It was probably the title that enticed me to buy this collection of understated short stories. The title story is about a woman trying to write a thesis on the use of mathematical concepts in the writings of Jane Austen. It’s clever, amusing and likeable. I enjoyed reading the stories, which made a relaxing contrast to the harrowing writing of Lucia Berlin or Miranda July.Continue reading
Articles about short stories
Squalor and alcoholism feature prominently in these short stories based on Berlin’s life. Many of the stories concern marginalised people: they suffer so much injustice but still manage to keep going. Even so, I wouldn’t describe the stories as uplifting.
I picked up this book because I had read about it in the London Review of Books, and also because it had a foreword by Lydia Davis.
There are common threads and characters through some of the stories — one of my favourites is an older woman who goes on holiday and learns to scuba dive. She appears in a couple of the less-squalid stories, where she is initially a bit uptight but learns to loosen up quite a lot. Those stories are easy to read but still have a certain power and directness.
This is just fantastic. July’s short stories are so imaginative in the way she blends mundane realism with the bizarrely surreal. It feels like a modern, shabby, seedy version of magic realism. Many of the characters are strange, but still trying to get along with life in their own broken way. They seem insane, and probably are, but they still work according to their own internal logic. They are trapped in a mind-numbing suburban existence, or growing up in an extremely dysfunctional environment. The writing seems to make the real world disappear and I find myself totally absorbed in the weird, affecting lives of July’s characters.
I have heard that July’s novel “The Last Bad Man” is a bit more conventional in style. But after reading this wonderful collection I definitely want to read more Miranda July.
Life is hell, but at least there are prizes.
This is a wonderful compilation of short stories spanning Frame’s career. There is a lot of variety here: the common thread is that they are mostly set in New Zealand in the second half of last century. There are surreal magical realist pieces, impressionistic slice-of-life pieces, and coming-of-age stories. My favourites are the ones written from a child’s point of view: we all used to be children, but she actually remembers what it was like and expresses it in a way that makes me remember too.
Beautiful short stories from the expat New Zealander, set in Europe and NZ last century. They drew me in so much that while reading it on the bus, I missed my stop. Twice.
The stories are about unremarkable people, but in each one I felt that I could really get under the skin of the characters. The writing isn’t at all flashy, but it’s still somehow very immersive. Even the shorter stories feel quite substantial. This is definitely worth reading and rereading. But preferably not on public transport.
These stories are clever and funny. The book makes me think of a grown-up version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, without the pictures. Actually that probably makes it sound far less good than it really is.
There is a lot of pain, humour and understanding here, and it makes me want to read more. (To be honest, it makes me want to finish this book: I only read half of somebody else’s copy.)
This is a collection of short stories; but mostly they are so short I would call them sketches rather than stories. Some are only a paragraph or two. Quite dense and evocative. Some are quite affecting, such as the title story.
Thanks to Leslie for lending me this on a long plane journey many years ago. (In 2000, if you must know.)
A collection of varied short pieces. Some hilarious, some strange, but almost all beatufully written. Excellent for those with a short attention span. Hmm, I wonder what’s for lunch?