I bought Postcard Stories for a letter-loving pal after hearing author Jan Carson read an extract at Emma Press’s small and friendly launch this summer. While moving, I found the book again (wrapped but unstamped) and tore through it myself. Apologies to my friend; I’ll have to send you a new copy, because this one’s staying with me.
Luckily, Carson is a more capable correspondent. Across 2015, she sent 365 short stories on the back of postcards, and then compiled 52 to create Postcard Stories. From the mundane to the zany, Carson rarely hits a wrong note. In the best of these, the narrow medium supports her wickedly funny precision; the compact dramas often hinge on a single zinger of a sentence that upends her reader’s expectations. In one, three anorak-clad elderly women bicker about whether their friend is alive, only to realise “it transpires that more than one Margaret is dying in Belfast today.” Some perch on the very edge of fantasy and reality; one follows an airplane passenger carrying “three worlds” in his carry-on bag, and only belatedly relates that they are inflatable globes that can be “deflated and contained within an overhead luggage locker.”
After pushing her characters to the threshold of humour and tragedy, delving into mundane details and fantastic depths, revealing a tenuous peace and undercurrents of violence, Carson only needs a few sentences to tell a lot of story. Whether you dip into one or read them all in one go, Carson’s postcards will take you far away.
Words – Madeleine Saidenberg