It is no coincidence that Kirsty Logan’s latest novel, a collection of short stories titled Things We Say in the Dark, has been released just as Halloween has begun to loom. An intensely dark, delicious, somewhat depraved account of the human condition gone awry, it will make you believe there are far more than just monsters hiding under the bed. The stories are collected in three parts: The House, The Child, and The Past. Each considers the things that make us feel safe, and what happens when those things are corrupted, twisted into unimaginable horrors. Horrors which between these covers are imagined nonetheless.
The stories in this collection present a lyrical and deeply visceral account of the world turned in on itself. In reading it, you are reminded of the darkest thoughts you have ever allowed yourself. And you are shown the conclusion that you never reached, because you shook your head and stopped before you let yourself come to it. Logan’s narrator has no such inhibitions. She writes that she ‘want[s] to know what haunts’ her. The narration grows darker eloquently, subtly, alongside the stories that enclose it. It is this subtle creep that defines the novel; Logan is a master of dragging the reader deeper so slowly, with such great care, that you only notice how far you’ve sunk when you look for air and there is none.
In her treatises on boundaries, womanhood, primal fear and the like, Logan sidesteps the traditional jump scare in favour of something sweeter, stranger, scarier: an unsettling feeling that sticks long after the covers have been closed. Her demons don’t go bump in the night – they sing, they reach, they beckon. Their faces change with the chapters. In some stories, the male characters are laced with malice; the females are consumed by their watchful eyes, clawing hands and haunting voices. In others, wives watch as their wives are drowned by kelpies, impregnated with flower petals, and worse. Mothers give birth to porcelain babies and floods of pomegranate seeds. Houses close in on their occupants, children are taken, lost, forgotten. The human condition inverts under Logan’s exquisite care.
In reading this book, you will be swept under in a torrent of menace, fear, disgust and longing. You will find out just what we say in the dark. And you may well never look at a pomegranate the same way again.
Image: Harvill Secker