What makes something monstrous? The twenty-third issue of Notes explores the borders of the natural and the unnatural. Monstrosities are most explicitly present in Martha P. W.’s essay, in which the monster is positioned as a form of transgression against which social, cultural and moral norms can be defined. Importantly, the essay also draws attention to the source of fascination that monstrosities provide, the idea of the ‘brilliantly hideous’ in Henry St-Leger Davey’s ‘Birdless’.
Similar compulsion drives the almost grotesque absurdity of Jack Westmore’s ‘Sugar: An Extract’. This short story is filled with condensed milk, Danish philosophers, and a stomach that grows teeth, morphing into a consciousness of its own and disrupting the human form. Daisy Churn also uses the concept of disrupted form, to discuss the relationship between Cubism and Relativity in the development of twentieth century military technologies. The sheer scale of these ideas and their real and theoretical applications seems almost monstrous in itself.
Many of the pieces involve an underlying or potential threat. Sarah Caulfield’s ‘Here to Recruit You’ imparts both cynicism and sadness, and Tara Lee’s ‘Arran’ begins with crashing, sublime weather. However, this is tempered by softer images and narrative intimacy, something that doesn’t occur in Flora de Falbe’s ‘Fox’, which ends with a harsh ‘cranked-back snap of the jaw’. By contrast, William Hutton’s ‘Drown’ starts with a shattering, but it is the silent and the unsaid that create the most unease, although placed alongside slightly wistful humour.
Alex Pytka manages to combine the entertaining and the monstrous in his ‘Sketch for a Dramatic Scene’, as literary sincerity is parodied and fiction and reality blur into one. Throughout Issue 23, boundaries are tested and thrown out of joint, all enclosed within the cool blues and whites of Charlotte Clark’s cover image. If the monstrous can be found amongst these works, then it is a monstrous that can also be funny and captivating and candid.
We would like to thank all of the contributors to Notes 23, and hope that this issue provides inspiration for future works.
The Notes Team