by David Long
Granta 118: Exit Strategies

(ISBN 978-1-90588-155-0)

Well, this is the first erotic fiction I’ve ever read, and I read it twice. It must be read twice; Bonfire rushes by and by before abruptly slamming to a stop. In stark contrast to the main theme of the book, David Long just doesn’t fuck about. Conventions are shaken off in the rush, unnecessary words are left in the dust and only a very select prose is left clinging on. And what is left is not thin on the ground, not at all. Long creates exactly the right atmosphere and images by using only very carefully chosen language. This disregard for lyrical baggage is what makes it easier to run full pace through to the end, which is what I did. The impact of the final page became all the more brutal as I hurtled out of a man’s memories in to his tragic present; the ferocity of the stall left me with emotional whiplash.

And that’s why I read it again, slower this time, and it’s worth it – it’s very different but just as good, and the unrefined details of the ‘encounter’ feel more justified.

David Long evokes the power of strong images and particularly smell to trigger the memory of the main character back to his early adulthood and the reader back to the beginning of the story. It’s a useful device and it works; Long’s expert description of “sooty fumes reeking of petrochemicals” make it easy and quick to identify exactly what he means. Those same fumes have been drifting down my terrace every night this week as Wales springs in to summer – it’s a smell everyone knows.

This story will tell every reader something different; I imagine the story would resonate among many a middle-aged married man; it might provide a wife with an insight in to their partner’s secretive longing regret; some might just get-off on it; it made me scared to grow up.

Read it, because I’m sure whatever it will tell you, you’ll be glad it told.


Nick x