THE PERFECT LOAF
To visit Angus Dunn's author page, please click here.
I am Angus Dunn. I wrote the stories in this book. I want to tell you about them so you can decide whether you want to read them.
At the heart of the book is a young man in his flat, baking bread and thinking about what has gone to make up his life. The rest of the book consists of stories about him, or another very like him, living through different stages:
There are times in our lives when we find ourselves in a hard place, where the only way out is to change.
At other times we search for meaning, looking for the spark that animates our lives.
Or, like the young man in the flat, we may simply be trying to see the shape of our lives clearly, without distortions or distractions.
And there are endings, of course: how we manage to look at a part of our lives, gather it up and say – this is over.
The man in these stories is sometimes old, sometimes young, and his names change. Yet he is recognisably the same man. The stories may be fiction but that man is, of course, me.
Praise for The Perfect Loaf
‘Angus Dunn’s short stories display a perceptive intelligence and individual insight into human behaviour… He has the ability to suggest a depth and complexity of human motivation behind the ordinary events in people’s lives’ Brian McCabe
‘This is a varied but unified work … an extended masterwork of contemporary jazz storytelling.’ Ian Stephen
About Angus Dunn
Angus Dunn is from the Highlands of Scotland and is the author of the novel Writing in the Sand (Luath Press, 2006) which was shortlisted for the 2007 Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award. Angus was awarded the 1995 Robert Louis Stevenson Prize and the 2002 Neil Gunn Short Story prize. His short stories have been published in many literary magazines and in collections such as New Writing Scotland and Macallan Shorts. Stories have also been broadcast on Radio 4, Radio Scotland and Lochbroom FM. His poetry has been published in many Scottish magazines and anthologies. He was brought up in Aultbea and Cromarty, and now lives near Strathpeffer in Ross-shire.
An extract from The Perfect Loaf
There is the doorstep, and there is the butcher’s knife.
There is the promise of a book. And the elvers.
These are the landmarks of this place.
First, there is the doorstep, where nothing ever happened, again and again, for year after year.
There was thyme growing on the edge of that step, growing slowly, an inch in a year. And everything that could be seen from that doorstep took part in the same easy flow of time.
I sit there in the sunshine and the rain. I sit there at five years old and at ten. The concrete of the step has always had that chipped edge and corner: and then one year, and always thereafter, it has always had the thyme covering those wounds.
From that step, the sounds of the house are audible. The new baby is crying as her nappy is changed. She is crawling on the step beside me. She is running on the grass, she is crying from a fall by the fuchsia bush as the wind whips her hair.
Down the hill is another marker of this domain. Behind the general stores, the butcher’s shop. There is sawdust on the floor, renewed every morning, but always with bloody flecks in it, discarded fragments of fat.
There is always another customer in there, and always the butcher leans towards me as I go in. His hand reaches out and his knife flashes towards my crotch. ‘Sausages! Sausages!’ He beams his red meaty smile for the benefit of the other customer.
If there is no-one else in the shop, I do not go in. I wait, counting the lemonade bottles in the wooden crates.
In the house itself, there are countless eddies where time is locked. At the table, I read the labels of jam jars, the sides of cereal boxes. I know every word. A voice says, ‘We really must get him some good books. He’s old enough for…’ The titles of the half-promised books change, the pattern is constant. On the sideboard is a serpentine pattern of veneer that a finger can follow mindlessly, does follow mindlessly and endlessly, year after year. The pattern is always complete: later, the broken edges are the way it has always been. Twilight creeps through the house, as a voice says ‘This is the BBC Home Service…’
The eels were a part of that small domain too, but almost accidentally. They pass through at their own time, from a secret part of their own world, through the edge of our world, then into another, hidden part of their own.
Whenever there is a storm in Spring, elvers come out of our cold-water tap. Someone says that there must be a crack in the pipe, and the elvers crawl into it. Someone says that eels can travel a hundred yards over wet ground. Someone tells the story about the six-foot conger Uncle Colin caught. Someone agrees that they always tangle your fishing line. I always listen, waiting for the six-foot conger to punctuate the pattern.
After a storm, I go down to the stream. Below the bridge, smooth rocks protrude above the water. They are covered with elvers, slithering over the wet stone. There are so many coming upstream that the burn cannot hold them. I sit there, watching the elvers moving over the stones and through the bridge. I cannot stop watching, although I almost wish to. I am in the domain still, but it is the very edge of the pattern.