The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke
introduction by Neil Gaiman
(PS Publishing, £8.00, 109 pages, numbered limited edition, trade
paperback; also available as signed, numbered, limited edition hardback
priced £25.00; published 2002.)
The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke hangs in London's Tate
Gallery, and is reproduced on the cover of PS Publishing's edition of
Mark Chadbourn's novella. It's a painting that has fascinated Danny
since childhood, when his mother took him to see it. Dadd was in a mental
hospital when he painted it, having murdered his own father, wrapped
up in an insane vision of demons and ancient Egyptian gods. As Danny
grows older, he struggles to understand the meaning of the artwork and
finds himself drawn along the same dark but transcendant path that Dadd
You could quibble about this novella's genre status, as all the fantasy
content has a naturalistic explanation, the delusions of an insane mind.
But that would be irrelevant, as Fairy Feller is a powerful story
about fantasy and our need for it. We follow Danny from wild-eyed
prodigious child to disillusioned adult who nearly throws everything
away as a drug trip goes wrong. Danny goes on a tour of Turkey, Jerusalem
and Egypt, trying to reproduce Dadd's journey of over a century before,
with tragic results. At the centre of his being is his love for his
late mother and his guilt at not being able to repay her unconditional
love for him.
Chadbourn tells his story with considerable authority, not to mention
a sense of places where dark things lurk in the shadows. It's a compelling,
frightening and moving story. Very impressive.
Review by Gary Couzens.
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