The Little Black Book of Stories
ISBN: 0099429950 Global Overview for this book
1 journaler for this copy...
Two young girls evacuated from London during WWII to a country house meet and make friends. One day they wander off into the nearby forest, followed by a smaller girl called Alys, making a bit of a nuisance of herself. In the darkness of the forest, the two bigger girls sense something - smell something - see something that terrifies them (at this moment I was reading in bed and had to stop, it was so creepy).
Well, the next day they are separated, sent to different families, and they never speak of the incident again. Alys is never heard of again.
Many years later, the country house is opened to the public and the two meet there again, by chance. Each goes off into the forest to find out the truth about what they saw, or thought they saw.
A very weird and compelling story. Just a reservation about one sentence: "Primrose was not given to ratiocination." Well, Primrose would not even know how to pronounce ratiocination; sometimes I think Byatt is just a bit too clever.
A hospital maternity ward, a gynecologist, an artist brought in to cheer up the ward at Christmas. She is later hired to help catalogue a huge collection of medical curiosities, and what she does with them is the main subject of the story. Won't go into more detail. I was reminded of the Semmelweiss Museum in Budapest where I saw many of these curiosities - small models of women with detachable stomachs that reveal the inside organs, foetuses in jars, etc., and of the Musée de l'Art Brut in Lausanne.
A very visual story of a metamorphosis: a lonely woman buries her mother and finds herself turning to stone. Not just ordinary stone, but a coruscation of pearls, labradorite, haematite and every other precious stone you can think of (I really got the impression I was reading a thesaurus). One day she cuts herself and her blood flows out like molten lava, melting everything it drips on. That is just the beginning. Shades of Kafka, Arcimboldo, magic realism and a TV play I once saw (long ago) with Bernard Cribbins where his skin turned to metal and eventually strangled him. It is a strangely beautiful and haunting.
As the story involves a trip to Iceland I thought I would keep this book to release there, as I am hoping to go next year.
Trust Byatt to give me a word I don't know: here comes "synecdoche" - "In the past, the hearth was a synecdoche for the house, home, or even family or clan."
The author of a successful novel (one and only) is now teaching writing classes and somewhat lacking in inspiration. His students are all pretty terrible, apart from one genteel old lady who submits two excellent stories - one about how we used to black-lead hearths, and another about washing day. He reads these out to his class who are all rather heartless and mocking in their criticism, but sends them in for a writing competition under a pseudonym. I was not prepared for what happened next.
As in Possession, Byatt shows her skill at taking on different personalities, writing from many different points of view.
Perhaps the most unearthly and unsettling of this collection. An ageing couple; she is losing her mind, he is taking care of her. Memories, nostalgia, frustration, anger, and a mysterious nightly visitor.
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
not sure exactly where. I did want to release this in Iceland because of a connection in one of the stories, but I am going to Sweden instead.
Left in in the hotel library, on the first floor. The hotel is on Vasaplan opposite the theatre and municipal library