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Let's Call The Whole Thing Off by Kasia Boddy et al
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Let's Call The Whole Thing Off by Kasia Boddy et al

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Chosen For February by Lizzy Siddal


Lets Call The Whole Thing Off 

Should you require an antidote to all hearts, flowers, champagne and chocolates doing the rounds right now, you may wish to pick up the literary equivalent of Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”. 

But where to start? I’m not a seasoned short-story reader.  It’s something I am working on.  However, I am not yet able to read short story anthologies from cover to cover. Like a box of chocolates, I prefer to dip in and out but it’s always good to start with my favourite coffee cream; coincidentally that would be story 1: Here We Are by Dorothy Parker, full of sharp-eyed female wit and Parker’s infamous ascerbic tongue. Discovering a difference in taste lies at the centre of the second story, Jumphra Lahiri’s This Blessed House in which a  Hindu couple discover a treasure trove of Christian kitsch in their new home.  At this point I decided to sample a story from each of the three other sections – randomly selecting an author whose work I had never yet read.  Joyce Carol Oates’s The Quarrel shows how unexpected disputes can spring up between long established couples – in this case the trigger is the difference in the two descriptions of a would-be mugger.  In Virginia Woolf’s  Lapin and Lapinova  finding a pet-name for her husband is the key to a bride’s coming to terms with life married to a man whom she does not find entirely sympathetic.  The final story in this collection is from Grace Paley, a writer lavishly praised by the likes of Dovegreyreader and Kirsty of Other Stories.   And I can see why on the strength of the two-page story Wants in which a woman meets her ex-husband, who is consumed by bitterness at the wasted years of his marriage to a woman who, in his eyes, wanted nothing. 

How’s that for original and intriguing …. and book-buying-embargo-busting. At which point, the bell rings on round one.  Round two, in which I take on the combined mightiness of the translated authors, Chekhov, Ginzburg, Jansson, Platonov and Colette, to follow.



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