TiconderogaOnline, Issue 8, Winter 2006

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“…At Half Past Four” by Peter MacGregor
“Fade” by Lee Battersby
In “…At Half Past Four” by Peter MacGregor, Paul Harrison is on his way to visit his sister in Inverell when his car breaks down.  The weather is terrible, and Paul falls in the mud with all his baggage.  Fortunately, a car stops and its owner, Graham, decides to drive Paul all the way to his sister.  But things start getting weirder and weirder.

It is evident that characterization is not the main point of the story, which mainly concentrates on the plot.  Had MacGregor written this story five or ten years ago, “…At Half Past Four” might have been a much more engaging read.  Unfortunately, the story suffers irredeemably from the fact that one of the main points of its plot has become nearly a cliché in fiction and Hollywood films.  The story paces slowly to its predictable end, and the slight twist at the end does little to improve the situation.

In “Fade” by Lee Battersby, Nige feels his sense of his own existence growing thinner and thinner.  He was once thought of as a valuable member of his office, and his silence was considered a sign of strength.  Things have changed: younger people have come to work in the office; they pay no attention to Nige; and their useless chatter fills the office during breaks.  But while Nige feels he is existentially disappearing, one of his colleagues physically disappears.

While the plot of “Fade” may not be particularly original, it is clearly not at the center of the story.  Narrated in the first person, this story plunges the reader directly into Nige’s psyche.  The initial disorientation is more than fully rewarded by a precise sense of the character and a very vivid portrayal of the mind of the protagonist.  The interesting inside-outside perspective—the protagonist on himself and the haziness of his perception of reality—make this story a powerful reading experience.