bloody hell. This is an education, reading this, haven't finished yet, taking it slowly, sentence by sentence. And having to go back and re-read each....morebloody hell. This is an education, reading this, haven't finished yet, taking it slowly, sentence by sentence. And having to go back and re-read each. It's like hanging upside down sometimes. There's something heartless and odd here. I do like it though.
It’s just that I tend to get all devotionate when I sense sore spots and unaired ires in any shrewd mess densening suddenly in my ken. A Tuesday, for undiscouraged instance: a vexable, vapory girl.
The man is obsessed with arms, pubic hair, snot and detritus of all kinds. He is unkind but maybe accurate to his characters, funny, brisk, unusual:
She unbuttoned, unzipped. I had forgotten, I suppose, the finely hirsute earthliness of her, that vicious uneternal splendency. (The skelter of moles along the small of her back, the salmon-patch birthmark on the nape of her neck, the bubbly something near the groin— that droll, brazen sincerity of her body had always been a sticking point.)
“If it’ll get your mind off it,” my aunt said. She had disposed herself beneath me, her eyes already shut, her hair a leaden bulk, an infrequent twinkle in her fingernails. I filled her body with some pulse of my trouble.
Full of bon mots and aphorisms:
She was a remainder of her parents, not a reminder of them. Her private life was not so much private as simply witnessless.
As you realise and the essay at the end confirms, Lutz's main concern is the sentence. Making each one work exactly, completely. You can tell from this: A sentence that I have spent an almost pathological amount of time gaping at since the turn of the century, a sentence that always leaves me agog, is the opening sentence in Sam Lipsyte’s story “I’m Slavering,” in Venus Drive: “Everybody wanted everything to be gleaming again, or maybe they just wanted their evening back.”
I, too, spent a long time on each of Lutz's sentences, and was rewarded, but sometimes I felt the story was often secondary. So, beguiling stuff. Very different: attention to detail taken to extremes.(less)
2 writers from my writing group in this: Garrie Fletcher and Charles Wilkinson, plus a 'virtual' friend and excellent writer Elizabeth Baines. Looking...more2 writers from my writing group in this: Garrie Fletcher and Charles Wilkinson, plus a 'virtual' friend and excellent writer Elizabeth Baines. Looking forward to reading..
A fine mix of voices and styles made this another excellent contribution to a great series of anthologies. Of course I liked my friends' stories best - Garrie's skilful portrait of an old war refugee, now living in accumulated rubbish, Charlie W.'s school-set tale of a weary headmaster near the end of his career, and Baines's sharp story of family fall out, coming to a head at a funeral. However there was much else to admire, Angela Readman's scary take on abduction from the child's pov, Mark Mayes's story of a man (a ghost?) who keeps appearing at odd times to a man feeling guilty about the child he abandoned in Germany when he was a soldier there. Both Sarah Bower's delicate 'Restoration' which took us inside the world of restoring paintings, and John Rutter's equally fine piece on visiting his in-laws for the last time were about the end of relationships, while Andrew Oldham's startling piece on a man turning to stone was poetic and raw. CS Mee imagined the end of the world as bringing about a return to the old skills of baking and family conversation rather than the usual panicky fuckfest. All in all a lively set of stories. Long may Unthology continue.(less)
I loved many of the stories here: Slut's Hair (which appeared in the same anthology as me), Peach Melba, Godwit, A Winter's Tale, and especially The C...moreI loved many of the stories here: Slut's Hair (which appeared in the same anthology as me), Peach Melba, Godwit, A Winter's Tale, and especially The Cold Outside, which chronicles the mundane life of a lorry driver who is terminally ill. He has a strange encounter with a hitchhiker, but although it makes him think and sit back a little, it is not life-changing or dramatic, and he goes back to his home and his flat relationship with his wife, just a little bit more aware of things around him. This is characteristic of this book - quiet stories that carry you and make you think and sit back. In 'A Winter's Tale' a young man minding a junk shop for a friend of his dead father sells a radio to a failed rock star and - entirely incidentally - scares away a would be robber with a knife just by being younger than expected. It is all done in a low key way. The author's a poet as the flowing prose attests. Despite not liking - or getting - a couple of stories here, I will probably get this out of the library again and re-read. It's one of those books.(less)
clever stuff and I liked about half of it a lot, but the other half didn't engage as much. Felt sometimes I was being wrestled the ground.. Proper rev...moreclever stuff and I liked about half of it a lot, but the other half didn't engage as much. Felt sometimes I was being wrestled the ground.. Proper review coming...
..half or so are meditations on themes, words, feelings, rather than straightforward stories, and many did not grab me. Eg. ‘Love sentence’ mulls over the words ‘I love you’ and contains quotes from Shakespeare and Kafka to the Troggs ('wild thing you make my heart sing') and Richard Hell; ‘Lunacies’ mixes moon facts with ideas on parasites, identical twins, and lovers. Another imagines a meeting between Marvin Gaye and John Lennon at the Dakota building, which could have been a lulu, but they take coke and smoke weed (as they would) and just kick their song titles back and forth. Of course that’s probably how it would be. Another plays with the colour of Chartreuse, and how it sums up a couple’s mutual life. However others did grab, or at least amuse - the woman who collects parking tickets and simply moves to another state to avoid payment. The woman contemplating her sex drive (She’d already had sex with many men, but those were the ones who were easy to have sex with or to find for sex.. she could meet them at parties or in clubs, even in grocery stores, especially near the beer, wine and cheese displays). I enjoyed the absurdist ‘The Way We Are’ which starts on a boring Thursday afternoon in Amsterdam and takes in a drunken visit to the cinema and her friend kicking a car (in sandals) and getting into an altercation with the local police (I was leading the life of a bat, a fascinated bat, in a dark hole, eating candy and gobbling images.) Mostly I preferred the ones that were more ‘story-like’, ie had more resonance and maybe more ‘plot’: ‘Playing Hurt’, and the lovely ‘The Shadow of a Doubt’ amongst others. There was beauty there.(less)
probably 4-and-a-bit stars because there are stories that seem almost mirror images of each other, but they are still good, and I don't want to spoil...moreprobably 4-and-a-bit stars because there are stories that seem almost mirror images of each other, but they are still good, and I don't want to spoil my so-far 5 star March (following Alan Warner's Dead Man's Pedal and Alice Munro's Dear Life). And there are three or four stand out stories of gentle revelation or non-revelation in the lives of Californian middle class couples or old men or boys becoming men. The first one, the title story (which R has pointed out could be about US/USSR relations with its bomb shelter and date of publication: 1985) of neighbours-at-odds has an unexpected and forgiving ending and set me up for a run of finely tuned stories of family expectations and the thwarting of them, or desire and its dwindling. The collection ended with three of the strongest pieces. ‘American Beauty’ was so vivid and spiky it stayed with me as if it was a film I’d seen (not the Kevin Spacey one which has nothing to do with this), scenes playing in my head days later. ‘The Carnival Dog, the Buyer of Diamonds’ likewise featured something unforgettable, this time the character summed up in the title, the protagonist’s father who physically fights and competes against his son to keep him focused, eg to stop him drifting out of medical school. There’s something of that in the final story ‘Star Food’, set mostly on the roof of a supermarket with a dreamy boy encouraged by his mother to think big and by his father to be practical, and ends with a kind of non-epiphany. They seem remarkably mature and empathetic stories for a writer only 27 at the time of publication. Thanks R, Simon and Ryan for pointing me at this collection.(less)
taken me ages to get to this. Review coming, but meanwhile just want to boast. I realised as I opened this book that the story 'The Age of Lead' was i...moretaken me ages to get to this. Review coming, but meanwhile just want to boast. I realised as I opened this book that the story 'The Age of Lead' was in this collection with me!:
here's the table of contents:
sorry, but it's not often you get a contents page that reads Atwood, Barnes, Beard, Boyd... and also includes two of my other favourite authors Munro and Trevor. So, good excuse to display the evidence... ..oh, it hasn't displayed. Bollocks. I'll try again...has it now? (less)
3.7 stars: good - well written - stories of rich (on the whole) New Yorkers (often adopted NYers), mainly media types, writers, film people, but also...more3.7 stars: good - well written - stories of rich (on the whole) New Yorkers (often adopted NYers), mainly media types, writers, film people, but also magnates and politicians attending parties and having lovers secreted in hideaways. All characters are well drawn and there are many funny moments. In one a wife becomes so attached to her potbellied pig she takes it to bed, in another a mother shoots her son in the arse (should say 'ass' I suppose) claiming to mistake him for a burglar. McInerney also exposes the class system in apparently classless USA, eg the woman who proves snobbish about waiters. Everyone's looking to upgrade to better lovers, better lifestyles. I enjoyed them all but felt maybe that was my fill of this type of story for now. Bernard McLaverty recently said the the short story is like a shot of a spirit taken alone at night (as opposed to a novel which is like a pint at the bar). This book was like a long line of G&T's drunk one after the other. Invigorating, bubbly: will get you drunk.(less)
I loved 'Daddy's', one of my books of the year in 2010, so looking forward to this new collection, once again brought to my attention by the admirable...moreI loved 'Daddy's', one of my books of the year in 2010, so looking forward to this new collection, once again brought to my attention by the admirable Kevin Sampsell. (less)
good stuff, very American 'literary short stories' in the Richard Ford mode, recollections of childhood defeats and realisations and tutors having aff...moregood stuff, very American 'literary short stories' in the Richard Ford mode, recollections of childhood defeats and realisations and tutors having affairs with students, sometimes non-sexual, families splitting gently, or not so gently, over time. A couple involving observed lesbianism - I don't mean in a voyeuristic way, a son with his mother, a man and the neighbours across the road. Well written, but maybe a little overbaked at times, maybe a little too much Iowa workshop (he's an alumni), maybe slightly smug in places..(less)
about time I read this. Short story or novella? Who cares.. took me a while to adjust to James's convoluted if elegant sentences, and to the slowed dow...moreabout time I read this. Short story or novella? Who cares.. took me a while to adjust to James's convoluted if elegant sentences, and to the slowed down pace. Read it twice and the second time was sheer pleasure, the first time was shifting myself round to it.(less)