‘English, strictly speaking, is not my first language,’ explains the unnamed narrator whose feverish reflections are the subject of Claire-Louise Bennett’s Pond. ‘Regrettably I don’t think my first language can be written down at all … I think it has to stay where it is; simmering in the elastic gloom betwixt my flickering organs.’
Bennett is an English-born writer who lives on the west coast of Ireland. Pond, her debut book of stories, published earlier this year by pioneering Irish press The Stinging Fly, and now in London by upstarts Fitzcarraldo Editions, is hardly a book of stories at all. Instead it is a first-hand examination of solitude: an unrestrained account of the mind at play as it ricochets from simple objects – vegetables, thatch, underwear – to suggestions, ideas, memories and impressions of the external world.
The book is shot through with Annie Dillard-like epiphanies – ‘A divination came to me’ – and yet remains earthbound, funny and occasionally vulgar, like Lydia Davis valorising the humdrum without the familiar baggage of work, family, the weight of expectation and panic over time.
What emerges cannot be defined by