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Review: The Quiet Man: Short Stories by John Foxx November 24, 2020

Posted by sjroby in Uncategorized.
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John Foxx’s The Quiet Man short story collection seems strangely appropriate for this year, though it’s a culmination of forty years of writing. The stories often deal with people wandering through cities they’ve somehow become disconnected from, whether by making themselves anonymous, or being lone survivors in abandoned overgrown cities. There are people who become effectively invisible by choice, or by accident, people who become unable to find their way home and roam along canals and towpaths becoming gradually less real. Isolation, dislocation, and disconnection are routine here. So that works for 2020. I’ve been in this house alone, teleworking since March, widowed since May of last year. Isolation and disconnection are my life these days.

There’s a certain resemblance to some of JG Ballard’s work, as stories sometimes seem like they’re replaying the same basic sets of ideas in slightly different ways, but more vaguely and less clinically than Ballard. Foxx is a musical and visual artist much more than a prose writer, and some of the ideas and phrases here have been used in song lyrics going back to the late 1970s. So the book is an extension of the experience of listening to Foxx’s music, hearing lyrics, looking at record covers, reading interviews with him, seeing his visual art, picking up on recurring threads. The quiet man. The grey suit. The shifting city. London overgrown. Consequently, reading this as a newcomer would be a very different experience from mine, and possibly a frustrating one. There are no technobabble explanations, no plots, just repeating images playing out.

Still, if the anthology series The Best Weird Fiction of the Year hadn’t ended after only four or five volumes, there are stories here that would work well in that sort of context. The way the book’s been published, though, as a slightly expensive hardcover from a publisher that specializes in books about musicians with cult followings, will probably keep The Quiet Man from reaching an audience beyond Foxx’s existing fan base. It’d be interesting to read reactions from outside the bubble but I’m not sure that will happen. It’s a shame Mark Fisher isn’t around any more to review it, as his interests in Foxx, Ballard, hauntology, and psychogeography would all come into play, and he might be able to bring some new readers in.\

I’m glad to have this book but I look forward to revisiting it at some point when it isn’t so much of the moment, when life is vibrant and I’m not a grey figure dissolving into the dusty furniture of a quiet house.

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Comments»

1. D’Arcy - November 15, 2021

I’ve been trying to learn more about this story/music/book. Thanks for your post. I discovered the son on a playlist comprised of song “in the spirit of” I Trawl The Megahertz by Paddy McAloon.

2. D’Arcy - November 15, 2021

I’ve been trying to learn more about this story/music/book. Thanks for your post. I discovered the song on a playlist comprised of music “in the spirit of” I Trawl The Megahertz by Paddy McAloon.


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