Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Saturday, 4 July 2020

"Fiction 4the future" (HarperCollins, 2012)

A chapter or two from some novels

  • Chad Harbach - Harry, a shy 17 y.o. baseball fanatic, is offered a sports scholarship, the distant college so keen to have him that a student with a single room is given compensation so that Harry can share. I wasn't impressed by the sample.
  • Darran McCann - I like this far more. It's 1917, and an Irish hero's returning home after years. He arrives just as a dance is ending - the priest is trying to make people come home. There's secret drinking. He's aware that he's the star of the show.
  • Lily Tuck - "His hand is growing cold; still she holds it. Sitting at his bedside, she does not cry". It's evening, and her husband has suddenly died. She thinks back to their wedding, to how they met in Paris, etc. He was a mathematician, which leads to the use of some unlikely analogies.
  • Will Wiles - someone's looking after the flat of a house-proud friend. Didn't see much to enjoy.
  • Evan Mandery - The blurb says "Imagine a brainier version of The Time Traveller's Wife rewritten by Woody Allen back when he was still funny". The crazy golf is fun.
  • Nicci Cloke - 25 y.o. Fitz and Saffy are a couple. "To Lilah, anyone without beauty or wealth was boring ... We did the lines". According to the blurb, Saffy later in the novel has problems.
  • Bonnie Jo Campbell - Margo, 15, had sex with her uncle Cal. Her father wasn't happy, and wanted Margo to claim it was rape. She likes using guns, killing deer at 30 yards. Her mother left suddenly a year before, wanting to find herself. It's rich in local detail, promising.
  • Anjali Joseph - she's in Paris. She meets up with some people. "He was tall, broad-shouldered. She made these observations to herself. and a delight rose up in her." She goes to bed with him. It was unsatisfying. I wouldn't buy the book.
  • Sam Thompson - Interesting in parts, working out who the narrator was, and what the city was like. But it went on a bit.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

"Courage is a Gift" (M.S Wordsmith, 2019)

Stories by and about transgender, non-binary and genderqueer people.

An introduction by Marielle S Smith points out that "even when the minorities are present within stories, they are more often than not seen as representatives of the group they belong to instead of individuals in their own right", which sounds fair enough. Ash Roberts in another preliminary article writes about reading a particular book - "It was the first time I'd seen a character even close to me in a story, I cried, tears of relief and joy." I don't read stories hoping for characters I can identify with though glancing throughout Goodreads I know that many people do.

The authors' bios mention no previous publications in magazines I've heard of. One author is 15 years old, apparently.

"Letters to Alix" is a sequence of letters from a tomboy to an imaginary boy the same age. Unrealistically, the first letter dates from when they were 5. Finally the writer decides to become the person they're writing to.

"Remember you're a girl, remember you're a boy" is ok, but doesn't really get going.

"Final memory" is interesting. Someone wakes in a strange land, not alone. She has a flashback about confessing to a girl that she loves her. The girl, straight with a boyfriend, discontinues their friendship. In the strange land there's a (genderneutral?) God-like figure called the Candlemaker who lets the narrator be an extra observer in a flashback so she can watch her past self and see the mistake that led her to the strange, barren, land.

"Post-optimistic" is an essay. After breast-removal, the narrator hoped that people would respond to the narrator the way the narrator wanted. That wish was naive according to the narrator. There's still work to do.

"Not-two" - Another essay. How Buddhism helped someone who was non-binary.

"The blue dress"- a guy recalls when at 5, he tries on a dress and then can't undo the zip. Just a page.

"Covered" - A guy phoning a health insurance call centre asks about sex-change surgery issues. Not enough to the piece - a shame because the dialogue has an edge.

"Courage is a gift" - Keegan practises basketball late, chest bound so tight its painful. He's a trans. Toby, his brother is fine about it. His parents after 5 years are beginning to adapt. Today Keegan's going to come out to his best mate Charley. It works out fine. Keegan's happy.

"A discordant note" - The first-person narrator's a robot, one of many with the same face. Some humans don't like them. Some robots want to be treated more like individuals, thinking that having individual faces will help.

"The Dance of Thunder" - A fairytale. The children of the Minelark family are going to perform music for the "I". Some dignitaries are "Open" (i.e. have come out?). When it's Snap's turn to perform he bottles out. He tries on ballerina shoes. They feel right and everyone (parents too) are happy. At the end Snap is "comfortable in herself"

"Student of the week" - The main character, who's 15 and wants to be called Cyrus, is called into the head's office. The School priest is there (it's a Catholic school). The head calls Cyrus Emily and insists that she undergoes therapy. Cyrus escapes, calls a help line and feels better.

"Remembering the journey" - Sera recalls the risk of coming out to friends, especially given that she was once rather a social outcast. She recalls sessions with a therapist. She recalls 2 years ago, wondering whether to take the hormone drugs before her on the table. Her life hadn't changed as much as she'd expected. At the end, she doesn't "regret a thing."

"Kaput" - A bodiless entity appears in limbo, not initially knowing how to move or talk. 2 more appear. They try to understand their situation. Then they disappear.

"Guyliner" - the first person narrator (not cis female presumably) is chatting away with someone else who's putting on make-up too. "The real me was messed up before and I needed to lose myself". Or to be the real me.

"Firestarter" - Avi, 24, (trans, on hormones) (they/them) meets an old family friend, Gwen, at a feminist meeting. Gwen is anti-trans, anti-testosterone. After the meeting Avi realises that Gwen might have stolen Avi's badge. She's tipped off about where it might be. Avi drives to a forest cabin in the middle of nowhere to retrieve the badge. The cabin's empty. The car won't re-start. Throughout the piece Avi had imagined the act of chopping wood in the snow as a child. They do it now. The car's mended. On the drive home Avi passes Gwen and stops to talk to her. She hasn't changed her mind, nor does she have a badge. She stops for gas, chances upon Helen, an old trans friend who'd given her the badge. They promised to stay in touch. At the end Avi thinks that they (i.e. Avi) wouldn't want another life - they could see some beauty in the life they had.

"Chapter sixteen" - Alu, 12, a she with the beginnings of a beard, is heading for the capital, Tadora, for the ceremony where dragons are bound to their riders. She tricks her way into the city.

I found several of the pieces interesting. I felt they could have done with further development. There were too many predictable happy endings for my liking, too many pieces that focus on the coming-out moment, wondering whether parents and friends will take it well.

Sunday, 28 June 2020

"Nevertheless she persisted" (Tom Doherty Associates Book, 2020)

I wasn't convinced by most of these Flash stories, though they were written by Hugo Award winners etc. Sometimes the writing fails, sometimes the plot does. I'm not into fantasy, which doesn't help. Charlie Jane Anders can write (previous pieces in Slate, Tin House, Conjunctions, etc). "Anabasis" by Amal El-Mohtar is perhaps my favourite.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

"The Long Take" by Robin Robertson (Picador, 2018)

Written as a long poem, but on shortlists for novel prizes.

It's 1946. New York. Walker, an ex-soldier from Cape Cod, Canada who served in Normandy, Belgium and Holland is looking for work. There's much imagery, some better than others.

  • So this is what happens between one night and the next: this is day. A never-ending rehearsal with a cast that changes all he time but never gets it right (p.5)
  • The city's gone./ In its place, this gray stone maze, this/ locked geometry of shadows, blind and black,/ and angles hurt into the sky, symmetries breaking/ and snapping back into line. (p.5)
  • Going up the Empire State it's like "A ladder at the center of a maze/ he climbs to see where he is,/ where he went wrong" (p.29)
  • The subways are rivers, underground,/ flash-flooding every five minutes/ in a pulse of people. (p.7)
  • "Central Park: a clearing/ in this forest of stone" isn't so good.

After a year working in the docks he spends all his savings on a train ticket to LA. He finds Billy straight away, who gives him some useful tips. He looks for him on the street every so often over the years. He becomes a reporter, and drinks with colleagues, never knowing them that well. He visits film sets. He's sent on an assignment to SF, then returns. Nobody likes colleague Pike who's trying to impress bosses - "Pike was always in a movie, the cameras always rolling". Walker's haunted by war memories, which thanks to the episodic, fragmented style are easily inserted -

5.30, Sunday morning,
a man with a hose preceded him up Main Street,
fanning an aisle through the Styrofoam, food wrappers,
cigarette packets, torn shirts, snapped stilettos and the sour mulch
of broken glass, blood and butts and sick -
moving like a priest with a censer,
hosing the center down
*
The rating withe bilge-bucket is swilling off the puke, and what was left of Joe McPherson who hadn't timed it right, his jump from the nets to this landing craft below.
(p.44)

Here are some of the more memorable/thematic phrases -

  • Billy says 'Los Angeles is like a fridge or a car now,/ it's built to break, so it's temporary./ When you get tired of your world you just upgrade'
  • the watermelons/ cleavered: falling open, rocking/ slowly into still and perfect halves (p.60)
  • Old men were out, on corners, watching the world,/ stroking cats and dogs, chatting, picking up scraps of litter/ and looking at them, directing trucks as they reversed - p.73
  • He'd had some kind of a stroke/ and his face dragged down on one side, like it had/ missed a button - p.75
  • He'd come to know, over time, to only watch/ what women hide,/ not what they show - p.86
  • Stage machinery, with the grillwork balconies,/ roped proscenium, bright acoustic, the light-well drop.// This hidden dream of another century's Europe/ here, right here on Broadway - p.96
  • He dreamt a plane carrying troops crashed-landed/ onto the cemetery outside Caen, and the long-dead/ were churned up with the newly-dead/ and he had to walk through it all./ Looking for himself - p.138
  • In Cape Breton there was just the past./ Here in California, they're only thinking about the future -/ the past is being torn down every day - p.154
  • The river ... is a bed of coiled silver, springs and movements, an escapement of minnows on the face of the water; the long shadows of trout lying like clock-hands under the stones - p.188
  • Benjamin took some shrapnel in his throat: his windpipe torn open, so he's gargling blood and staring at me, fumbling at his neck like he feels his napkin is sipping - p.190
  • He coughed a little blood then and, as if embarrassed to be dying, covered his face and went still - p.201

Right at the end Walker tracks Billy down to confess that he killed a German in cold blood. It takes a while for us to get to know Walker. Others have trouble too. He hears colleagues talk about him - 'You can't get an angle on Walker, y'know?/ He's a tricky bastard - not easy at all./ Like trying to catch a dropped knife.' (p.154). On p.174, Jan 1955, we learn he's 34. He has War flashbacks. Noises still scare him - New Year's Eve fireworks. Demolition reminds him of Normandy. He sees analogies. There's a section towards the end where paragraphs about the war alternative with ones from the present. He empathises with the homeless. He sends postcards to his ex back in Canada. He sometimes buys whores. He's a watcher. At the end there's a real or imagined earthquake.

There are many kinds of readers. They won't all like the same things. One option for the writer is to throw in various types of material hoping that each reader will pick out the parts that suit them. If they're editors or writers they might be pretty good at that. But what do they do about the material that doesn't suit them. Suppose, rather than feeling neutral about it they don't like it? How does the writer encourage the reader to be indulgent?

With a novel one tolerates the odd longeur - half a page isn't much lost time because one's reading quickly. With a poem one tolerates discontinuities, one delays trying to understand. It helps to use different fonts for different types of entries, to use line-breaks in some sections but not others. Star-separated sections help too - parts that are disliked are easily discarded.

6 pages of notes at the end attest to the authenticity.

Other reviews

  • John Banville (composed in a mixture of verse and prose. It is a beautiful, vigorous and achingly melancholy hymn to the common man that is as unexpected as it is daring. Here we have a poet at the peak of his symphonic powers taking a great risk, and succeeding gloriously.)
  • Anna Tipton (The form of the book is difficult to categorize, moving between free verse, lyrical prose, diary entries, and photographs. )
  • Sibbie O'Sullivan (Moving between poetry and prose, dialogue and history, Robin Robertson’s “The Long Take” is a propulsive verbal tour de force. ... The juxtaposition of poetry and prose dissolves the psychological distance between Walker’s past and his present. His diary entries, initially objective, soon become introspective, fueling his self-destruction. )
  • Brian Morton (much of The Long Take seems to work just as well when set out as prose. Sure, it’s written in verse lines, albeit without rhyme or assonance, but parts of it are almost discursive in tone. It appears in a poetry imprint, and in an unfamiliar trade format, but it is unmistakably a novel. ... Walker is that other modernist trope, a camera eye, shuttering the cityscape in a series of vivid monochromes. One of the book’s attractive but disturbing oddities is the juxtaposition of ‘still’ images you wish might quicken into motion and moving images that you very much hope will stop soon. ... Sometimes, though, the detail trips, especially when the research is too obviously flagged. ... Robertson understands that poetry can survive not just discord but also a prosaic plainness. There are passages in The Long Take that might come from Lewis Mumford or Jane Jacobs, but their presence doesn’t diminish but instead enhances the musicality of the whole structure.)
  • John McAuliffe (The verse novel is an unusual genre, emphasising intensity and tone with its line-breaks and stanzas. Robertson intersperses present-tense narration with italicised flashbacks and bold-type excerpts from postcards and diaries that gesture at a gently pastoral reminiscence of a teenage love affair in Nova Scotia, but the overall effect is uneven and bitty. ... The book’s disturbing, powerful depiction of traumatic violence and its reverberating aftermath might have been better served by a shorter take.)
  • Woody Haut (although The Long Take is definitely a poem, I can’t think of anything quite like it. There is, of course, Kevin Young’s recent Black Maria (2005) ... The Long Take, set mostly in and around Los Angeles’s Bunker Hill from 1946 to 1957, and subtitled “A Way to Lose More Slowly,” is considerably more modern, complex, political, and, though cinematic, probably less filmable than March’s narratives. It’s also more sustained and situated in the real world than Young’s excellent episodic endeavor. And despite its peregrinations in time, place, and rhythm, Robertson’s poem, when it comes to its inner workings, is also surprisingly novelistic. ... Since noir is the spirit of the time, and Bunker Hill is a de facto film set, Walker cannot help but co-opt the language, imagery, and perspective of that genre. ... Though the poem’s diffuseness tends to lessen its visceral impact, The Long Take remains a remarkable work. An occasional phrase may be out of sync with the era, like “watching each other’s back” or “getting totalled,” and there are moments when the poem, introduced by a map of old Bunker Hill, reads like a tourist guide to the city’s noir hot spots. But, for the most part, Robertson gets it right,)

Saturday, 20 June 2020

"Flint" by Adriana Diaz Enciso (noimprint, 2020)

In the afterword the author writes "I suppose that the closest description is an elegy in prose, together with a dream diary and some musings on catharsis and hero-worship in modern culture. ... On the death of a pop star, we usually read about their musical legacy, their force as performers. It seems to me that it’s uncommon to find such an overflow of testimonies of his or her kind-heartedness. In Flint’s case, though, both forms of praise came in equal abundance. I was touched, and curious."

She wasn't a fan. Yet she dreamt about Keith Flint (lead singer of The Prodigy) and went to his public funeral. She was in therapy, not feeling too happy about life at the time. Then she heard that someone she'd long knew had also committed suicide. She continues " It’s impossible for me not to dedicate this piece to them both. I don’t know whether if Armando liked The Prodigy. I don’t remember us ever talking about it, but I think they would both much enjoy the company.".

Paragraph 2 of the work itself contains "You were mute but your heart was crying—inarticulate heart-words, heart-sobs voiceless drawn on the dejected pallor of your face—, and you walked faintly, barely contained in flesh, disintegration’s disarray lashing out in all directions like liquid colours, substance, pain, eyes unseeing, wide open in sorrow and in fear." which gives you an idea of the general style. It's not one I'm keen on, and I don't like reading about dreams. But in the end such preferences are down to personal taste, and I can imagine many readers being seduced by the style. See what you think.

Later "I woke encircled in the radiance of the dream: its peace, its sadness, and entered the day troubled by questions: why should this soul visit me in dreams? Why should I walk along in a stranger’s last journey? ... The earth is turning. Feel. Sunshine steals early in our bed to stir us out of dream, hurl us into the rapture of clear skies, awake in light and birdsong. Every day and every hour the air more suffused with the dye of blossoms, buds opening on every single twig."

The character recalls those she has lost (father, etc) and her reactions. She wonders about the concert audiences - "Where do they go, when the show is over? Are they all misfits? Do they go back to disaffected lives, walking on the fringe? Back to their office? To their studies their lovers their mum and dad?"

We return to the beauty of nature - "Today I saw the magnolia tree. Each flower a perfectly rounded goblet of light and colour, full as fruits, their invisible growth a beckoning, miraculous becoming. Can you see how the swell of colour becomes shape? It soaks your eyes, expands, absorbs the air and sky around it, breathes against the pulse of everything that is."

We learn about Flint's funeral - "In your hometown, a festival. Schools are closing early, the whole town open for you. Pubs announce the rave to follow; there are walk-in tattoo parlours, in your honour, a bakery sale. ... But birds still fly above the church, and joy is theirs, joy and flight their blessing in the immaculate light. The light of timelessness, of childhood, of ‘Life begins here, now’. Wish you were here, sings Pink Floyd from the loudspeakers."

At the end "Wind and rain have shaken many blossoms as I write these final words. We’ve felt them shower on us, iridescent, their caress so soft it’s almost as if they weren’t there, and it’s so generous, that airy hand, that on stripping the boughs it lays a soft carpet of petals at our feet. Even with gaze downward, no difference between heaven and earth. ... It’s springtime. Breathe." ("Breathe" is a Prodigy video).

I'd have preferred a personal essay without the dreams and musing, without any light of timelessness. I'd be interested in knowing more about the interaction between private mental states and public mourning (the "Lady Di effect"), between memory and the rejuvenating spring, how it all combined to assist recovery.

Other reviews

  • Chris Edgoose (I suspect, because of its unusual form and perhaps because of its use of a real-life deceased  individual with relatives and presumably an estate, that this may be a pamphlet which continues to find full publication elusive, but I hope I am wrong because it is a profoundly moving piece of work which deserves a wide readership.)

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

"Sonnets from the dark lady and other poems" by Jennifer Reeser (Saint James Infirmary Books, 2012)

Poems from POETRY, The Dark Horse, American Arts Quarterly, Able Muse, MEASURE, etc. In the Foreword Paul Stevens writes that her style "has an unmistakably Elizabethan and Jacobean feel to it, deriving from the vigor and energy of her deployment of language, figure and image, the delight in word-play and verbal music". I can see that in some poems. More often I'm confused by the mixture of light and heavy poems, and even more so when there's a mix within a poem. For example I can't get a handle on "The lady who lives here" which begins "The lady who lives here is horribly vain/ Her mirrors are many, a mess to maintain" - is it for kids? A parody? I can only make sense of "a mess to maintain" if the mess is what's seen in the mirrors, and "maintain" means "improve" rather than "keep". "Litany" seems deadly serious, but the content's little better.

The poem that has the following (which takes many words to say not much)

This is the place one's palette turns to coal,
one's bed turns to a pallet, stately taste
to grime upon the palate; where the whole
vivid giddiness of feeling goes to waste,
and pride and moral posture rot

ends with "Seclusion is the ransom of the soul" which I like.

Here's the start of "Vogue"

Playing with princesses, coloring pages
Inked in a magazine drawn from the ages,
Muscle and modishness meet the ideal.
Marionettes in contempt of a meal
Hang - without strings - from the strength of their gazes.
Bent in your hands, their submission amazes.

There's much to like here, but what does "coloring pages Inked in a magazine drawn from the ages" mean? Has meaning got lost in sound? Is "pages" a pun related to "princesses"? Is "coloring" a verb, an adjective or both? Is "drawn" a pun? Why "Bent"?

Does the rhyme help? The extracts below would be more compact and elegant without the rhyme.

In the absence of a basement,
A dry attic will suffice
To hide beneath some casement
Damning evidence of vice.
("Formula")

passed down from generation to generation,
or picked up from Goodwills, the preservation
of which gives one a sense of heritage,
tradition, continuity, privilege
("The Charm of Candelabras")

Then there are other poems that go way over my head.

The card decks etched with phantoms, checks and chatelaines,
      As children paint toy plaster masks for contraband,
  As unchecked waves wash up against a sea-walled strand,
   Obscure doors opened on their own give one chilbains.

What algebraic voodoo now may we
summon by some drilling of the moon
to choke the concupiscence of a zombie,
a real, real creature of a black lagoon?
("Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico")

There's love and friendship too. Here's the final stanza of "Civic Centre", showing how the relationship between two people at an opera can waver -

"Sit up. Pay close attention. Sugar Plum
is dancing with such dignity," I tell
you, half-disheartened, when I hear you hum,
you know Tchaikovsky's symphony so well.

It's a good ending - she's not trying too hard.

The sonnets of the title are perhaps the best poems in the book. They're way over my head too. They sound like poetry even if, when I scrutinize them, they don't all make sense to me. The following for example starts well, but after that I get lost.

Call Love a forger's counterfeit of peace,
Naive, complacent, loose, unkempt, forthcoming,
Archaic, quaint, a traitor true, a grease.
Regardless, women will continue humming
As if it meant dementia to despise
This Neat Suite sham, this No-Man's Paradise.

This is from sonnet 10 -

Existent in the will of comprehension,
Upheld by both the foresight and the hind,
Are bounds and bonds about which future tension
Admitting love with distance, holds in mind.

I can't paraphrase this. Perhaps I shouldn't try. Perhaps I should first read the sonnet that inspired it. Is there a pun on "Admitting"?

Sonnet 17 starts with

Here are no stone Madonnas on my rugs,
Enshrouding the Child by various embraces
With varied faces, in shawls or shrugs
On Galilee silks or high piano cases.

The poem ends with "Love, I am not thy mother, but thy match". "match" as in "perfect match" - i.e. partner? The rest of the poem doesn't help me. I struggle with such pieces. Why the shrugs? What/who is on high piano cases, and what are those cases anyway?

Saturday, 13 June 2020

"Bliss, and other stories" by Katherine Mansfield (Aeterna Classics, 2015)

First published in 1920.

  • "Prelude" - an extended family move out of town. We learn (rather non-linearly) how most of them feel about it. When invited boys play with the girls they cut off a duck's head. It's a novella.
  • "Je ne parle pas fran├žais" - A would-be writer, 26, sits in a Parisian cafe. Women like him. He meets Dick, an Englishman researching into French literature, at a party. They become friends. The narrator's angry when Dick suddenly returns home. Months later Dick returns with his girlfriend, but has decided during the journey that he can't upset his mother by marrying. The narrator wonders whether to help the girl, but then leaves the couple, never to see them again. At the end we're back in the cafe.
  • "Bliss" - A Hampstead young mother who's never sexually fancied her husband hosts an evening. One guest she's invited is a beautiful girl who her husband says is a dumb blonde. Amid the idle, arty banter, the hostess and the girl share a wordless moment staring out into the garden. At the end the hostess desires her husband but as they help the guests leave she notices hints of intimacy between the girl and her husband. The final paragraph is "But the pear tree was as lovely as ever and as full of flower and as still."
  • "The Wind Blows" - She's in bed. There's a storm. She goes (has gone?) to a music lesson where she cries. She goes for a walk by the sea with Bogey. She sees a ship. She imagines she's on that ship with Bogey years later, looking towards the shore, remembering the music lesson and their walk.
  • "Psychology" - A male psychologist (31) and woman (30) discuss books and the future of the novel. She thinks that their friendship suffices for a long-term relationship. He suddenly gets ready to leave her to meet a mutual male friend at 6. She's angry but doesn't say so. At the doorstep is an old spinster friend of the woman (presumably an image of how the woman fears she'll become).
  • "Pictures" - 8am. Penniless Ada Moss is in bed in Hampstead staring at the ceiling. The landlady comes in threatening to evict her. She spends the day looking for an acting/singing job, ending up at a club where she lets herself be picked up by a fat old man.
  • "The Man Without a Temperament" - an invalid wife (TB?) and husband are staying at a pension with a General, a Honeymoon couple, etc. He goes off for a walk in the afternoon. Via flashbacks we learn that she vitally needed the holiday and she couldn't do it alone.
  • "Mr Reginald Peacock's Day" - A singer/teacher is grumpy that his wife is trying to drag him down to her mundane level. He regrets being talked into marrying her. After a day of giving admiring women singing lessons he tries to win over his wife, lapsing into the kind of smarm he uses with his pupils.
  • "Sun and Moon" - 2 little children sneak down to see their parents' party, puzzled by the mess of adult fun.
  • "Feuille d'Album" - Women wonder about a quiet, blushing artist who they see in cafes of an evening. He has his eyes on a neighbour. He follows her one day, and awkwardly tries to make friends
  • "A Dill Pickle" - A couple meet after 6 years. He's been to many places they'd planned to go together. They're still lonely. He (who speaks a lot) says it's because they're egoists and still are. She leaves.
  • "The Little Governess" - It's her first time abroad. The ferry isn't too bad. A porter tries to take advantage of her at the train station. She copes. There are some noisy men on the train but an old man shares her carriage and helps her. He offers to show her around Munich. She has a few spare hours so she takes up his offer. At the end he shows her his room and tries to take advantage of her. She escapes, older and wiser.
  • "Revelations" - A wife who has nerves in the morning rejects her husband's invitation to lunch. Instead she goes to her favourite hairdresser, who seems out of sorts. She finds out that his daughter died that morning.
  • "The Escape" - A couple abroad miss a train and go by horse and cart instead. Tensions arise during the trip.

People easily split into selves - observer and observed - or they're surprised by their self in a mirror, etc. The PoV easily changes. Couples are in unhappy relationships, male arrogance or artistic ambition not helping. The characters, often lonely, have moments of inexpressible joy that they can't find a reason for or can't sustain. The women have bursts of affection for their partners. There are hints of homosexuality.

Other reviews