Review of A World Beyond Cardboard by Jonathan Cardew (by Dan Crawley)

by | Aug 19, 2022 | Bending Genres, Blog, News, Reviews

I was ecstatic to find out that Jonathan Cardew published a debut microfiction collection, A World Beyond Cardboard (ELJ Editions, 2022). I have been following his writing for years and greatly admire his talent of creating memorable short fiction.

Cardew’s use of flawless language persuasively depicts the mythical with cleverness, the absurd in times of hardships, and the potential for menace within families and fractured relationships. The ingenious story, “A World Beyond Cardboard,” illustrates how this writer can accomplish more with a few short lines than another writer may try to convey in a paragraph. For instance, when the heartsick children watch their father drink coffee at a cafe, Cardew reveals just how lost these characters are:

Dad slowed down.

Each of his sips was a journey.

We hung off each one, hoping he would say something of substance.

In fact, I read outloud this particular story to another person (who is not a regular reader of fiction) and she was very moved by this gem, how it lands with its stunning last line. If that isn’t a ringing endorsement for Cardew’s galactic talent, I don’t know what else is?

And I marvel at Cardew’s skillful and imaginative descriptive writing. Note the following lines: “Their bodies like a curtain’s hem, fluttering in the foreign air”; “The pigeon walked around like it had its hands in its pockets”; “Her eyes are full of pupil.”

This stellar chapbook, containing twelve tiny stories brimming with artistry, has become one of the staples in my library. I find myself returning to it again and again, both for the sheer enjoyment of Cardew’s storytelling and for my ongoing study of this master’s expertise with this form.

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