Spaghetti Fiction by Phil Doran
Garlic Press, 2007
Reviewed by Rachel Kendall
When I was given the opportunity to review Doran's collection of very short stories I jumped at the chance. His work has featured in Sein und Werden a number of times, seeming to capture in many ways the essence of what I want the magazine to be about - a certain refined quirkiness, a deadly serious tongue-in-cheekiness.
This collection is a bumper fun pack. The stories are short but there are a lot of them - 63 in all, 158 pages, covering a range of subjects from cannibalism to suicide bombers to Catholicism to the media generation to immigration to sexed-up fairytales. No subject is off-limits and no genre will be left untouched. The story I think most sums up Doran's writing is The Monk.
'My father's philosophy of abstinence and excess in the pursuit of happiness baffled yet intrigued the monk. Basically, it held that we should chase after the equally elusive goals of self-restraint and self-indulgence, self-control and self-abuse, unswervingly, without deviation etc.'
This oxymoronic little tale encompasses, for me, the jaunty angle in which Doran plays with words. He's DADA style, marrying politics with myth, twisting characters into caricatures, revealing the lies and incompetence behind the mask of authority.
'No matter how Orwellian or Waholian or Kafkaesque we make this post-industrial neo-liberal political nightmare, they cannot get enough of it.' (from A Life in the Day of Ivan Yanukovich)
I think Doran is having fun. He's marrying, twisting and morphing words into the drab of everyday occurences, re-packaged in surrealist bubble wrap.
'The feather looked limp, soiled and abused... Bitter, tough, waxy, dry. It was weighed down with too many drab adjectives like tepid prose. Its life source was off somewhere, picking at scraps of pork pie gelatine in pieces of spat out chewing gum on the lowest level of a multi-story carpark...' ( from Rats with Wings)
These stories are a pleasure to read. I'm not saying each one is brilliant. There are some mediocre and some that crack a smile. And there are others that have you reeling with jealousy at Doran's fine wit and half-veiled facetiousness.
To purchase a copy of Spaghetti Fiction (2007) or Spaghetti Fiction Too (2008), email your mailing address to Phil at email@example.com and send a cheque (payable to P Doran) for £6 (inc. p+p) to Garlic Press, 45 Paget Road, Cambridge, CB2 9JF.
Check out some of Doran's other prose/poetry which have appeared in past issues of Sein und Werden online:
A Bunch of Blokes in Suburbia
Holy Herbicide… It's Jack and the Genestalk
The President's Brains