Monday, June 4, 2018

"The Water Rabbits" by Paul Tarragó

The Water Rabbits
by Paul Tarragó

The Water Rabbits by Paul Tarragó

The Water Rabbits by Paul Tarragó is currently on tour with Kate Tilton’s Author Services. The tour stops here today for my review and an excerpt.

The Water Rabbits features fourteen short fiction pieces. The approach is pretty similar to my previous short story collection (The Mascot Moth), and to my film work in general: formally venturesome rather than hard line experimental, taking pleasure in narrative and its plasticity; engaged with not-quite-our-worlds, but ones which are still close enough etc.
So, if you’ve enjoyed any of my moving image work then there’s a strong likelihood that this will appeal i.e. it’s similar… but still (and on paper). None of the material is related to my films or performance pieces – it’s all new – so if you’ve never seen any films by me that’s not going to be a problem either!
Narratively, the scenarios include: the reappearance of monsters in a town that has long since stopped believing in them; a plague of sinkholes; an experiment in saying yes; a sound-artist who specializes in recording bone growth; a drift through the streets of a city where the local authors have run out of things to say; and an awful lot more.
The shortest piece runs to 347 words; the book’s 172 pages long and weighs 248g; one piece has pictorial accompaniment, three dress up in verse.
A handful of these works have recently appeared in The Wrong Quarterly, DecomP magazine, Leopardskin and Limes, and Ink, Sweat and Tears.

Excerpt from “The End of the Expert”
I've been invited to a panel discussion in my role as an expert, only this isn't the term they'll be using. The conference convenor explained that they're currently between words: expert is out, and they've yet to find a replacement. I was surprised, believing ideas and objects stepping-stoned labels at their convenience, graduating and post-graduating from word to word; that's what language did, and we loved it for that.
So I was flattered, but bothered. It seems unlikely that a thing could exist for too long without a label. It would be like a snail without a shell. Or an astronaut floating in space without a tether: how do you get them back?
You just move the space vehicle a bit closer, explained the convenor. If you really want it, you make the effort. With the snail: the shell's attached - it's part of the snail - so if it's missing then something very traumatic must have happened; there probably is no going back. Maybe you meant hermit crab?
Let me change the analogy: If you dropped your house keys down a drain then walked away - to get help - you wouldn't forget about the keys: the concept of your house keys would still exist, even if you didn't physically possess them. And one day you'd be reunited with the keys, or copies, or would have had a new lock put in and so have new keys. So you'd either have the original, a copy, or an entirely new set and yet they'd all be your house keys.
This seemed different, but at that moment I couldn't exactly say how, and so gave the appearance of not disagreeing.

Praise for the Book
The Water Rabbits is a unique, and extremely well written collection of unusual stories, and poems that are written to get readers thinking. I found that this book is best when read not just in one setting, but read in small batches, that way the reader can take a break and process what it is that they just read. Some stories I found to be more enjoyable, and relatable than others. I found the particular story entitled, ‘The new old’ to be amusing as it pertains to being social, and what were to happen by simply saying yes to everything. I think most readers might have a little trouble understanding what some of the stories are about, and following the writing style. The overall pace of the book itself is not slow, but it can take a while to get through because the stories are meant to get the reader to ponder the meaning behind the stories that they just read.” ~ Amber
“Reading The Water Rabbits by Paul Tarragó is something like the literary equivalent of touring an exhibition of contemporary art, at which we are made to confront the unfamiliar, the secretive and the inscrutable. We wander through the galleries, alternately perplexed and intrigued, distracted and stimulated, occasionally consulting our watches and wondering if that fire extinguisher attached to the far wall in magnificent isolation is in fact an exhibit. Afterwards, probably over a meal and a drink, we struggle to process the experience and find things to say that sound remotely insightful and intelligent.” ~ Jack Messenger
The Water Rabbits was different, absurd and experimental and it made me think which is more than what I can say for a lot of other books that I have recently read.” ~ Ananya thefoodandbooklife

My Review
I received this book in return for an honest review.

By Lynda Dickson
This is a collection of eleven stories and three poems populated by characters with wild imaginations.
In “The End of the Expert”, a man is asked to speak at a conference, but things don't quite go as planned.
“Absence of Monster” reflects on the changing face of monsters.
“Arguments for an empty room” is a train of thought on what constitutes the concept of being “empty”.
In “Under ground and over thought”, strange things occur above ground while stranger things occur underfoot.
“history lessons” is a poem about the things we can learn from the past.
In “The water rabbits”, we meet the inhabitants of a small island community where a writer’s imagination is sparked after witnessing an unsettling incident with the water rabbits. As it was the last day of autumn here in the Southern Hemisphere as I read this, I found this passage suitably apt: “Autumn passes quickly, like it has a pressing appointment elsewhere. It's never really settled, has been looking like it wanted to go from the moment it arrived. So, as soon as the temperature starts to drop, it makes its excuses and is off and out. Did you meet Autumn? No, I didn't, didn't even know it was here.”
“pep talk” is a poem I’m not sure I understood. A pep talk given to traveling coffee salesmen?
“OPPORTUNITIES” explores the process of coming up with the next new fad.
In “The new old”, we find out what happens when a man decides to say “yes” to every request.
“The Orphan” questions the reality of what we see in print.
“Pattern recognition” is a story that is three pages long but consists of just four sentences, one long, one short, one long, one short. I’m not sure if this is the pattern we’re meant to recognize.
“The Bombardier” takes a humorous look at the slow cooker.
“Tight” studies the effects of wearing a high-tensile bodysuit.
“The long game” is a poem that looks at how the glut of books on the market - due to the self-publishing phenomenon – is leaving authors destitute. (I think.)
The stories and poems are all well-written and eloquent in their use of language. The stories are more about introducing ideas and commentary than providing a narrative. Some are even structured like essays. They are the literary equivalent of a farce, in which high-brow and educated people sublimely discuss the ridiculous. As you can see from my descriptions above, I found it hard to understand some of the pieces and had to read some of them more than once to make any sense of them.
Still, if you’re willing to put in the effort, you will reap the rewards.
Favorite pieces: “Arguments for an empty room” and “The Bombardier”.

About the Author
Paul Tarragó
I’m a filmmaker and writer, using both video and celluloid, living in London. My work? A mix of underground experimentation and metafiction, tugging at the leash of (film) language but with narrative often held close at hand.
My moving image work has shown widely on international film festival and gallery circuits (including the South London Gallery, Brooklyn Museum of Art, National Review of Live Art, Pompidou Centre (Paris), Moscow + Rotterdam International Film Festivals) and includes several award winning experimental narratives, video installation, a collaborative feature film, moving image + live soundtrack performance work, etc.
In recent years much more of my time has been spent on words, besides scripts and performance texts. Some of these writings have appeared recently in The Wrong Quarterly, 2HB, decomP magazinE, Leopardskin and Limes, Ink, sweat and tears, SO MUCH FOR FREE SCHOOL, ETC. (Five Years), as well as in my short story collection – The Mascot Moth and several other pieces – which was published in 2013.
I currently work as a lecturer at the University of the Arts London.