Highly Moral

Posted on by David Gelber

For two or three years I have used We Don’t Live Here Anymore, a previous collection of Andre Dubus’s novellas, as a short cut to discovering which of my friends have any intrinsic worth as human beings. It says much for Dubus (and for my own impeccable good taste, in both friends and literature) that […]

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The Frogs Fall Silent

Posted on by David Gelber

Margaret Atwood is a virtuoso of the key change, and her range of key is nowhere better demonstrated than in her short stories. At one level, the changes arc effected through shifts of vocabulary: in each story the language of the protagonist – an adolescent, a political activist, a housewife suppressing anxiety through facetiousness – […]

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The Playhouse Called Remarkable

Posted on by David Gelber

I was telling my friend Moon Biglow the other day that I was going to Hampstead to see some literary people. ‘Oh, littery people,’ said Moon – because that’s how he talks. ‘Oh, Hampstead!’ said Moon. ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I’m going to read a story to illustrate the Uprise of my Downfall.’ Moon turned a […]

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Nasty Stars

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Ben Okri, in addition to providing one of the most haunting and evocative titles of this year, has a sure hand with his chosen genre, the short story. Not a word is wasted, not a phrase out of place. His sparse, economical style is put to work on a landscape rich in horror and oozing […]

Too Much Tallent

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Epigraphs are wonderful things. For her second collection of stories, the American author Elizabeth Tallent has looked to Edna O’Brien: ‘They chopped the wood, they lit the stove, they kept busy; there is always something to do in a house.’ It is true, of course; and indeed there is always something to do in the […]

Once Upon a Time

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

  Fairy tales are a curious genre of literature. Their origins float around in an unfathomable past ravelled up in one another like the tangled roots of water vegetation. Their contents are equally inextricable: ‘There was and there was not a time’, Angela Carter tells us, is the invariable opening of Armenian fairy tales – […]

Inflaming the Chinese

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Modern Chinese literature is not in a particularly robust phase at the moment, but if you complain about this to an educated Chinese you will be told that, artistically, things haven’t been the same since the Tang Dynasty (618–907). That by common consent was the high point of Chinese culture. Mao Zedong was especially fond […]

Diet of Vodka and Asparagus

Posted on by Tom Fleming

There are eleven pieces in this book, and at least two of them are triumphs; perhaps to ask for any more would be greedy. London, Eastbourne, unnamed suburbs are the territory; the emotional territory is that of wilful, self-conscious eccentricity, and of loneliness – whether in a child, as in All the Pubs in Soho; […]

Education in Aids

Posted on by Tom Fleming

What sort of audience do Mars-Jones and White have in mind for this collection of short stories concerning themselves with gay lifestyles during the AIDS epidemic: gay men, who for the most part hardly need to be told , or ‘straights’, who, prurient or sympathetic attitudes aside, probably do not want to be told anyway? […]

Crying ‘Woolf’ Too Often

Posted on by Tom Fleming

According to a little note printed at the back of The Widow and the Parrot, Quentin Bell and his brother commissioned the piece from their Aunt Virginia for publication in the family newspaper the two young boys put together daily with the typically feverish intellectual energy of the Bloomsbury Child. ‘I know she was an […]

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