I am a big fan of Kirsty Logan’s prose; I love its mysterious quality, its beautifully dark and evocative imagery, and the wildness which exists within it. I was so looking forward to picking up her newest collection of short stories, Things We Say in the Dark, and am pleased to say that it lived up to my very high expectations.
Logan has been compared, variously, to Angela Carter, Margaret Atwood, and Jeanette Winterson. I can see elements of their work echoed in hers, but Logan has something entirely her own. Her narrative voice is taut, and her stories often feel wholly original.
The stories in Things We Say in the Dark are described as ranging from ‘chilling contemporary fairytales to disturbing contemporary fiction.’ The premise behind the collection is to examine fears. The blurb comments: ‘Some things can’t be spoken about in the light of day. But we can visit our fears at night, in the dark. We can turn them over and weigh them in our hands and maybe that will protect us from them. But maybe not.’ For Logan, the expansive night allows a kind of freedom difficult to hold onto during the daylight, but it also serves to make the more creepy elements stand out. Logan has used quite typical tropes at times – abandoned buildings, a séance – but rather than becoming clichés, she makes them all her own.
Things We Say in the Dark has been split into three parts: ‘The House’, ‘The Child’, and ‘The Past’. Each of the tales contained within the sections revolve around the central subject, but each is, on the whole, really quite different. Before each, Logan has added a sort of continual narrative, which builds to a story of its own.
As is often the case in Logan’s fiction, there is such strange and compelling imagery threaded throughout the collection. In ‘Last One to Leave Please Turn Off the Lights’, the narrator makes tiny houses out of parts of their body: ‘My ear-house got buried in the window box; my eye-house was squashed under your winter boots; my tongue-house was snatched by a neighbourhood fox.’ Mythology and fairytale-like imagery make themselves felt at times; at others, magical realism creeps in. Logan makes the weirdest things feel entirely realistic; it is a real skill of hers.
Logan makes a series of profound observations in several of these stories, too. In ‘Last One to Leave Please Turn Off the Lights’, for example, she writes: ‘When she thought of what she – and probably you – had learned at school, about the universe and its vastness, the infinity of it, the insignificant tininess of her within it, it made her sick and cold and dizzy.’ There is humour – most of it dark – here too. In ‘My House is Out Where the Light Ends’, protagonist Jay ‘opens the door to the cellar, but she doesn’t go down the steps because she’s not a fucking moron.’
Logan excels at both short fiction and longer work. This collection of dark tales is wholly immersive. It looks, largely, at the lives of women and those in the LGBTQIA+ community, and in their entirety ‘speak to one another about female bodies, domestic claustrophobia, desire and violence.’ Things We Say in the Dark is filled to the brim with original ideas. Each of Logan’s stories is unsettling; some are downright creepy. They and sent quite delicious shivers down my own spine, and would be a chilling choice to read aloud. Things We Say in the Dark is such a beguiling collection, and another excellent book in Logan’s canon.