An Itchy Hand, Short stories
by Jean McDavitt
This collection of short stories by Jean McDavitt is an interesting and entertaining assortment of domestic set stories, showcasing a variety of tales that catch the reader’s interest with each new chapter.
One criticism I have with McDavitt’s short stories is that they are largely too short – a fact I think the publisher was aware of due to the huge font that still only manages to bulk up some of the stories to a mere 3 pages. McDavitt has obviously lived a full life, yet the stories don’t reflect that. I strongly believe this would be fixed by having the stories extended a bit longer so they can achieve the fullness they deserve. The stories are good, but have so much potential to be even better - many of them feel like they’re still in the early stages of development and have been rushed to conclusion in order to meet the deadline of the publisher. This is a shame as it does a disservice to McDavitt’s storytelling that is clearly very strong. Her authentic descriptions make for absorbing stories, which is why it’s so jolting that they end so quickly. All they really need is a moment to breathe.
McDavitt’s character voices are consistently authentic and fresh, keeping the stories (especially the more surreal ones) grounded in reality. Her strength is writing authentic relationships between characters and expressing raw emotion via pithy, sarcastic humour - but in turn it also emphasises the emptiness of the stories without any emotional investment. “The Job”, “Braces”, “The Snake” and “The Rats” were not my favourites, solely because they had nothing real to anchor them down leaving them silly and, as I said before, much too short. I also found it weak to end the collection on “The Rats” which only reminded me as I finished that there was no coherence to the order of stories, no theme tying them together and no flow. Again, this could be rearranged with a good edit to properly complement McDavitt’s writing.
Exposition was a hindrance in a few cases, where even among the most beautifully written sections (particularly “The Cello”) the writing was bogged down by unnecessary heavy handed exposition of things that were either very obvious or altogether unimportant. This aside, I loved how pretty and surreal “Fairies” is, which though out of place with the other more grounded stories, was still really enjoyable. I also enjoyed “What’s In a Name” which had beautiful, relatable descriptions and much like “Turn Again” was rather funny!