Review by J.L. Corbett
Writer: Andriana Minou
Publisher: Kernpunkt Press
Release date: March 2020
Price: £11.21 (paperback)
Is death fabulous? We’re taught that it most certainly is not, that death is the sinister consequence of our own poor decisions, or our ill-advised habits, or pissing off the wrong person. Society teaches us that there is nothing in life which should be feared so much as death.
In The Fabulous Dead, Andriana Minou paints a rosier picture of the afterlife. In this flash fiction collection, death is a surreal watercolour of absurd escapades and unexpected moments of warmth.
Each story is wildly different to those which preceded it, yet they flow together easily in a bizarre patchwork. Our narrator, The Skyscraper Queen, transports herself into the worlds of the posthumous celebrities and they accept her presence without question. There is little plot – these flashes are slices of life – but there doesn’t really need to be. The oddness and charm with which these stories are written is enough to keep the reader engaged.
Each short story features a deceased celebrity from yesteryear navigating a strange situation. We see Lewis Carroll serving lemon cake inside a dream, Wittgenstein begging a woman to eat him as he boils in a pot of soup, Marlene Dietrich living in an ice cream freezer, and countless other famous historical figures in dreamlike scenes.
There are a few standout flashes. In “The theory of Beatrice Portinari on the other side”, we meet Virgil Ivan “Gus” Grissom, a NASA astronaut who famously died during a pre-launch test of Apollo 1 and who is now apparently living on the moon. We are treated to a cosy scene in which he listens to country music whilst waiting for his ephemeral dream woman. Like the other flashes in this collection it’s an absurd premise, but the care with which the story is told allows the reader to abandon any scepticism they may have held, to buy into the concept and to enjoy it for the beautiful scene that it is.
The illustrations featured throughout the book are mostly pencil or ink sketches and were drawn by Minou herself. These distinctive drawings add to the overall magic of the book and help bring us further into Minou’s fanciful inner world, but the style is somewhat inconsistent. This is perhaps by virtue of Minou experimenting with different mediums, but the fact that each of the illustrations are drawn in such disparate styles leads to a somewhat erratic feel.
Whilst the settings, the characters and the situations are all different, the stories are drawn together by a common thread of contradiction. These whimsical flashes are tinged with morbidity, the hushed reminder that death comes for us all and the gentle suggestion that happiness can still be found within it.
This is a fantastic flash collection, and a wonderful showcase for Minou’s writing abilities.
You can buy your copy of The Fabulous Dead here.
Andriana Minou is a writer/musician based in London, UK. Her work has been published in several journals such as rattle, SAND, Typehouse, Anti-languorous, FIVE:2:ONE, Fearsome Critters, Tiny Spoon, Verbivoracious Festschrift and Maintenant Dada. She has published three books in Greek with Strange Days Books, one of which will soon be released in Spanish. She writes music, texts, librettos and songs for albums, films, plays, cabarets, operas and performances of all sorts that have been performed in many different parts of the world. She is also a curator of Sand Festival, an international literary festival taking place on the Greek islands for the past six summers.