I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

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Light, Dark

Neil Hegarty
Melting Point, by Baret Magarian, Salt Publishing, 224 pp, £9.99, ISBN: 978-1784631970 In “The Fever”, one of the compendium of short stories in Baret Magarian’s Melting Point, a courier collects the manuscript of a novel from an address in Lincoln, Nebraska, for delivery to an editor in Los Angeles. During a break at a motel in the Mojave Desert (“I needed a shower, a bed, some kind of sanctuary for a few hours”), the courier waxes lyrical about the author of this novel, an “Elvis of literatur” who writes on an Olivetti, “squeezes out masterworks like a chicken lays eggs” – and disdains, of course, not only the good offices of the US postal service but also electronic mail and all the paraphernalia of modern communications technology. The greatest fear – at any rate, of this reader and writer – is that the precious manuscript will be lost by the courier and will be revealed as the sole copy in existence of a Great Novel. But nothing so conventionally horrifying will do for Magarian, who instead bestows a life upon the manuscript which is by turns hot and icy-cold to the touch. “It was insane, it had been driven mad by its contents.” Nor is even the existence of a living manuscript the most prominent aspect of “The Fever”, for a great many other events (by turns otherworldly, sexual, terrifying, murderous) take place in the course of what is by no means a lengthy short story – and not one of these events is in any way conventional. The clue, as they say, lies in the title, for the stories in Melting Point are indeed much preoccupied with processes of disintegration. Philosophical, spiritual, formal, imaginative, ethical – the molecules positively fly apart, page after page. Sometimes this disintegration indicates a loss of confidence as much as of ethical moorings: in “Crime and Bread”, a woman who would appear to be doing well enough for herself nevertheless loses her head just sufficiently to steal a Toulouse-Lautrec poster she has noted in a shop window and coveted to the point of unreason. How will she remedy such a dangerous and unethical situation? Certainly not in a way that indicates any satisfying point of closure: instead, this unreason continues “furtively” to the bitter end, as the melting continues apace. The protagonist in “Crime and Bread” does not merely shoplift the Toulouse-Lautrec poster: instead she opts to…

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