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, 1 December 2007

"Fifteen modern tales of affection" by Alison MacLeod (Hamish Hamilton, 2007)

I found this in the local library - another new UK short story collection! In the final story, "Radiant Heat" (published in Prospect magazine), a plane crash is described from 2 viewpoints - that of a physicist in the plane, and of a lorry driver from a family of undertakers called in to help tidy up. Each would merit a story of its own. The writing's snappy, and the incidentals are interesting - cancer, childbirth and static electricity all get a mention. Weighing in at about 20 pages, it's much the best story in the book. Most of the other stories are about 10 pages long and borrow some detail or other from "Radiant Heat" - premature births, static electricity or ball lightning as orgasm, and older men dying. Birth, copulation and death.

There's structural variety. A couple of stories use the 2nd person present. A story or 2 are 3rd person with a large cast and no privileged PoV. "E-love: Heloise & Abelard" is epistolatory, but I don't know the original story so it meant little to me. "The Will Writer" reminded me of VS Pritchett stories. In "Sacred Heart" a girl thinking of ditching her boyfriend becomes attached to a dying man she never talked with. The hints of a sexual edge bring to mind Ian McEwan.

Except for "Radiant Heat" nothing especially moved or impressed me. Later I might be able to express why. All I can say now is that I didn't learn much from the pieces.

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