Keys to Hell, The
A new collection of weird and wonderful short stories from one of New Zealands most original young writers, which builds on the underground success her first
collection, The Spit Children, found.
Jo Randerson is the author of The Spit Children (short stories) and The Knot (a story illustrated by Vita Cochran), as well as numerous plays including The Unforgiven Harvest and Fold, and is the founder and Artistic Director of Barbarian Productions.
The Keys to Hell is illustrated by the renowned artist, actor and filmmaker Taika Waititi. His short film, Two Cars, One Night has won numerous awards and was nominated for an Academy Award.
Praise for The Keys To Hell
Morbidity isn't normally the stuff of intriguing literature. Wellington writer Jo Randerson defies this expectation with The Keys To Hell, a captivating second collection of stories about death and dying. The 19th century French poet Arthur Rimbaud informs the book, particularly his dark decadence and his collection "A Season In Hell", for Rimbaud's fascination with the sadistic sides of nature and mankind are Randerson's concerns too.
If the similar titles aren't evidence enough, stories such as "One Day Amongst The Rhododendron"s are. This starts proceedings with an unsettling meeting between a woman and her son in a strange garden. In its two pages, we confront themes of being, certainty and dislocation. Elsewhere, there's "The Cow's Story", which allows that seemingly most inoffensive of animals to dish the dirt on its vicious side. The other stand-out is the title story, a cautionary tale about putting your faith in the most honourable of God's emissaries.
If this all sounds more than a tad high-brow and off-putting, it isn't. Randerson gently frames her metaphysical interests in a succinct 100 pages, within which her writing is in turns poetic and accessible. There's also much enjoyment to be derived from Taika Waititi's stark, black and white images which book-end each story.
Sometimes publishers go out on a limb, offering something that can't be easily categorised. VUP have done this with Randerson's new collection, and should be applauded for taking the risk as much as Randerson for the work produced. If you're looking for something fresh and unusual, this is the book for you.
Siobhan Harvey THE NZ HERALD