Title: You Have 24 Hours to Love Us
By: Guy Ware
Published by: Comma Press
Guy Ware uses his collection of short stories to explore questions of identity. Each of his characters are, at best, unsure of who they are. They make up stories about their pasts, pretend to be other people, create unsuccessful art-work and lie constantly, in order to deal with their lack of identity in often warped and imaginative ways.
Whilst telling these stories, Ware also plays with structure and narration. He splits one story into a series of variations on an aria. Another is written as a prediction of what ‘will’ happen in the future. His narrators are all inevitably flawed, yet curious enough to desperately muse for pages on their own thought processes.
Ware uses his many, realistically formed, voices to skilfully manipulate the reader into believing every word of a series of unlikely situations. He uses surrealism to bring a new light on modern themes such as terrorism. He also makes use of surreal writing techniques. For example he manages to describe a range of emotions effectively; by neglecting to mention how the characters feel directly.
Ware also reflects on how different names for the same person, can describe them as having several different identities to go with the names. Grin in the story ‘Staying Put’ has a personality entirely detached from his earlier self, when he went by the name Peregrine. Meanwhile the first story in the collection features a character that pretends to have the same name as a woman’s dead husband, and somehow this allows him to plant himself as an imposter in her house. Ware uses the layers that questionable identity allows in his work, so that he can describe his character’s subterfuge and lies (as well as the subterfuge and lies of the society they symbolise), more accurately. He often makes the reader aware of facts that his characters have no idea about.
One of Ware’s themes is of artists who will never be heard; this collection proves that he is not one of them. His distinctive voice rings true throughout an equally distinctive book.