"Imagine a number of men in chains, all under sentence of death, some of whom are each day butchered in the sight of the others; those remaining see their own condition in that of their fellows, and looking at each other with grief and despair await their turn. This is an image of the human condition." B. Pascal
A collection of short stories, it is a book about folk devils; creatures at war with respectable society and the conventions on which respectable society is based. It can also be read as a heartrending account of the permanent degradation of men of great talent due to persistent lack of self-control - often indistinguishable from madness.
Gentle Art’s diminutive dimensions echo the intent of early devotional literature - an almost disposable object, designed for personal edification and spiritual formation. Referencing Stephen Graham’s 1927 work, The Gentle Art of Tramping - a manual for life on the ‘other’ side - Gentle Art is a departure from standard experimental literature. Its aim is not to be difficult. Kidnapping personas from ‘real’ life (marvellous George, the petrol-drinker, the ket-head with a woman for a cock and many more!) and entering them into absurd formatting - from ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ to a compilation of quotes footnoting the entire text - her stories demonstrate how and why people slip beyond the norms of society and report back on what lies in store when they get there.
Gentle Art follows the success of Iphgenia Baal’s 2011 publication The Hardy Tree, which saw her nominated for Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists 4.