Magnus Mills - Screwtop Thompson (3 stars)

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Magnus Mills - Screwtop Thompson

(Bloomsbury)

Former London bus driver Magnus Mills’ subtle and deadpan literary sensibility inhabits a quiet world all of its own. It’s a place where mundane reality is shifted just out of focus, crafting subtle absurdities from the everyday. There’s a heart-warmingly gentle pace and playfulness to his third shorts collection, titled after a Christmas tale about quarrelling kids and a faulty toy, penned for a newspaper in 1999. Mills can’t quite distort your perception as effectively over just a few pages as he does in his celebrated novels, but not one story passes without a laugh-out-loud moment.

A quiet, unrealised menace stalks the resident of a seaside hotel who mysteriously never sees his fellow guests. ‘A Public Performance’ – a 1970s Bristol-set rumination on the ‘folly of youth’, ie wearing a ridiculous military overcoat and watching Pink Floyd at their most self-indulgent – is a hilarious personal vignette in which Mills dually chuckles at his teenage awkwardness and compliments his nascent individuality.

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