‘Fresh Complaint’ is a collection of 10 short stories by Jeffrey Eugenides. The first and last stories in the collection, ‘Complainers’ and ‘Fresh Complaint’, are new and have never been published before while the rest have appeared in the New Yorker and other magazines over the past three decades or so.
Eugenides’ three novels to date have all been completely different from the dreamy tone of ‘The Virgin Suicides’ to a Greek family saga in 20th century Detroit in ‘Middlesex’ to a love triangle between three recent graduates of a liberal arts college in ‘The Marriage Plot’. In contrast, money, debt and nostalgia appear to be loosely recurring themes in ‘Fresh Complaint’ across a similarly diverse set of scenarios which often focus on characters in some sort of personal crisis. In ‘Early Money’ a musician attempts to hide from the debt collectors tracking him down after he borrowed $27,000 to spend on a clavichord while the title story sees an Indian-American teenage girl plan her escape from the prospect of an arranged marriage which has serious consequences for a visiting British professor she encounters. Continue reading
As part of my continuing efforts to read more books from the back catalogues of my favourite authors, I have recently read ‘The Innocent’ by Ian McEwan which tells the story of Leonard Marnham, a twenty-five-year-old British Post Office engineer who has been recruited to work in Berlin in the mid-1950s as part of Operation Gold, a joint Anglo-American top secret project which involved building a tunnel under the Russian sector of Berlin in order to tap communication lines. When Leonard falls in love with an older German divorcee, Maria Eckdorf, their relationship soon becomes entangled with the operation with far-reaching consequences. Continue reading
‘The Burning Girl’ by Claire Messud tells the story of Julia Robinson and her friendship with Cassie Burnes during their childhood growing up in the small Massachusetts town of Royston. After meeting at nursery, they are inseparable throughout school but looking back years later, Julia remembers the circumstances which led to them drifting apart. Continue reading
‘Solar Bones’ by Mike McCormack won the Goldsmiths Prize last year and has been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize this year after it was picked up by the UK-based publisher Canongate. It tells the story of Marcus Conway, a middle-aged civil engineer living in a small town on the west coast of Ireland who is sitting at his kitchen table on All Souls Day reflecting on his life with his wife Mairead and their children Agnes and Darragh. Continue reading
One of the first events I went to at the Edinburgh International Book Festival last month was a discussion at the Spiegeltent with Francis Spufford and Dilys Rose chaired by Lee Randall. Spufford and Rose are the respective authors of ‘Golden Hill’ and ‘Unspeakable’, two of the most widely acclaimed historical novels of recent months. Continue reading
Edinburgh is a UNESCO City of Literature (the very first in the world to receive the accolade in 2004) and in between going to events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival last week, I visited a few of the literary attractions and bookshops that the city has to offer.
The National Library of Scotland
The National Library of Scotland has its main base in Edinburgh’s Old Town on George IV Bridge and is home to some 24 million printed items including one of the world’s largest collections of maps. As it is a research library, the reading rooms can only be accessed if you are a member but there are temporary exhibitions for visitors including displays of flyers and programmes from the Edinburgh Festival which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. The main exhibition running at the moment is ‘Enduring Eye: The Antarctic Legacy of Sir Ernest Shackleton and Frank Hurley’ which documents the Endurance expedition and rescue in 1914-16 and includes diaries, photographs, letters and other items from various archives. Admission is free and it’s well worth a look if you’re passing by. Continue reading
‘Revolutionary Road’ by Richard Yates tells the story of Frank and April Wheeler, a married couple in their late twenties living in Connecticut on the Revolutionary Hill Estates with their two young children in 1955. Frank commutes to New York City but finds his job at Knox Business Machines very dull with few long-term prospects while April had dreamed of becoming an actress before marriage and motherhood led her to be a housewife. They long to escape their life in suburbia which they see as stifling and unfulfilling but their circumstances change when April discovers that she is pregnant again. Continue reading