Grotesque vignettes: The Body in the Mobile Library and Other Stories, by Peter Bradshaw, reviewed

There’s a face I found myself making again and again when reading Peter Bradshaw’s short stories, and it was not pretty: top half screwed up in incredulity; lower half slack with bovine confusion. What, my expression said, just happened? What indeed? Bradshaw is best known as the Guardian’s chief cinema critic, but this isn’t his first foray into fiction. The collection comes in the wake of three novels; but he’s admitted that ‘the short story form has always obsessed me’. That fascination with the form has given him the confidence to play with it, and us, and my confusion was deftly engineered from the start. In the opening story ‘The

The Great God Pan is all things to all men

Pan’s name is thought to derive from ‘paean’, the ancient Greek verb meaning ‘to pasture’. His half-man, half-goat form reflected his role in protecting flocks of goats and those who herded them among the wild hills of Arcadia. Panic was his superpower, freaking out mortals in the woods with distorted sounds, even neutralising hostile armies. This might seem like an adequate portfolio of godly aspects, but, as Paul Robichaud demonstrates in Pan: The Great God’s Modern Return, it didn’t take long for things to get more complicated. The Homeric ‘Hymn to Pan’ had a slightly different story, which was that the strange goat-child, rejected by its earthly nurse, got taken