Maria thinks how habituated she now is to interpretation, how experienced at watching a face. (from Terminus by Louise Doughty)
I was in love with Emily Brontë’s book Wuthering Heights when I was in junior high school, mooning about Heathcliff, naturally I had to read this collection of stories inspired by Brontë’s only published novel. Some of the stories had me deeply engaged, especially Terminus. There is something brutal when you lose yourself, when Maria looks at a young woman and thinks “We are each other’s inverse”, it’s such a loud thought, raw. How Maria was once untouched, free of this misery, this cruel love. The heightened state of the abused, the sea that can soothe and destroy (much like love), “The sea is me. Or I am the sea.” Wuthering Heights was quite the story of abusive love itself, one where there was no escape from the affection you should run from.
Thicker Than Blood by Erin Kelly is perfect for the age we live in making me wonder with a sinking sensation just how many people will relate to it. Heath’s unhealthy addiction with Cath, sorting not just through her social media but those in her circle for his fix, while hapless Izzy may as well be filler space until he is with his Cath. Though really, he is always with Cath in time virtually, a lovesick lunatic pinging himself for any news, any photo of her while his devoted Izzy just looks on with longing, put down your phone, please see me? The phone a portal that allows him to never be away from his obsession? What sort of sick, one-sided love is that? The disgust he feels toward Izzy is a live wire, Izzy ‘mouth breathing down his neck”, how dare she want his time, love? This is a modern retelling of Wuthering Heights and it spirals into darkness, obsession that goes into the rotted soil.
How Things Disappear is a gut punch. A young woman is just a ‘sturdy shell, and only the things inside shimmered to nothingness.’ I would think there have been times, if you’re lucky it’s a short stretch, where you feel yourself spilling out, dissolving, dissipating ‘the world took so much of her without permission’, who hasn’t felt that very thing? We are so often ill prepared for what life is going to throw our way, how do we contain the core essence of what it means to be? How do we maintain our soul, and not become just another walking zombie? I think that I felt a bit of Catherine here, doomed to disappear, Heathcliff’s love is the world that took from her. Just something I was thinking.
In Heathcliff Is Not My Name we are in Heathcliff’s mind, “they called you dark-skinned gypsy, dirty Lascar, vagabond, devil. You’ll give them dark, dirt, devil.” This is what made him, this is what led to black nights, the seed of hatred, the birth of poisonous love. Never ‘molleycoddled’ in his entire life not one lick of tenderness, hating those who live in their carefree, happy little worlds like precious pets. He is the dog that gets kicked, if not put down, I think this story was my favorite.
Kit by Juno Dawson didn’t fit but it certainly exposes the ways we humiliate ourselves, build up these ridiculous stories to feed our desires, how we become something other than we are, creating a fictional version, thinking we can push our way into the object of our affections world. It’s a shallow story, and the desperation is painful so it got a reaction out of me. You can’t force it, you just can’t.
The majority of the collection moved me in some way, took me back to the unhealthy, doomed love in Wuthering Heights! If you’re a fan, there are a few stories in here that work magic.
The Borough Press