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This Isn't the Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You Hardcover – February 1, 2012
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Some of the stories are experimental in nature. An early story intersperses a man's tale with the rough draft poems of his wife, who uses the poetry to react to his tale. One story, named Fleeting Complexity (which is linked to the location "Irby in the Marsh") consists, in its entirety, of the sentence "The fire spread quicker than the little bastard was expecting." Which is certainly a great sentence, but a story? Another is constructed as a bureaucratic report. The final story in the collection is Memorial Stone, and it consists of nothing but six pages of place names. All artfully grouped (e.g., places ending in -ham), but still...nothing but place names. I can appreciate that the author enjoys the sounds of the names, but I question whether it qualifies as fiction. I would consider the experimental pieces a mixed bag: some work well (I liked the story I mention above, with interspersed prose and poem), while some left me cold. Again, my opinion.
In the more traditional short stories, my two favorites were linked by characters (a vicar and his wife). A number of the stories are quite engaging.Read more ›
The second story, "In Winter the Sky," is much longer. But more than that, it is composed of two separate layers. The main one is about a man confessing to his wife about something that happened when they were courting, years before. But every few paragraphs, in the Kindle edition, you get a phrase formatted as a hyperlink. Click on it, and you see what seems like the draft of a fragment of a poem, apparently written by the wife, with alternate texts and crossings-out. [In print editions, these appear on facing pages.] The relevance of the poems is evocative rather than literal; their images distill the flat fenland country of East Lincolnshire in which all these stories are set. Eventually, you get crossings-out in the prose text too, as if facts could be changed by the manner in which you tell them; as though the mistakes of life could be edited away. And all this in a landscape perpetually subject to editing of a physical kind, as frequent floods erase and rearrange the land.
Every story in the collection is headed with the name of a place, often just a small village you can hardly see on the map.Read more ›
In these stories the characters are poor and lonely village people stuck in time with no plans for the future. The stories tell about the disruptions and frustrations they face in their daily lives.
In Vessel, it is winter, when out of nowhere an acquaintance decides to pay a visit to a recently widowed woman. He arrives with tulips and hands them to her. She is totally surprised at this offering. He is hoping that she will let him stay in the guest room in exchange for doing chores around the house. She flatly refuses and politely shows him the door.
In If It Keeps On Raining, every morning a man wakes up and empties his bladder outside his front door. He is building a tree house by the river in the event of a flood.
In Keeping Watch Over The Sheep, a father with marital problems comes to see his daughter Rachel at her first ever school nativity. At the door he is told he isn't allowed on the school premises.
In We Wave And Call, exams are over and a group of friends decide to go to the sea to do some snorkeling. After a while, it is time to leave. One of the boys decides to stay in a bit longer and will catch up with them shortly. A bus will be coming to pick them up. He puts the mask back on and lies on his back in the warm water. When he decides to head back, he waves but no one sees him. He calls but no one hears him. He looks around and realizes he is further out than he thought.
The last six pages titled Memorial Stone are filled with names of places, names of deceased people and made up names that left me in stitches.Read more ›