Thursday 27 September 2018

Clare Best's The Missing List

Rogue Strands rarely ventures beyond poetry, but today’s an exception due to Clare Best’s prose memoir, The Missing List (Linen Press, 2018). This post isn’t a review as such, just a few reflections on her book.

Clare Best is perhaps best known for her fine poetry, so it’s worth making a general point that also applies to this text in particular: many reviewers lapse into erroneous critical shorthand when excellent poets lend their hand to prose, invoking terms such as “lyrical” or “poetic”. In fact, the signs of a successful shift of genre are far more subtle.

For example, an assured poet knows how to capture a scene via a layering effect, building up seemingly insignificant details until they explode into meaning. Clare Best manages just such an effect in many scenes throughout The Missing List. Moreover, a poet is also an expert in telling their narrative via a collage of perspectives and moments, having learnt how to place trust in their reader, allowing connections to be made organically. Clare Best shows her mastery of the technique in The Missing List.

The subject matter of this book is childhood sexual abuse, which again lends itself to more critical shorthand such as “harrowing” or “moving”. However, the author’s achievement lies in involving the reader in her story to such an extent that she lifts her memoir into the wider realm of implicit questioning of how societies operate and how humans relationships develop.

Clare Best will be reading from The Missing List at an event at the University of Sussex of 17th October, followed by a triple book launch with Jeremy Page and Kay Syrad in Lewes on 24th October. I only wish I could make it along!

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