Love, Pan-Fried is a 2019 collection of flash fiction written by Gray Crosbie and published by Knight Errant Press, a little Scottish indie. Although it doesn’t have the overarching narrative connections between stories that I – with my shamefully old-school literary tastes – require to describe any book as perfect, there are definitely several pieces in Love, Pan-Fried that it would not be an overstatement to describe as flawless.
Some of Crosbie’s pieces are very very very short, like about ten words. The longest are around 300. They’re all good, and the reason why I didn’t enjoy some as much was mainly personal taste rather than any inherent literary failure.
Some of the pieces use formal-concrete-poetry-type-text-manipulation-on-the-page, which I don’t think I’ve ever experienced where it isn’t knowingly knowing so I don’t know if I don’t like formal-concrete-poetry-type-text-manipulation-on-the-page or if I don’t like people knowingly doing knowing formal-concrete-poetry-type-text-manipulation-on-the-page…
There’s also a story about eating words and referring to language as sustenance which is something I am philosophically opposed to: my need, my hunger, for [capitalised] Literature is a result of a failure within me to BE; the character of Scott Manley Hadley isn’t living in the world, he is living in books…
If there was no language, then I’d have to interact with exterior life, with reality, and I I I I I I I just can’t do that lol-
I started a new course of additional psychiatric medication today lol and right now I feel pretty good but I wept wept wept in the doctor’s office this morning when I had to fill in one of those “rank your mental health symptoms” charts and I just picked the extreme most serious one for everything but two categories and not because I was trying to feel bad but because it was accurate, yes yes yes I do think about killing myself every day I do think the world would be better without me every day I am terrified that something awful will happen every day but no it isn’t stopping me from working because THIS IS FUCKING NORMAL FOR ME.
I read to distract, to deny these thoughts. I fill my life with activities – books, television, podcasts – with action, to hide myself from my thoughts.
I’m going into a Spanish class now. My Spanish is as poor as ever.
Love, Pan-Fried is a good book.
All those words above ignore that, they state nothing.
Love, Pan-Fried, is a collection of short pieces that explore love, sex, gender, rejection and it also encompasses a small amount of magical realism.
Sometimes I loved the way this was done, for example the eponymous story, which is about a person collecting all the fish from a pond that their lover had spontaneously combusted into. As the fish had eaten all of the bloody remains before it could be collected, the narrator now connects to their lost lover by periodically pan frying and eating the fish, which they keep in a freezer to extend the length of time during which the remnants of love may exist to be consumed.
There’s a story called ‘Winter Friends’ about making a snowman-as-effigy of a lost love and hugging it until it melts. There’s one, ‘Taboo’, about the intimacy of trans lovers sharing their birth names. ‘One Night With A Werewolf’ is a fun imagining of the morning-after a one night stand where one of the partners accidentally displayed their lycanthropy.
‘Living with an ex that isn’t yours’ is a great piece about having a lonely flatmate.
‘The Kind of Appendages Lost In A Breakup’ is a deeply moving piece about the forgotten detritus of a break up: a lover thinks on the items left behind in a bathroom, the simple and blunt intimacy of a toothbrush, a razor, a Mooncup: significant, if small, objects that document shared domesticity, it’s a beautiful piece.
There’s a great story, too, about playful intimacy in a shared bath, and another disarmingly moving one called ‘Atomic’ that explores how, if physicists are right and no atoms can ever truly touch, the narrator’s partner can’t have cheated because cheating needs touching and touching is impossible, right?
These are short, blunt pieces: sometimes real, sometimes not. There’s a little bit of magic, but not so much that the direct familiarity and clarity of the realist pieces feels out of place.
Crosbie is writing great, terse, emotive prose and I’d definitely read more of their work, if slash when it becomes available. This little book from Knight Errant Press is a real treat, and though the illustrations by Murphy J Winter are enjoyable, they don’t add much to the experience and aren’t really that consistent with the stripped-down aesthetic of Crosbie’s writing. Then again, my Spring chapbook had illustrations in it and I haven’t had enough readers to know if they were tonally coherent or not lol so I probably shouldn’t criticise.
Love, Pan-Fried is fun, often moving, evocative and enjoyable.