Pond

Claire-Louise Bennett

Published 7 October 2015, French paperback with flaps, 184 pages

Add to basket

FINISHING TOUCH

I think I’m going to throw a little party. A perfectly arranged but low-key soiré e. I have so many glasses after all. And it is so nice in here, after all. And there’ll be plenty of places for people to sit now that I’ve brought down the ottoman — and in fact if I came here for a party on the ottoman is exactly where I’d want to sit — I’d want to sit there, on the ottoman. But I suppose I’d arrive a little later on and somebody else would already be sitting upon the ottoman very comfortably, holding a full glass most likely and talking to someone standing up, someone also holding a full glass of wine, and so I would stand with my fingertips upright on a table perhaps, which wouldn’t be so bad, and, anyway, people move about, but, all the same, I would not wish to make it very plain just how much I’d like to sit there, on the ottoman — I certainly wouldn’t make a beeline for it! — no, I’d have to dawdle in and perch upon any number of places before I’d dare go near it, so that, when finally I did come to sit on the ottoman, it would appear perfectly natural, just as if I’d ended up there with no effort or design at all.

Howsoever, I am not, and never can be, a guest here, though in fact taking up the rugs and changing everything around and putting the glasses in a new place — two new places actually, there are that many glasses — does make it all quite new to me, and I have stood here and there sort of wondering what it was all for, all this rearranging, and it seems to me I must be very determined — it seems to me my mind is quite made up about who’s in and who’s out. With everything changed and in new places I can say to myself, no one has been here yet, not a soul — and now, I get a chance to choose,  all over again — I must be very determined after all, to make things fresh and stay on guard this time. Yes, I get a chance to choose all over again, and so why not make use of such an opportunity in a very delightful way and throw a little party, because it is perfectly clear to me now who I will invite and who will not know a thing about it — until after perhaps, there might be some people who were not invited who might come to know a thing or two about it afterwards.

And that’s just fine, that’s fine by me. After all, isn’t a party a splendid thing not only because of the people there but also because of the people who aren’t and who suppose they ought to be? No doubt about it, there’ll be a moment, in the bathroom most likely — which will naturally exude an edgeless, living fragrance because of the flowers I picked earlier from the garden — when I feel quite triumphant for having developed the good sense at last to realise that people who are hell-bent upon getting to the bottom of you are not the sort you want around. This is my house — it doesn’t have any curtains and half the time half the door is open, that’s true. The neighbour’s dog comes in, that’s true too, and so do flies and bees, and even birds sometimes — but nobody ought to get the wrong idea — nobody ought to just turn up and stick a nose in! I wonder if it’ll become wild or whether people will stay in range of tomorrow and leave all of a sudden around midnight. I wonder actually if anyone will ask what the party is for. Because of the summer I’ll say. It’s because of the summer — this house is very nice in the summer — and that’ll be quite evident to anyone who asks. Yes! It’s for the summer, I’ll say, and that’ll take care of it.

(...)

 

Feverish and forthright, Pond is an absorbing chronicle of the pitfalls and pleasures of a solitudinous life told by an unnamed woman living on the cusp of a coastal town. Broken bowls, belligerent cows, swanky aubergines, trembling moonrises and horrifying sunsets, the physical world depicted in these stories is unsettling yet intimately familiar and soon takes on a life of its own. Captivated by the stellar charms of seclusion but restless with desire, the woman’s relationship with her surroundings becomes boundless and increasingly bewildering. Claire-Louise Bennett’s startlingly original first collection slips effortlessly between worlds and is by turns darkly funny and deeply moving.

Shortlisted for the 2016 International Dylan Thomas Prize | Runner-up for the 2016 BBC National Short Story Award for ‘Morning, Noon & Night’

‘This is an extraordinary collection of short stories – profoundly original though not eccentric, sharp and tender, funny and deeply engaging. A very new sort of writing, Bennett pushes the boundaries of the short story out into new territory: part prose fiction, part stream of consciousness, often truly poetry and always an acute, satisfying, delicate, honest meditation on both the joys and frustrations of a life fully lived in solitude. Take it slowly, because it is worth it, and be impressed and joyful.’
— Sara Maitland, author of A Book of Silence

 ‘I’d heard more good whispers about Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett than almost any other debut this year so, by the time I read it, expectations were high and – as it turned out – not disappointed. These stories are intelligent and funny, innovative and provocative, and it’s impossible to read them without thinking that here is a writer who has only just begun to show what she can do.’
— Eimear McBride, author of A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing

‘Wielding a wry but implacable logic, Claire-Louse Bennett dives under the surface of “ordinary” experiences and things to reveal their supreme and giddy illogic. Like Gail Scott and Lydia Davis before her, she writes an impeccable affect-less prose that almost magically arrives at something extraordinary.’ 
— Chris Kraus, author of I Love Dick

‘Claire-Louise Bennett is a major writer to be discovered and treasured.’
— Deborah Levy, author of Swimming Home

‘As brilliant a debut and as distinct a voice as we’ve heard in years – this is a real writer with the real goods.’
— Kevin Barry, author of City of Bohane

A touch of William Gaddis. A touch of Lydia Davis. A touch of Samuel Beckett. A touch of Edna OBrien. And yet Claire-Louise Bennetts Pond feels entirely unique. Quiet and luxurious all at once, this will be one of the most sensational debuts of the year.
— Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin 

‘Claire-Louise Bennett sets the conventions of literary fiction ablaze in this ferociously intelligent and funny debut. Don't be fooled by Ponds small size. It contains multitudes.’
— Jenny Offill, author of Dept. of Speculation

Claire-Louise Bennett grew up in Wiltshire in the southwest of England. Her short fiction and essays have been published in The Stinging FlyThe Penny DreadfulThe MothColonyThe Irish TimesThe White Review and gorse. She was awarded the inaugural White Review Short Story Prize in 2013 and has received bursaries from the Arts Council Ireland and Galway City Council. Pond is her first collection of stories.