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It's Beginning to Hurt: Stories

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  247 ratings  ·  55 reviews

James Lasdun's great gift is his instinct for the vertiginous moments when the essence of a life discloses itself. In sharply evoked settings that range from the wilds of northern Greece to the beaches of Ca
Paperback, 240 pages
Published August 3rd 2010 by Picador (first published April 1st 2009)
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Petra X
I am not a connoisseur of short stories. Novelettes are ok, but the short story itself is too fast for me. I appreciate a good plot well-worked out and character defined by key elements or dialogue, but for me there is no time to get to know the people, and that is what I like most about fiction. That said, I can see that these stories are technically perfect gems, well-written they tick all the boxes a short story should but nonetheless they go past so fast they fail to move me. Except one.

Lasdun is so revealing. Why is it that when one sees the innermost thoughts of a forty- or fifty-something man one feels slightly embarrassed, as though there were something pitiful about the conclusions they manage to align like a teetering stack of children's building blocks? Though writing from the United States, Lasdun always retains his essential Englishness, like, I might add, Netherland author Joseph O'Neill. These men, writing about the minds of men, bring out the voyeur in me.

But these
Lizzie Skurnick
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Great collection of short stories. Most of them are around 15 pages long, which sounds like a lame reason to like something but actually made them perfect for bedtime reading. They are economically told and Lasdun has a great skill for releasing unexpected information quietly. For the most part they are not heavy on plot points but through small happenings you see truth of character. His observations really chimed with me. Here's a line from the last story in the collection, 'Caterpillars', abou ...more
From BBC Radio 4 - Book at Bedtime:
Series of five enigmatic and psychologically gripping short stories by James Lasdun.

Caroline Taggart
It's difficult to give five stars to a collection of short stories, because that would suggest that there were no stories I liked more or less than the others. Having said that, this one probably rates 4.5. The title story, a mere two pages when the others are mostly 12-15, is particularly poignant. 'I'm in love with you,’ the mistress says matter-of-factly to her married lover as she is breaking off the relationship, ‘and it's beginning to hurt.’

Others I particularly liked include 'An Anxious M
I concur with John, Sara, and Isa's reviews of this collection. The technical prowess, craft, and detail of the story telling is evident. I also like the subject matter and characters. However, the lack of emotion coming off the page such as a story like "Anxious Man" where the opening dialogue immediately captures the reader but in the end its almost like the author walked away from the keyboard then came back without the emotional intensity to wrap it up. This unfortunately happens many times ...more
The writing is extraordinary. Lasdun's novel "The Horned Man" was remarkably well-written, too, but here, in the short story form, he doesn't have to manage so long and detailed a plot, and the book is better as a result. Unlike a Carver story, for instance, most of these stories cover large spans of times in the characters' lives and have relatively little dialogue, and most of the stories' endings may be unconventional insofar as they don't provide much resolution and often stop in media res. ...more
Finished the stories in Its Beginning to Hurt. At first, they seemed like variations on a single story but about midway through, there was a bit more variety.

I liked the very Jamesian Annals of the Honorary Secretary and Oh Death, not Jamesian at all.
Zach Freeman
The best collection of short stories I've read in recent memory. If you're looking for a book to read, check this one out. All his characters are richly developed and realistic.
Jo Verity
I first heard James Lasdun's story 'An Anxious Man' read on BBC Radio 4 in 2006 when it won the inaugural National Short Story Prize. That story - or the essence of it - has stayed with me which is, I feel, the mark of a great story. On the strength of this I have just read his collection 'It's Beginning to Hurt'. Again, I was completely taken with 'An Anxious Man' - the first in the collection. His writing throughout is beautifully elegant. But some of the stories didn't quite work for me. To m ...more
It was one of the best collection of short stories that I read for a long time.
Jennifer Brace
Now I need a new collection of Shorts. Any suggestions out there?
Lou Mattioli
I picked this book up for my wife at the library, but decided to give it a shot myself after it was left unread for weeks on the desk in my office. I thoroughly enjoyed the morally dispassionate narrative, offering a glimpse into the minds of typical men, without judging their thoughts or behavior. I do not wholly identify with these characters; however, many of their brilliantly articulated streams of neurotic thought have also flowed through my own mind on many occasions. I readily waded throu ...more
“But knowing that in twenty minutes you were going to legitimately succumb to anxiety was not very different from succumbing to it right now” (11).
“Then it was the light itself one became aware of, rather than the things in it” (12).
“She had changed out of the tissuey top into a sleeveless robe of flowing peach-colored linen, but Joseph had recognized her at once as the victor in the incident with the lobsters” (14).
“The ideal state of affairs, things seemed to imply, was a continual orgy. If yo
Great little short stories that pack a big impact in a few pages. (copied review) WSJ one best of 2009 This accomplished poet, novelist, and story writer's collection packs a devastating punch. Lasdun peels back the facades of middle-aged, middle-class types through their run-ins with cancer, infidelity and loss that lead them to deal with unexpectedly large and often ugly recognitions. The title story is less than three full pages, but generates near-boundless futility and regret as a businessm ...more
James Lasdun’s newest short story collection, It’s Beginning to Hurt, offers an impressive array of captivating anecdotes. Most of these stories feature British or American protagonists living in New York or London, who, while rambling about middle age, find themselves in a bit of trouble.

Some grapple with disease, others with infidelity. In one story, a man falls into a heaping pool of garbage-filled mud and in another a fanatical (and egotistical) environmentalist receives his comeuppance.

I can't say I didn't like this collection of short stories, but I also can't say I liked it fully either. James Lasdun is one of those writers who can capture a feeling so well in a sentence, that you can't help but keep rereading the sentence that felt like it was mocking you with its accuracy in revealing something about you to the whole world you thought only you were privy to, until that moment you saw it on the page.

The stories in this collection share one common theme, though they differ f
Austin Storm
Scattered review, as always.

I don't usually enjoy short story collections. Most short stories are too long, and often short stories (along with poetry) are safe route - authors staying in the sheltered, insular world of the academy.

But I did enjoy these surgical little stories. Lasdun is very accomplished. He writes about liminal moments, before or after the revelation - infidelity, divorce, revenge, murder, or abortion.

His tone is dispassionate, and the characters sometimes follow in dispassion
excellent, biting stories, one called 'An Anxious Man' and I thought the whole collection could be called that for these pieces are all about things that go wrong, could go wrong, little moments that reveal a lot, futures uncertain and weird events causing things to go awry. For example a man in his best finery on his way to his father's wedding in France gets lost and has to call at a farm to ask his way and falls in pig shit on his way back to the car.

The stories are mainly set among the coun
It's Beginning to Hurt. While rather short and located far in the back, the title story to this short story collection truly defines the book. A man secretly attends a funeral on his lunch break, while his wife calls him to bring home fish for dinner. Dealing with ordinary occurrences, Lasdun vividly brings to the forefront the ordinary emotions and passions that define and give meaning to life. Any reader will be able to relate to these emotions and feelings, knowing exactly how many of them ma ...more
Book one of 2014! I really love short stories and this is no exception. I read about this book in an old issue of The Atlantic that was lying around, and it really appealed to me. Maybe it's just the title, which I thought sounded nice, but I just really wanted to read it as soon as I heard about it. Was not disappointing. Its unlike any other book I've ever read, since it goes more in depth into the characters thoughts in such few pages compared to most other books (that was horrible grammar, w ...more
These grew on me, or maybe were just artfully arranged so that they consistently get better. Lasdun has great powers of observation and a succinct, intelligent way at times of describing the curious workings of the mind, but I thought too many of these stories were a bit "blah" or too predictable, on the other hand. My favorites were the title story (scathing, and very short but perfect), the supernaturally-tinged "Annals of the Honorary Secretary", "Cleanness", and "The Woman at the Window". It ...more
Kasa Cotugno
Short story collections, like record albums, usually start with the strongest offering then tapering off, and often I have a problem finishing the book. Not so with this magnificent collection. Each is a gem, unsettling, disquieting, memorable. The eponymous story is a wisp only 3 pages long, but has more impact than other stories that ran double the length. The unifying quality in these stories is a moment of truth for middle aged, middle class people, faced with life changing decisions. If I h ...more
Travis Fortney
I happened upon this book of stories at a library sale not too long ago, about the time Lasdun's latest book On Being Stalked was being talked about. It's Beginning to Hurt ended up being the best book of stories I've read since stumbling across Thom Jones's Cold Snap in a similar manner several years ago. Punchy but somehow elegant language, painful interiority, and a sense of something akin to embarrassment, shame or puzzlement. In short, something close what my own interior world looks like o ...more
This book was so dead-on in its description of the anxieties of daily life -- in social life, at work, and in relationships -- that it was unfailingly interesting. But it failed to hit the mark on an emotional level, in part because so many of these short stories didn't resolve the tension they introduce. To me, even difficult times in our personal lives have redeeming qualities and light moments. This book seemed to lack just those. I'd be interested to see what comes next from this author, tho ...more
Many other reviews comment on these stories' middle aged male point of view. While that may be true that the protagonists are male, I didn't get the sense that the view was singular and typical at all. Instead these tales unflinchingly portray simple everyday agonies of any mind--its anxieties, obsessions, doubts, and yearnings-- fraught emotional states when it's "beginning to hurt."
Deanna Newton
This collection of short stories exceeded my expectations. Lasdun's insight into human emotions and personalities is impeccable. Even more incredible is how he describes people and events--a lifetime of loves and fears--in only a few short pages. Each story left an impression on me days after reading. Now that's a good writer.
Sep 12, 2009 Sarah rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sarah by: Time Out New York
I felt like these stories were decent up to a point, but tended to run out of gas around what should've been the climax. The protagonists were all pretty dislikable, too. A blurb on the back called it unflinching, but really I just found it sort of unpleasant.

"Caterpillars" was the best, though it also disgusted me.
Sue Russell
Picked it up after reading one of his stories in the O. Henry best book. It's a hard one to rate. A couple of the stories are stunning, some are OK but didn't blow me away, and others are just perfectly competent but elicit a kind of "so what" response. But that's a danger of short story collections, generally.
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James Lasdun was born in London and now lives in upstate New York. He has published two novels as well as several collections of short stories and poetry. He has been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize and short-listed for the Los Angeles Times, T. S. Eliot, and Forward prizes in poetry; and he was the winner of the inaugural U.K./BBC Short Story Prize. His nonfiction has been published in Harpe ...more
More about James Lasdun...
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