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.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

"The Guardian Summer short story special" (Weekend, 11.08.07)

The Guardian newspaper supports the short story on-line and off. This paper edition offers a 50/50 US/UK male/female split. About 18 pages of text, so we should be grateful, but about 12 pages of pictures. The demographic? Well, there are 3 old narrators and 2 adulterers and 2 pregnancies. I was interesting in seeing what kind of stories were chosen.

  • Jay McInerney's story was telly - a man commits adultery; his pregnant wife insists that his old cat is put down; when his wife gives birth he dates the vet's receptionist. I didn't see much in it.
  • Rose Tremain's story has short-storyist remembrance and an 80 year-old main character whose deeper thoughts (but only those!) seem less his than the author's.
  • Yiyun Li's starts in China 50 years ago - a grand-daughter's questioning brings out the past.
  • John Burnside's busy being John Burnside - glimpses, ghosts, muted light, mysterious beautiful women, self, world, soul, matter. It was the only piece with paragraphs worth keeping for later.
  • Nick Hornby supplied a page of bios.
  • Joshua Ferris combined pregnancy, fears of global warming, and a fat neighbour's anguished dog into a plot which ended when the woman agreed to spend $8000 on vet fees.
  • Jeanette Winterson has a woman caught in the floods and a husband wondering how to break the news of his adultery to her. This is the only piece with any magic fantasy, though it could be hallucination.
  • In AM Homes' piece, a once-famous writer gets a job as a clothes shop assistant, and takes his new workmates to an unexpected award ceremony.

I like the Burnside piece, pretentious though it might be in the context. Most of the others seemed rather slow to get started and lacked crisp descriptive detail. Most were character-driven - I turned the pages to see what would happen to the main character rather than to see how the plot would twist and turn.

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