Title: Things We Say In The Dark
Writer: Kirsty Logan
Publishing House: Harvill Secker
Date of Publication: October 3rd 2019
Rating: 5 stars
‘’A house is family. A house is history. A house is a body. One subject that comes up again and again in horror, both new and classic, is houses. Haunted houses, home invasions, axe murderers lurking in the attics and chasing us into the basements. Our homes are a site of endless terror.
We are afraid that someone will come into our house when we don’t want them to. We are afraid that the thing we fear is already inside. We are afraid that we can’t make it leave. We are afraid that the lock on the door will not hold.’’
What is it about darkness that makes it easier for us to confess and entrust our deepest fears and thoughts to others and, let us not forget to ourselves? Surely many of us fear it but confession is easier when the lights are out. And what about that moment when a certain thought crosses our mind: our house seems a strange cage when the occasional power- cut takes place. Our house isn’t recognizable anymore. It’s just us within a semi-familiar darkness. What happens then?
‘’Such secrets you would need to swallow. Such masks you would need to wear.’’
Kirsty Logan needs no introductions. In her new exquisite book, an author finds shelter in Iceland, and in the process of writing, uncovers thoughts and feelings relevant to the stories within the story in a brilliant framing device that elevates Things We Say In The Dark to the highest level of literary quality. The collection is divided into three parts that, to me, represent three of our greatest fears. The House, our shelter and, sometimes, our prison. The Child, where a strange, dark and very realistic depiction of motherhood permeates each story, and The Past, the most frightening of all our daily demons that keep us company.
Fear and uncertainty are two major themes. Both come from the way women have been treated and ‘’categorized’’ throughout the ages, traps that we have yet to exterminate once and for all. Fear of what others may think of us. Fear of not following the norms imposed by each one of our societies, fear of being unable to be ourselves. Fear of being silenced. Fear of being raped and brutalized. Fear of disappearing under the pressure. Fear of not being able to find our steps in a world that lifts up signs of warnings and orders in every step of the way.
The entire volume is a work of Art, a Gospel of dark fairy tales that reveal an honest, surreal and oh, so real image of women’s lives. It would be impossible to include every story here but allow me to refer to the ones who will haunt my mind forever.
‘’I made you house after house after house. But each time it was too small, too losable, too easily destroyed.’’
Last One to Leave Please Turn Off the Lights: The fears of women who struggle to build a home to satisfy their partners, or their friends until the gold ashes of a pure soul turn a house into a golden cage.
‘’A woman always dressed in green, who wore strange jewellery, rings made of glass she found washed up on the beach. She had green eyes and long black hair – black as winter night, black like it was always wet.’’
In Things My Wife and I Found Hidden in Our House, two women discover strange objects belonging to a suspected witch. This story reminded me of the vast Scottish tradition and mystical folklore.
‘’On late summer days Jay and Yara used to go exploring, eating blackberries straight from the bush, even though Mam said they were covered in fox piss. They’d stay out collecting berries so late that the sun went down and the light dropped blue and the owls swooped over their heads, making them run shrieking with laughter through the bramble-choked lanes.’’
My House Is Out Where the Lights End is the epitome of rural mystery, the very definition of Folk Horror.
Sleep, you Black-Eyed Pig, Fall Into a Deep Pit of Ghosts is a sad, haunting story of night and love and everything breaking, set in a Finnish cabin.
Girls Are Always Hungry When all the Men Are Bite-Size: A story of facades, seances, lies and desire that starts in a strangely sensual tone and soon becomes a true manifestation of threat and punishment.
Birds Fell From the Sky and Each One Spoke in Your Voice: What can I possibly say about this one? A haunting family story, 90s nostalgia, inertia and the returning nightmares of a drama. A masterpiece.
We Can Make Something Grow Between the Mushrooms and the Snow: A couple tries to find the perfect home, but they cannot agree. The search for a house becomes a metaphor for the lack of communication, of understanding. Ultimately, for the lack of love.
Half Sick of Shadows: What seems to be an ordinary family’s trip in a Medieval theme-park turns into an unimaginable plan with a shuttering closure.
The World’s More Full of Weeping Than You Can Understand: In this outstanding story named after the gorgeous Stolen Child by William Butler Yeats, a mother and her daughter visit a seaside pier on a Saturday. The footnotes hide all the horrors. Sweet Jesus, this one is…I have never, EVER read anything like it. It is perfection in all its absolute glory.
Sleep Long, Sleep Tight, it is Best to Wake Up Late: What starts as a quirky dream questionnaire, is actually revealed to be a series of questions on night terrors and it becomes eerie and alarming. As someone who often suffers from this peculiar phenomenon, I had tears in my eyes upon finishing it.
Watch the Wall, My Darling, While the Gentlemen Go By: In my opinion, this story contains the heart of the themes in this collection. It is brilliant and excruciating and terrifying and very, very tangible. Just proceed with caution with this one because of various trigger warnings.
With Kirsty Logan, all you need is a paragraph. That’s it. That’s all you need to find your heart in pieces. That’s all you need to understand what it means to find yourself in the hands of perfect writers. That’s all you need to stare in awe page after page, sentence after sentence, realizing and wondering how can someone dive into your soul and expose all. This is how Literature should be.
‘’The town unspools past the window. The red-roofed houses, all different heights, foundations subsiding, higgledy-piggledy like a mouth of uneven teeth. The spindly stretch of the pier with the spinning carousel at its end, fairy lights strung from posts, bringing down constellations for strolling lovers. The painted – out street signs and shop names, the raised arm of the church steeple. And around it all the encircling sea, black as tar under the evening sky.’’
‘’That’s why I decided I was ready to write about my fears. I have a place to retreat to where I can always put on the lights no matter how dark it is outside.’’