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January 2016 vol 11 no 4

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Random Praise: Autumn Noelle Hall

Lynne Rees

If there’s anything that brings some cheer (and relief) to an editor’s reading cycle it’s a touch of humour. But it’s rare. Maybe because the most deeply memorable or insightful moments in our lives often arise from the darker emotions of loss and grief, or from lyrical moments of connection and transcendence. But also, writing ‘funny’ is difficult. Not only because a sense of humour is such an idiosyncratic thing but because it takes a skilled writer to find the balance of language that will make words funny on the page.

Autumn Noelle Hall’s ‘Chestnuts Roasting’ in the last issue ticked all the boxes for me:

Chestnuts Roasting

all agape

he calls to say his niece said her mother said that I said something about her hands three years ago come Christmas – the only time I've ever met or seen her – and I have no idea what it could have been, but she's writing me a letter, and rumor is, it isn't nice.

the M&M nutcracker's
big mouth

There’s the ludicrous, but convincing, grammatical pile up in the first line of prose and the use of the vernacular towards the end – ‘and rumor is’ – that reinforces the irony in the narrator’s voice. And I love the last two words of the haiku. Yep, someone’s chestnuts are going to get a roasting and the nutcracker’s intention starts to feel rather worrying too! Bathos. But pathos is also present: the humour we can extract, and share, from our sometimes challenging relationships.

It’s good to smile. (And that haiku split around the prose makes me smile too: invention that illuminates. Yes!)


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