Oothangbart - a Subversive Fable for Adults and Bears
Publisher: Pillar International Publishing
Author: Rebecca Lloyd
Page Count: 200
Retail Price: £9 Pub. Date: Ist. October 2016
In the beautifully-isolated Oothangbart, order and organisation, hierarchy and custom, and the regular flying of kites ensure that each finely-mapped hour of each planned week are as predictable and reassuring as the last. One Donal Shaun Hercule Poseidon, a citizen of middling rank with no greatness in gait or demeanour, is not so reassured and is becoming less and less predictable. Love is partly to blame. Were it not for his love for the baker, Pearl Offering, his shed would not be filled with ossified bagels, nor would he be constantly fretting over the unsent love-letter that sat upon his mantelpiece. Nature had its role to play too. Were it not for the leaping fish that emerged unannounced and unexpected from the supposedly-barren river encircling Oothangbart, he might have wandered unnoticed for his entire existence and taken his philosophical questions with him to the grave. Government is definitely to blame. When the fish-panic seized Oothangbart, Donal was dragged into the machinery of government and thrust into an officialdom which had no place for a creature of thought. This is Donal’s story.
Donal’s love for Pearl who runs the Bakery in authoritarian Oothangbart compels him to buy her bagels — just so that he can gaze at her face. He hates bagels. By now, his shed is full of them, and he keeps it secret for fear that he will be judged as subversive. He is friends with two quarrelling brothers, ambitious Orlando Capricious, and his eccentric brother Hutchinson whose job is to record the appearance of fish in the town’s circular river that has no fish. However, life in Oothangbart changes when Hutchinson sees real fish leaping from the river. Emergency meetings are held with much pomp and fluster, and realising the leaping fish phenomenon indicates that the sky is slipping, Oothangbartians decide to build a tower of bagels in the town centre to prop the sky up again. The bagel tower idea was suggested by Orlando in whom Donal had confided about his shed of ancient bagels. Donal is mortified at the idea that Pearl will be hurt at the sight of the tower. He recognises that not only is his love for her a hopeless quest, but that he is beginning to question the workings of his society, in particular the taboo subject of the existence of another place in the universe called Bristol. He decides to run away into the dark Forest of Instincts and attempt to find the city of Bristol beyond it. He takes with him a stump of rope, a tin of pomade and a saucepan with a hole in it, given to him by Clovia and Rayool from Hardways Hardware Store.
After walking for some time, he arrives at a vast pit he cannot circumnavigate and realises that a fellow cannot live outside society. He returns to Oothangbart ready to face his punishment with dignity, but finds that he is welcomed as a hero. The whole of Oothangbart wants to know if he reached Bristol and what it’s like. Before he can decide whether he should tell them the truth, the crowd offers up its own versions, and the myth remains intact. Donal becomes Organiser of the Kite Festival, a job he loves, but nothing raises his spirits until Pearl becomes a friend of his waking as well as of his dreams.
Rebecca Lloyd writes short stories and the occasional novel. Her story collection Mercy, nominated for a World Fantasy Award, was published by Tartarus Press in 2014 alongside The View from Endless Street, a collection that came out with WiDo Publishing. A third collection, Whelp and Other Stories was a finalist in the Paul Bowles Short Fiction Award, and Bogieman, a story from that collection won the 2016 New Fictions Prize at Gatehouse Press. Her recent publications include Ragman and Other Family Curses (Egaeus Press) and Jack Werrett, the Flood Man (Dunhams Manor Press). She is working on a new collection of gothic stories, and her novel, Oothangbart will be published in the autumn by Pillar International Publishing.