-Reviewed by Kristin D. Urban-
112 pages of 51 flash fiction stories from 42 authors underneath nine different sections, Story Cities: A City Guide For The Imagination (Arachne Press), edited by Rosamund Davies, Cherry Potts, Kam Rehal is a true reflection of the metropolitan experience; a quick influx of moments, people, stimuli. Each story embodies different facets of city life, exploring the permanency of the city, the different types of people that make a city exist, and the types of commonplace occurrences that are intrinsic to the city life.
Next time you sit down in your favourite cafe, or when you pop in some earbuds as you settle into a plastic chair on the metro during your commute, make sure you have a copy of this anthology.
Sometimes sombre and contemplative, other times playful and emotional, Story Cities is exactly what the title suggests; a literary city guide for the imagination. It’s quick enough to read in a single sitting, or the different sections makes it easy to break up during several commutes.
No city or country is ever named and the bars, cafes, sidewalks, alleys could be in any city, anywhere. Even yours. At times, one may be able to hazard a guess as to which city the story may be taking place in. But as a whole, each place within each tale is made up of a universal anonymity.
This is especially true in the opening story, ‘Today’s Arrivals and Departures‘ by editor Rosamund Davies. Davies’ story isn’t written in a typical narrative format – which is not uncommon for Story Cities. Written in a style reminiscent of a fast-paced walker, Davies succinctly describes a plethora of people that you’ll encounter in a city:
“Those who have just woken up/Those who remember what it used to be like/Those who want to make a new start.”
Take a look at this seemingly simplistic writing, and chances are you’ll see yourself. Maybe several times. Maybe the person the reader recognises is an alternate, or possible version of themselves, as seen in ‘Chance Meetings‘ by Maja Bodenstein. The narrator has two random chance encounters in the city. With herself. She wonders something that almost all of us who have struggled have wondered; “what life could I have led if I had had the courage, the willingness to listen?” This is a universal question, but it is also the quintessential mood of those who flock to the city.
Choosing ‘Today’s Arrivals and Departures‘ as the opening story for Story Cities is a clever move. Right from the start, the reader is able to identify with the story or easily recognise someone or something. ‘The Second Car From The Front‘ by Alexandra Penland continues with this theme, speaking of the camaraderie between four strangers who never speak, but have long shared the same commute.
But the overall voice of the anthology isn’t always as sombre as a chilly London day. One of the more poignant stories is ‘Truing The Square‘ by Dave Murray.
A complete love story, anyone who has ever fallen in love in a city will find the rituals of taking “her to his favourite coffee shop” and her showing “him the bakery to which she has walked every week” as all too real.
The familiarity of experiences, even for those who are just passing through a city, continues in Ash Lim’s ‘Hole In The Wall.’ The patient wait for delicious food, despite the crowds, the walk, the gnawing hunger in your stomach is something that every devout foodie will surely understand.
In 2016, 54% of the global population lived in cities. And that number is expected to continue moving up. They are uniquely human places and Story Cities is an appropriately succinct, delightful celebration of these human ecosystems.