Every now and then you come across a book which you just read straight through with a kind of slack jawed and glazed eyed wonder, wishing you’d written it. That’s how I first read Daniel Staniforth’s Diddle, a string of tales drawing their essence – though only in the most abstract and inspirational sense – from the well-known nursery rhyme about the cat and the fiddle. Although it’s only a short little book, it carries its weight in its sympathetic unfolding of human lives layered over a culture they cannot ultimately connect with. Written with generous measures of humour and sorrow, it introduces a parade of characters trying to make their way in the USA against the realities of cultural disparity, striving to build their personal castles from crumbled American dreams. As an Englishman who has spent many years living in the US, Daniel handles the displaced and the disconnected with an especially poignant sensitivity and understanding. Better known as a poet than a novelist, you never know quite what to expect when a poet turns to fiction. If this volume is anything to go by it looks like it might turn out to be his forté, as he has produced a sparkling, tantalising and hugely entertaining read.
What makes this series of loosely connected stories work so well is that it functions on so many levels simultaneously, being a light-hearted fun-poker of a book layered up like a multi-tiered wedding cake with different strata of meaning, symbolism, resonance and double entendre – sometimes presented with a flourish, sometimes with all the subtlety and shade of a cryptic puzzle. It’s the kind of book you can re-read many times and spot new revelations and hidden subtleties each time.
Diddle is available from various retail outlets such as Amazon, or direct from the Skylight Press website.
Diddle features cover artwork by the New York-based Finnish artist and designer Mikki Nylund. Mikki’s paintings are extraordinary, original and visionary and we’re very proud to feature one of them on our books.