Forget the Sleepless Shores
by Sonya Taaffe
Lethe Press. $20.
Sonya Taaffe is a classical scholar and a poet as well as a fiction writer, and her signature style is both poetic and cosmopolitan. The stories in this collection are characterized by sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures, all of which have a metaphorical dimension. Her depictions of her native New England include so much imagery of rain and ocean waves that a reader can almost taste the drops. Here is the opening scene of “Chez Vous Soon”: “The rain was full of leaves, like hands on her hair as she hurried home. Grey as a whale’s back, the last cold light before evening: the clouds as heavy as handsful of slate, pebble-dash and mortar; the pavement under Vetiver’s feet where blown leaves stuck in scraps to her sneakers, brown as old paper, tissue-torn.” The somewhat pretentiously named Vetiver is going to visit her artist-lover in the rundown apartment where he is obsessively trying to capture the essence of Autumn on canvas. The word-pictures in the story parallel his efforts to capture what seems inexpressible, at least to him, and he plunges into self-destructive frustration.
Most of these stories were previously published in various anthologies and journals of speculative fiction, and they are inconsistent in length, theme, and impact. The “sleepless shores” of the title are not clearly identified, although the spirit world is plausibly described in several stories. In the most unnerving, the dead literally walk among the living. Space does not allow me to do justice to all 22 stories in this collection, but they are all worth reading. They defy simple classifications, and many are likely to leave a reader sleepless.