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It's Beginning to Hurt: Stories Hardcover – July 21, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (July 21, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374299021
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374299026
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,290,214 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This accomplished poet, novelist, and story writer's collection packs a devastating punch. Lasdun peels back the facades of middle-aged, middle-class types through their run-ins with cancer, infidelity and loss that lead them to deal with unexpectedly large and often ugly recognitions. The title story is less than three full pages, but generates near-boundless futility and regret as a businessman, having just attended the funeral of a long forgotten former lover, can't help falling back into the old habit of lying to his wife about how he's spent the day. The Incalculable Life Gesture builds to a climax of relief as an elementary school principal, feuding with his sister, follows through a series of tests that indicate he has lymphoma—until a specialist reveals the truth of his ailment. In Peter Kahn's Third Wife, a sales assistant in a jewelry boutique models necklaces for a wealthy wine importer who brings in a series of successive wives-to-be over the years. Jewels of resignation and transformative personal disaster, these stories are written so simply and cleanly that the formidable craft looks effortless. (Aug.)
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Review

"This collection of short stories illuminates the everyday agonies of the mind, its anxieties, obsessions, doubts, and yearnings. Lasdun pins each observation to the page with grace and exactitude." --The Atlantic, Top 5 Books of 2009

"James Lasdun proved himself to be a master of the form with the enthralling psychological subtleties of It's Beginning to Hurt." --Geoff Dyer, The Guardian

“[A] marvelous, masterful collection.” —Lizzie Skurnick, Los Angeles Times

“Every story is heart-poundingly vivid. Mr. Lasdun's characters live in the here and now. . . . He instinctively understands human psychology, and it seems as though he can turn anything into a story.” —The Wall Street Journal

“Spellbinding . . . James Lasdun may single-handedly save British short fiction from an untimely demise.” —Taylor Antrim, The Daily Beast

“This exquisite collection of short stories illuminates the everyday agonies of the mind, its anxieties, obsessions, doubts, and yearnings. . . . Lasdun pins each observation to the page with grace and exactitude.” —Benjamin Schwartz, The Atlantic

“Lasdun’s novels succeed as efficient entertainments, narrowly focused, linguistically dextrous, coolly presenting their characters’ foibles . . . His short stories relinquish none of this gamesmanship, yet they seem to expand where the novels contract . . . Their characters have a complexity and confusion that override the unfolding plot. And the narratives seem opened up to the entire history of ?ction . . . Touching and revelatory . . . Devastating.” —Mark Kamine, The Times Literary Supplement

“Reading Lasdun is like reading a sly collaboration between Kafka and Updike: elegant, acutely observed and utterly unflinching . . . This is a collection that examines the most inward mechanisms of rage, fear and desire with astonishing skill and strangely lyric power.” —John Burnside, The Times (London)

“Lasdun has a Nabokovian eye. Few exponents of the short form offer such tempting, disturbing pleasures . . . It’s Beginning to Hurt is . . . a superlative collection, exhibiting all of Lasdun’s familiar talents and a few new ones into the bargain.” —Richard T. Kelly, Financial Times

“A gem . . . James Lasdun writes the best sort of English prose.” —Colin Greenland, The Guardian

“A story master.” —Tim Adams, The Observer (London)

“[Lasdun] create[s] a world of objects and feelings that are rich, recognisable and yet elusive . . . His prose [here] is marked by a thoughtful, humane exactness . . . Lasdun uses his dramatic skill to show the most subtle and delicate movements between poles of feeling.” —Tom Deveson, The Sunday Times (London)

“Like such masters of dark literature as Edgar Allan Poe and Franz Kafka, Lasdun limns the deep cracks in the soul even as his tales are enlivened by his gift for insight and ear for language. His stories are a fury of elements: skilled dramatic monologues; sketches of fraught emotional states . . . [which] are shot through with crafted verse . . . Masterful.” —Susan Comninos, The Miami Herald

“There is much to admire in Lasdun's stories, not least the astonishing beauty and precision of his imagery. In a few perfectly chosen words, Lasdun can distill a character's essence and bring him to life.” —David Bezmozgis, author of Natasha

“[This] stellar collection combines a sharp eye for detail, subtle character development and virtuosic command of narrative voice . . . [It’s Beginning to Hurt] merits comparison with the understated artistry of William Trevor or Graham Swift.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“As he proved with Seven Lies, Lasdun is an elegant and incisive student of the human mind—an author who can register exactly when, for a character, ‘it’s beginning to hurt.’ This remarkable collection shows what happens when we break through the gauze of everydayness and existential panic hits . . . Affecting, yes; sentimental, no. Hard-edged truths about our predicament poke through this work, which is highly recommended.”Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal (starred review)

“This accomplished poet, novelist, and story writer’s collection packs a devastating punch. Lasdun peels back the facades of middle-aged, middle-class types through their run-ins with cancer, infidelity and loss that lead them to deal with unexpectedly large and often ugly recognitions . . . Jewels of resignation and transformative personal disaster, these stories are written so simply and cleanly that the formidable craft looks effortless.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)


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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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I'm not a fan of short stories, but this collection is so good.
Kate Smart
The writing is solid and sharp, and the stories are true to the nature of humanity and all its pitfalls and challenges.
N. Johnson
Never have I come across a book of short stories where every story was exceptional.
L. Rees

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By N. Johnson on August 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I'm one of those people who read reviews on Amazon that lambast, agree, or disagree with previously published reviews (in this case the New York Times) and go, Oh, God! is s/he really doing that?! And yes, I am.

The NYT was unkind to this book, and the reviewer (being a published writer himself) failed to realize that writing isn't about being current, or American, or British, or so exciting with our words that they sometimes distract from the story itself. Rather, writing is about seeing something simple, something mundane, something so common to humanity and giving it life. It's about bringing us into the worlds that the characters live in and getting us to feel and understand their problems. These stories may not "crackle with energy" - as far as language goes, nor should they! - but they do easily tug you into their world. The writing is solid and sharp, and the stories are true to the nature of humanity and all its pitfalls and challenges. James Lasdun has given us an excellent little collection of stories.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By shanarufus on August 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book, so much so that I doled them out to myself only 1 or 2 a day. Alice Munro and Jane Gardam (and occasionaly Alan Gurganus, Sherman Alexie and Annie Proulx) are two other writers whose short stories make me swoon. This is a review of the book in its entirety because I don't see the point or necessity of picking apart this one or that one. Yes, some are not as good as others but the extraordinary ones (and there are many) shoot for the moon and don't miss. His writing enlarges my world, sentence by sentence. I wish I could keep the individual stories separate in my head the way I can with novels. It just doesn't work that way for me. Reading Lasdun, each story, is a 15-20-25 minute blast of almost overwhelming transcendence. It just doesn't get any better than this.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By BookFinds on September 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
James Lasdun knows how to get into the psyche of his characters, mostly middle aged men living middle class lives. He rivaled Henry James with his psychological study of madness in "The Horned Man." Now comes his third book and his first collection of stories, It's Beginning to Hurt. The stories feature people going through hard times and learning to cope with the unbearable pain that comes from these obstacles: infidelity, cancer and loss.

A man goes to the funeral of a lover and out of habit lies to his wife about where he has been; An elementary school principal, who is fighting with his sister, goes through a series of tests to see if he has lymphoma. These are some of the things Lasdun writes so beautifully and simply about in this fine collection.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kevin D on April 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This collection opens with Lasdun's award winning short "An Anxious Man," about an investor who doesn't know his own risk tolerance--very topical subject matter. If I didn't know the story predated the 2008 financial crisis, I would say almost too topical. "An Anxious Man" is either the beneficiary or the victim of fortuitous timing.

The book closes with "Caterpillars," which I think was my favorite piece. It reminded me of an incident I had on the playground as a child. I got to the top of the slide and as I started to go down I saw that somebody had thrown dirt and gravel onto the bottom end. Unable to stop, I slid through them, soiling my pants. Upset, I picked up several handfuls of dirt and gravel and replaced that which I'd involuntarily wiped off. Naturally the next slider complained and it was I who got in trouble. In "Caterpillars," however, the main character is no child.

"A Bourgeois Story" was a close second. "Totty" (which is as close as this collection comes to a happy ending) and "Oh, Death" (aka The Hollow) were also up there. The rest, as other reviewers point out, are all very good, although I personally found "Cleanness" and "Cranley Meadows" to be the weakest offerings.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By K. L. Cotugno VINE VOICE on October 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Short story collections, like record albums, usually start with the strongest offering then tapering off, and often I have a problem finishing the book. Not so with this magnificent collection. Each is a gem, unsettling, disquieting, memorable. The eponymous story is a wisp only 3 pages long, but has more impact than other stories that ran double the length. The unifying quality in these stories is a moment of truth for middle aged, middle class people, faced with life changing decisions. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be The Old Man, for its sharpness of character and poignancy of mood.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Matt W on October 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The writing in these stories is gorgeous. It rolls off the tongue of the mind and paints vivid pictures. But most compelling is the author's ability to get inside the heads of his characters. Profound insights, the kind you have of yourself in your own mind but don't (and can't) really put into words, provide the framework for each story. Highly recommended.
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