by Layden Robinson
Stroll of Reality is a collection of twenty-two short stories that riff on the degenerate, self-destructive nature of the human condition.
This little novella is not for the faint-hearted or those readers who like a traditional short story. Each of the twenty-two musings are dark, twisted and adult in content. Collections such as this can sometimes appear impenetrable but despite some unflinching subject matter, there is a core of self-deprecating humour laced through each of them and I found some laugh out loud funny moments. The stories serve as a mirror held up to, and reflecting of, the raw ugliness of human behaviour. The prose is subjective but supremely poetic in both form and tone. There are some lovely, elegant metaphors and phrases brimming with lively insight and observation; ‘adultery-laced park’ and ‘my righteous stilts’, I especially liked. Some of the contemplations are a little similar; the themes of drug abuse, marriage and the sexual power of women feature in many, beginning in most instances, wholesome, fun and dreamlike and then descending into a nightmarish and distorted reality that often concludes with a note of anger and some form of decay; mental, physical or both. In those written in first person, there is an underlying impotent rage mainly directed internally at the narrator’s own depravity and weakness. All of the stories are deceptively well-structured to give the impression of psychography when, in actuality, they are more linear than a first, cursory read would imply. My favourites were Anonymous, Lloyd Bailey, A Night of Redemption and China Moon.
If you like disturbingly clever, thought-provoking and, in places, nonsensically funny prose reflections on the tangled and ultimately futile nature of human psychology, then look no further than Stroll of Reality.