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Secret Life of the Panda, by Nick Jackson

Review: The Secret Life of the Panda, Nick Jackson (Chomu Press, 2011)


The cover of Norwich writer Nick Jackson’s second collection of short stories bears no title and no author’s name; instead we have trilobytes and barnacles, flukes and starfish, feathers and wings. Welcome to Nick Jackson’s cabinet of curiosities.

And it’s a curious cabinet indeed. Peopled by the misunderstood, the lonely and the marginalised, Jackson’s stories ask big questions and suggest that the answer is in the detail. Lift the corner of a suburban curtain or stand at the shoulder of a sixteenth-century anatomist. Meet your own gaze in the barber’s mirror or stoop to observe the bullied child’s view of the teeming blades of grass. See anything?

Light and shade are held in sometimes perilous balance, but Jackson walks the line with quiet skill. If love is bleak and unrequited, a furtive business of hoarded secrets, muted longings and brief spillages, there’s a wry, dark humour at work too. And if Jackson’s characters are grappling with an indifferent world, salvation is at hand in the painterly evocation of nature at work.

Nick Jackson has been staking out this territory for some time, a writer of restless curiosity with a spare, deft style. His canvas is deceptively spacious, and it’s a finely adjusted lens that he trains on its hidden corners.

This review first appeared in the Norwich Magazine (issue 10, March 2012)

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