The brevity of Jocelyne Lamarche’s Ghost belies its complexity. Coming in at just 210 words, the story manages to pack in vivid imagery, establish a strong sense of character and weave its way through feelings of sadness, longing and hope. It is a story to be read again and again, one of those which yields new insights every time.
‘I cannot see flesh. I see only your empty eye sockets, negative space surrounding your clavicle, the smooth roundness of your skull. I watch your bones buy olives for 3.99/kg and her skeleton vacuum the carpet on Sundays.’
We are struck by the immediate insight that the narrator of the story is not of the world as we know it. Something odd and unknown is at play here. At the same time, the narrator’s strangeness of perception is placed alongside everyday mundanities like grocery shopping and cleaning the house. It is this central juxtaposition – of the otherworldly and the everyday facets of life – that really draws me to Ghost.
Much of the story is focused on aspects of the body that many of us rarely consider in detail – bones, flesh, skin. However, now they are gone for the narrator, they can think of little else. Skin and flesh – or rather the absence of it for the narrator both physically and visually – become objects of mournful longing. This brings a sombreness to much of the story – events such as talking on the phone and household accidents are lent extra weight by the narrator’s ghostly way of viewing the world.
As a result it could be easy for the story to be a gloomy one. Yet it is expertly balanced, both with beautiful turns of phrase – the narrator’s son’s hands are seen as ‘delicate chains of ivory’ – and beautiful moments in life; the narrator watches ‘the universe breathe mystery into the womb’ of her son’s lover. This ensures that, much like its eponymous narrator, Ghost is a story that lingers in the way that only good stories can, long after you have finished reading it.
Ned Vessey, Blog Co-Ordinator and Co-Fiction Editor.
You can read Jocelyne Lamarche’s Ghost in the Summer 2022 edition of Spellbinder. Read more about it and purchase a digital or paperback copy here.