The first thing that struck me about Michael Loveday’s first Novella-in-Flash was the title: Three Men on the Edge. On the edge of what, I wondered. Sanity/insanity; a cliff; a life crisis? Already it had me asking questions before I had even opened it, which is great.
Having interviewed Michael for my website, I knew that he believes that there is a blurred boundary between prose poetry and flash fiction (I believe that too) and that this novella skirted along those lines. This fact made me a little nervous, because I have to admit that I am often clueless about poetry. I often find it beautiful and with lyrical language, but can either never really find the meaning, or if I do, find it hard to articulate what I think that meaning is. I have to admit that there were a few flashes in this that made me feel that way – like there was something I was not getting – but as I read on, some kind of cohesion started to happen for me.
This novella is about three people who are each dealing with their own life issues. Their lives are not spectacular, at least not in the surface, but there is a lot going on underneath.
It is written in three parts (Denholm – Cause for Alarm; Gus – The Invisible World; Martyn – Chewing Glass), and shows us the world through each character’s eyes.
Denholm’s story is of a man living a mundane, humdrum life, occasionally showing glimpses of a chaotic and cluttered childhood which now sees him with an obsessive desire for precision and detail. He is taking stock, making decisions, sensing (or wanting) change. Michael Loveday is extremely clever with his use of words to show you how fragile and paper thin life is and how sometimes you can have no effect on it despite your best efforts. “In the Heart of the River” has one of my favourite lines from the novella: The ripples he causes can’t be tracked, one glimpse of the whole bewilders the details.
I found a lot of beauty in the second section, Gus. It embraces nature, shows it in all its glory, makes us aware of its power and our struggles with it. Some more beautiful words in this, from “St Mary’s Churchyard”, talking about a fall of snow, the way the sparkling flakes mute the colour of a holly bush, but with aching beauty: little miracles that gleam then fade, gleam then fade. Before long, the green is overwhelmed by the snow’s immaculate veil.
The third section is about Martyn, an artist and fantasist, living an unfulfilled and largely paranoid life. It shows us his slow but sure descent into the dark recesses of his own mind as he struggles with an obsession with a woman who is with someone else.
This is a novella I need to read again, as there are many layers and woven patterns that need to be explored, but it is interesting to see a poet moving into this literary form as it is something I am working in too. This masterful novella will teach me a lot.
You can buy Three Men on the Edge, and read some extracts, by visiting here