Single Skin

Title: Single Skin
By: Steve Dearden
Released: 2012
Publisher: Smith/Doorstop

Steve Dearden seems to see humanity as coming under one “Single Skin”. His stories reflect this by taking on the full range of human experiences.Yet this bigger picture is mostly achieved by focusing on the small stuff. Dearden has a talent for isolating minute details to the extent that he leaves the reader’s suspension of disbelief little space to doubt that the stories are real.

Dearden is also a heavy user of vivid imagery. He spots extraordinary details in ordinary occurences. This creates a surreality similar to the odd realisation that we are made of cells when skin is examined under a microscope. Adding to the sense of the surreal in the collection, are the obsessions and dreams of Dearden’s characters. These elements are usually metaphors for larger themes, but they still result in the errie surface image of the unexpected.

Eroticism (though not in any traditional fashion) is also an important trait of the stories. I was struck particularily by the description of a man who gets an erection whenever he is arriving home on a plane: “This is not an erection, but as the plane banks along the river bank my penis hardens against my leg”. This one of many references to bizarre sexual experiences throughout the collection.

The sexual occurances are also a marking of the larger existential thought patterns that most of Dearden’s characters have to a certain extent. All of the characters are lost. Some of them are in denial about being lost, or are actively trying to not be lost anymore, but they are all ultimately waiting to be found. The beautiful torture of Dearden’s writing works because most of them never are found. Yet their existential wonderings are fascinating in the meantime.

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