‘These are tales in the old style, a way of telling and a geography of literary landscape that you don’t see that much anymore’ – Sing Sorrow Sorrow Edited by Gwen Davies

Sing Sorrow Sorrow has the feel of a new publishing house about it. My copy is a little too cleanly finished. Too polished. Their website does not reveal their age, only that they’re a publishing house from Wales, publishing work from Wales. It’s comforting to read something close to home.

I picked this because of the depressing title. I’m so predictable. It arrived and to my joy was a collection of ‘dark and chilling tales’. Perfect.

These are tales in the old style, a way of telling and a geography of literary landscape that you don’t see that much anymore. The stories recall HP Lovecraft, Sheridan LeFanu. They have all the crumbling decay of Uncle Silas, the erudite language-bending of Arthur Jermyn, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. They also remind me of strange stories I read long ago, by people like Mary E. Wilkins-Freeman, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Chelsea Quinn Yarbo.

One story concerns itself with an unnamed monstrous thing, a strange, treacherous child. It brings the game F.E.A.R to mind, the Japanese demon child obsession of Ju-on and Ringu. As the story progresses, however, it becomes unclear as to whether this being exists or not, whether it is a product of the protagonist’s own mind. Like the ghosts and the governess in The Turn of the Screw. It is my favourite story in the collection. I have read it over and over for weeks. ‘The Epilept’, by Cynan Jones. I looked up the word, epilept. I don’t think it is one – if Google is to be believed. Some examples from this story that I hope will illustrate my points about Sing Sorrow Sorrow:

The horrible noise of the cat. Battering itself at the window in another part of the house, trying to get out. Battering itself over and over into the wall. It killed itself, it was so frightened. They said they found that difficult to believe. (p 83)

When I went back she was sitting in his ribcage. She was small, had gotten tiny, and was coiled up into his body like a cat curled on a chair. She looked happy but upset at what had happened. Happy it was over. She was getting smaller which she looked sort of sad about. (p 84)

Another story I admired is ‘The City’ by Lloyd Jones. It epitomises the unstable, decaying geography of the Gothic:

We walk past an isolated homestead, up through the heather until we reach a group of rocks – the place looks like a tumbledown giant’s house because we can see traces of a building with a doorway and an apron of smooth green grass in front of it. We watch the landscape below us – it’s immense and brooding today, smoky and mysterious, almost sinister. The invisible sun filters through the clouds in beams of weak sunshine, which strobe the fields below us with pallid light.

Any Cop?: This is an enjoyable, albeit mildly disturbing collection. Clive Barker it is not, but perhaps we should be thankful.

Jessica Maybury

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