solitary ways of his bachelorhood, as if his marriage had itself been a stopgap, a three-year interruption in a life of comfortably meaningless solitude loosely stitched together with short-lived relationships, intermittent bouts of employment, and doing the laundry.'
There are, of course, no hard and fast rules to say how a short story should be written. However, as well as the quality of the prose, it is fair to say the reader is entitled to expect a satisfying – as distinct from a satisfactory – ending. And it is in this respect that some, though by no means all, of the stories in this collection fall short.
3 ½ stars ★★★☆
The Hunter and other stories of men
By David Cohen
Format: ISBN: 978-1-925760-06-4
Trade Paperback 224pp
Rights: World Rights
Release / Publication Date: 01 /08 /2018
Categories: Fiction, New and Recent
Transit Lounge Publishing