Riptide Review – Carpe Diem

I recently had the fantastic opportunity of reviewing Volume 11 of Riptide for Razz Magazine. Riptide is an anthology of short stories, whose tagline describes them as “short stories with an undercurrent”. This volume is edited by Virginia Baily and Sally Flint – a member of the Creative Writing department at the University of Exeter, as is Jane Feaver, one of the contributors. Carpe Diem features a wide range of extremely talented writers, most of which write short stories, the exception is a novel extract by Jane Rogers.
This volume’s theme is Carpe Diem – seize the day. The short stories and the novel extract (Conrad and Eleanor) are concerned with crossroads, choices and ways of dealing with the inevitable conflicts that are thrown at the characters. As Baily and Flint write in their foreword: “In these stories, characters overcome unexpected obstacles, celebrate and grieve, take charge of havoc – pause – then often make a momentous, life-changing, or even life-ending, decision.” These stories are thrilling psychological examinations, and sometimes what the stories don’t say is as significant as the words on the page. Many of them contain surprising twists; although the stories range widely in both tone and subject matter, from melancholic tales of suicide attempts, to biting depictions of married couples and family life. I particularly enjoyed the many alternative approaches to the theme of “Carpe Diem”. I usually interpret this as a motto about living life to the full, yet the themes of regret, loss and uncertainty are prevalent in many of the stories. It has made me think more closely about the meaning of the popular saying, whose deeper meaning is perhaps never fully realised.

I really enjoyed all of these stories and I found them all exquisitely written and gripping, but several in particular stood out to me. In “Muerte en Mexico” by Nicholas Shadowen, there is a strong sense of place; its Mexico City setting is atmospheric and evocatively described by the author. “Letter from a Tortoise” by Toby Litt is a quirky, ironic take on his narrator’s resigned and trapped approach to life. On the other hand, “You Must Change Your Life” by Brandon French epitomises my preconceived idea of Carpe Diem, and it focuses on mindfulness, enjoying the little parts of life and the passage of time. “Mount Famine” is one of the happiest stories, with an intriguing opening, and it plays with the readers’ expectations throughout.

A very impressive aspect for me was the richness of the stories, with compelling plots and characters, created in just a few pages. One problem I tend to have with short stories is the difficulty of creating fully developed and complex characters with believable motives in such limited space, but this felt like a very minor issue – the stories and the characters engrossed me within their worlds. I am astounded by the amount of talent contained in just one anthology, and I look forward to reading more of these writers’ works.

Rachel Stubbs

Riptide logo
Credit: Riptide journal

If you want to find out more about Riptide, or contribute your own creative pieces, please  follow the link below.


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