Scottish writer Kirsty Logan has been compared to Angela Carter, Margaret Atwood and Jeanette Winterson, and although there are obvious similarities in these writers’ fascination with the magical, the unexplainable and the horrific, Logan has her own distinct voice.
The short stories in her collection Things We Say in the Dark are all marked by a kind of perverse originality, each one stylistically distinct but concerning similar themes: fear, death, gender and sexuality, amongst others. The collection’s twenty-odd stories are divided into three sections: The House, The Child and The Past. Each story is preceded by a page or so of italicised prose, which initially appear to be autobiographical, exploring Logan’s writing process, but could in fact constitute their own fictional short story – this remains unclear.
Many of Logan’s stories feature LGBT+ characters, with emphasis on the ‘L’, but Things We Say in the Dark is characterised by a diversity of voices. Some stories are in first person and past tense, others in third person and present tense, and some are even in second person, addressing the reader directly. The setting for most seems to be Scotland in the twenty-first century, although this isn’t made explicit. The rules of Logan’s universe aren’t like the rules of our universe, with the boundary between real and fake blurred in typical magic realist style. The very first story epitomises the collection’s fascinating surrealism; the narrator constructs for their apparent lover a house made out of their own body parts.
For some readers, certain stories may prove triggering, as they explore in explicit detail distressing topics such as rape, abduction and even cannibalism. The middle section of the collection focuses on pregnancy, dispensing with romanticised notions of childbirth in favour of raw, painful reality, albeit a reality filtered through a surreal lens, in which babies are born as fruit or sharks. Things We Say in the Dark is deliberately dream-like, or rather, nightmarish. Reading Logan’s book can feel at times like delving into the dark side of YouTube; what you see (or read), you will never be able to unsee (or unread).
It can be rather exhausting, reading story after story when each one is so uniquely twisted, so reading breaks are advisable but as Halloween approaches, Things We Say in the Dark will make for the perfect trick-or-treat for adults.