Ios paperback review: Tea at the Midland, By David Constantine


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The Independent Culture

The 16 stories here are about marginalised people whose response to society is a sort of farouche defiance, expressed not as opposition but simply by being themselves, and extracting a fragile joy from the business of living.

In "Goat", a soon-to-be-unfrocked canon dances with a homeless man in a derelict building at night to the strains of a penny whistle. The longest story in the book, "An Island", is part love letter, part suicide note, part empathetic observation of the lives of others. The writing is beautiful: the description of an undercooked turkey in "Ayery Thinness" is a prose-poem in itself. The excellence of the collection is fractal: the whole book is excellent, and every story is excellent, and every paragraph is excellent, and every sentence is excellent. And unlike some literary fiction, it's effortless to read.