A brilliant and bitingly funny collection of stories united around a single, crumbling apartment building in Ukraine that heralds the arrival of a major new talent.
A bureaucratic glitch omits an entire building, along with its residents, from municipal records. So begins Reva’s ingeniously intertwined narratives, nine stories which span the chaotic years leading up to and immediately following the fall of the Soviet Union. But even as the benighted denizens of 1933 Ivansk Street weather the official neglect of the increasingly powerless authorities, they devise ingenious ways to survive.
In ‘Bone Music’, an agoraphobic recluse survives by selling contraband LPs, mapping the vinyl grooves of illegal Western records into stolen x-ray film. A delusional secret service agent in ‘Letter of Apology’ becomes convinced he’s being covertly recruited to guard Lenin’s tomb, just as his parents, not seen since he was a small child, supposedly were. Weaving the narratives together is the unforgettable, chameleon-like Zaya: a cleft-lipped orphan in ‘Little Rabbit’, a beauty-pageant crasher in ‘Miss USSR’, a sadist-for-hire to the Eastern bloc’s newly minted oligarchs in ‘Homecoming’.
Good Citizens Need Not Fear tacks from moments of intense paranoia to surprising tenderness and back again, exploring what it is to be an individual amidst the roiling forces of history. Inspired by her and her family’s own experiences in Ukraine, Reva brings the black absurdism of early Shteyngart and the sly interconnectedness of Anthony Marra’s Tsar of Love and Techno to a collection that is as clever as it is heartfelt.
This collection of wartime stories includes some of the finest writers of a generation. War had traditionally been seen as a masculine occupation, but these stories show how women were equal if different participants. Here, war is less about progress on the frontline of battle than about the daily struggle to keep homes, families and relationships alive; to snatch pleasure from danger, and strength from shared experience. The stories are about saying goodbye to husbands, lovers, brothers and sons – and sometimes years later trying to remake their lives anew. By turn comical, stoical, compassionate, angry and subversive, these intensely individual voices bring a human dimension to the momentous events that reverberated around them and each opens a window on to a hidden landscape of war.
Writers include: Jean Rhys, Beryl Bainbridge, Elizabeth Bowen, Elizabeth Taylor, Stevie Smith, Rosamond Lehmann, Barbara Pym, Angela Thirkell, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Dorothy Parker, Doris Lessing, Olivia Manning, Rose Macaulay and Stevie Smith
A collection of short stories from the author of “Twenty One Poems” and “Three Poems”.
A. S. Byatt’s comment that Ruth Fainlight’s poems ‘combine Alice Munro’s virtues with something more archaic and also, in exact clear words, give us a truly new vision of usual and mysterious events’ can be applied with equal force to this collection of stories. Acutely precise and elegant, they move from vivid evocations of an American childhood and close studies of amoral expatriate life to erotic humour and black fantasy. The breakdown of a middle-aged man when the ghost of his mother, who perished in the Holocaust, returns to haunt him; the unexplained midnight arrival of three likely terrorists at the comfortable English village house of a university professor; a woman’s half-reluctant marriage to her daughter’s fiance: all these stories demonstrate Ruth Fainlight’s uncompromising subtlety of style, and the range of her sympathies and imagination.
Funny, irreverent, dark, and tender – a startling and sexy debut collection. Women (and men) cope with foreign marriages in Elena Lappin’s shrewd domestic comedies of the absurd, set in London, New York, and a constellation of European and Israeli cities. Transplanted across oceans and ensconced in strange houses where appliances malfunction and husbands are not what they seem, women like Noa, Vera, and Paula settle into lives of persistently unfamiliar routine, stirred up from time to time with a very crooked stick. In ‘Noa and Noah’, Noa, an Israeli, has been married for two years before her English improves and she realizes that her British husband, Noah, is not a glamorous young businessman but a dull junior debt collector. In revenge she begins to frequent a nonkosher butcher-and that’s just the beginning. Vera, a Russian, married to an unsuccessful British butler, takes to cab driving and extortion in ‘Peacock’; Paula, a German, married to her dead best friend’s husband, writes stories and snorts cocaine in ‘Bad Writing’. With perfect pitch and a poker face, Lappin writes insidiously funny tales about love and survival in an international no-man’s-land of marriage.
Here is a wonderful collection of short stories by the writer known for ‘the Mackay vision, suburban – as kitsch, as unexceptional, and yet as rich in history and wonder as a plain Victorian terrace house, its threshold radiant with tiling and stained-glass birds of paradise encased in leaded lights’ – Guardian.
Shena Mackay, who first came to fame before the age of twenty with two novellas, is the doyenne of the short form. In this volume of previously uncollected stories – including those read on radio – she constantly surprises with a view of the ordinary world that is not at all ordinary.
A grasshopper determinedly takes up residence on a bathroom ceiling; a gecko hiding in a cupboard brings a strange sort of luck; a woman spies from a distance two older women friends after many long years and a memory of how they gallopedin the playground as Starlight Blaze and Pepperpot plays sweetly, suddenly in her mind; pigs are swaddled in blankets, looking like babies in shawls; luggage is packed with youthful hopes and ideals.
She observes how people rub along and reveals the best and worst of us all: a disgruntled schoolboy and his hapless teacher conquer mountains and their antipathy for each other; a girl with green eyes and iridescent hair discovers revenge; a race to be the best mushroom-picker creates only losers; and rotten apples, in the right pair of hands, make a loving pie.
Shena Mackay is a generous and keen-eyed chronicler of the everyday; she deftly brings wisdom and humour to the worlds she creates, worlds that we suddenly, excitingly see anew. She is an utterly original writer.
I’m a short story addict, both reading and writing them, and I always keep hoping for the perfect story.’ (Janet Frame to Tim Curnow, January 1984)
THE DAYLIGHT AND THE DUST is the most comprehensive selection of Janet Frame’s stories ever published, taken from the four different collections released during her lifetime and featuring many of her best stories. Written over four decades, they come from her classic prize-winning collection THE LAGOON AND OTHER STORIES, first published in 1952, right up to the volume YOU ARE NOW ENTERING THE HUMAN HEART, published in the 1980s. This new selection also includes five works that have not been collected before.
Janet Frame’s versatility dazzles. Her themes range from childhood to old age to death and beyond. Within the pages of one book the reader is transported from small town New Zealand to inner-city London, and from realism to fantasy.
This volume offers the most comprehensive collection of Janet Frame’s unique and powerful writing.
In An Unrestored Woman, the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 cuts a jagged path through the lives of ordinary women and men, leaving ripples of sorrow through time and space. Each couplet of stories spans the Indian subcontinent, from refugee camps and torched trains to the spacious verandas of the British Raj, and billows into the wider world. An old woman recounts the murdering of what was most precious to her, and the many small cuts that led her to that act. A girl forced into prostitution wields patience as deftly as a weapon, and manages to escape her fate. An Indian servant falls in love with his employer, and spins a twisted web of deceit.
The characters in these fearless stories stumble – occasionally towards love, more often towards survival – and find that history, above all, is their truest and greatest opponent. And what emerges, in the midst of newly erected barriers, boundaries, and nations, is a journey into the centre of the only place that matters – the human heart.
Delicious and dangerous, this collection of fairy tales is a glorious tribute to women with ‘do what thou wilt’ bravado – those who dare to wear the breeches. They shed their female garb (and modesty) and don the male’s role to save king, country, kin, and their own lives or for revenge, love, power and a good time. Shahrukh Husain’s tales from around the world – riddles, battle triumphs, bawdy and moving stories – prove that no heroine, or hero, is as exciting and daring as the irresitible cross-dresser of fairy tales.
A brother and sister, shattered by the horrors of war, find solace in a tender, incestuous ‘marriage’. A wife, bored and rancorous, stitches a widow’s quilt. An old level-crossing keeper watches over his speechless, disfigured niece. In this magnificent selection of her stories, ranging from 1932 to 1977, Sylvia Townsend Warner casts a compassionate but piercing eye on the oddities of love. There’s the joyously farcical story of the mouse and the four-poster bed, the strange fugue of a sad woman and her doppelganger cat, the composer unexpectedly spending an afternoon ‘living for others’. And finally, there’s the skein of stories reporting on the events of Elfland, precise, witty and strange. Readers who know this author’s work will be delighted, while newcomers will find the perfect introduction to a writer of incomparable style and substance.
Elizabeth Taylor is finally being recognised as an important British author: one of great subtlety, great compassion and great depth – Sarah Waters
Elizabeth Taylor, highly acclaimed author of classic novels such as Angel, A Game of Hide and Seek and Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont, is also renowned for her powerful, acutely observed stories. Here for the first time, the stories – including some only recently rediscovered – are collected in one volume. From the awkward passions of lonely holiday-makers to the anticipation of three school friends preparing for their first dance, from the minor jealousies and triumphs of marriage to tales of outsiders struggling to adapt to the genteel English countryside, with a delicate, witty touch Elizabeth Taylor illuminates the nuances of ordinary lives.
Books included in the VMC 40th anniversary series include: Frost in May by Antonia White; The Collected Stories of Grace Paley; Fire from Heaven by Mary Renault; The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter; The Weather in the Streets by Rosamond Lehmann; Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith; The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West; Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston; Heartburn by Nora Ephron; The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy; Memento Mori by Muriel Spark; A View of the Harbour by Elizabeth Taylor; and Faces in the Water by Janet Frame
A volume of Rebecca West’s short fiction. Including the novella “The Only Poet”, found amongst her papers after her death, this selection comprises unpublished work and published stories gathered from British and American journals and periodicals.