by Ken Nash
Forthcoming in 2019.
1st edition. Paperback.
Publication date: December 2019.
Equus Press: London & Prague.
Price: € 8.00 (not including postage)
It’s possible to read Life Raft as a continuation of The Brain Harvest, Nash’s first story collection. The major themes of sundry infatuations, family relations, and the power of art to sustain us remain. But there is something new happening below the surface, lingering beneath each story. Something darker and more threatening than anything in The Brain Harvest. Yet, like with that first story collection, Life Raft remains determined to reveal that art and imagination are perhaps the only way to safely traverse such dark waters.
“Life Raft”, the title story of Nash’s new collection, makes this creative strategy nearly explicit. Nine passengers are apparently lost at sea aboard a small, inflatable raft. They have been drifting for an inexplicably long period of time. How can they survive like this? Why is it taking so long to be rescued? There is more than a whiff of Waiting for Godot here. And, as with Beckett, the subtle, dry humour neither causes nor saves us from complete despair.
Life Raft departs from The Brain Harvest in a few significant ways. Most apparently in the length and complexity of its stories. Many stories in Life Raft, such as “Clam Neck Beach” and “Tourists,” are less obviously fantastical in nature as those found in The Brain Harvest. But, most significantly, the extremes of life and death throughout Life Raft feel more urgent and pressing than in The Brain Harvest. The stakes higher, the way forward more perilous. Nash makes us aware that in this turbulent world of ours, art is only a precarious raft. Yet, miraculously, it seems to sustain us.
“Ken Nash is not like the rest of us. Not only does he actually listen to what people say and how they say it, he can reproduce it expertly. In his endlessly inventive stories, Freud’s concept of the uncanny (unheimlich) applies—these eerie slices of alternate reality, set in garbage dumps and dystopian future societies, look and feel just a little too much like where we’re headed. But not only can he see into the future, he can make us laugh through our fright. There is mordant wit; there is trenchant social observation. If Ken Nash didn’t exist, we would have to invent him. But we can’t. Because inventing Ken Nash is a job for one person only: Ken Nash. We’re lucky we get to enter his weird and deeply affecting worlds.”—Donna Stonecipher, author of “Inlay (Kafka)” and The Reservoir