I’ve always thought of myself as a strict novel reader. Although a doorstopper can intimidate me as much as the next person, I do like something to really get my teeth stuck into. Apart from being forced to read them at university, short stories (although, contrarily, among some of the most memorable, striking pieces I have ever read) have never been my thing. However, the universe seems to be pushing me in a very clear direction at the moment; with Alice Munro’s Dear Life being selected for October’s book club and, just the other week, this captivating little volume landing on my desk courtesy of astute Canadian author David Hull.
Daniel Hale is The Man Who Remembered The Moon. One evening, following a relatively ordinary day, Daniel casually asks his girlfriend where the moon has gone, having not noticed it in the night sky for a few days. The moon?! She asks, uncomprehendingly. The celestial body that Daniel has supposedly grown up with, it seems, does not and has never existed. Everything else, on the other hand, is just the same as it ever was.
Firmly ensconced in a psychiatric unit, Daniel, along with his effusive doctor; Marvin Pallister, spend their days delving into the possible causes for/meaning of what becomes coined as ‘Hale-Pallister Lunacy’. The results, explored in Hull’s crisp prose, are incredibly thought-provoking…
The philosophical meanderings of this slim little volume, exploring the historical, scientific and sociological significance of the moon add up to one lovely, symbolic, rather melancholy whole. In a world where the psychologist himself begins to doubt his own sanity, ‘moon’ is an archaic, intangible concept used to symbolise, much like Daniel’s imagined object, a whole range of human emotion.
Once I got over Daniel’s rather unbelievable, seemingly unjust hospitalisation (I mean, who cares if he’s made something up? There are far crazier people out there … or is that just in Manchester?) I could begin to really enjoy the challenging questions obliquely posed by this story. What is reality? What is memory? Whose perspective of the world is the correct one?
This is a remarkably well-considered, touching piece of work written in a strong voice that is, most excitingly, all but unknown. Most strikingly of all are Hull’s ideas. His ‘Hidden Track’ at the end of the book is a pre-existing short story (which you can read in full here) which I enjoyed so much it outshone even the poignant title tale. In a mere handful of pages Hull creates an atmosphere of tension to rival the greatest short story writers out there. Sat in a bar one night, our protagonist meets a curious character; a J G Ballard aficionado. Intrigued, he accepts an invitation to go to his flat to see some of his memorabilia, only to discover that things aren’t quite as ordinary as they might seem…
Short story writing is clearly an art, one that arguably requires the crispest of prose and strongest of ideas to really pull the reader in. David Hull writes with both and I really can’t wait to see what he has in store next.