Anthropology
and a Hundred Other Stories
by Dan Rhodes

Canongate 2010 (first published 2000)

Paperback
First collection

awards: Shortlisted, Macmillan Silver Pen Award

Dan Rhodes was born in 1972. He is the author of Anthropology, the novels Timoleon and Vieta Come Home and the recently- published Little Hands Clapping, and the story collection Don't Tell Me the Truth About Love, also published by Canongate. In 2003 he was named by Granta Magazine as one of their twenty Best of Young British Novelists. He lives in Edinburgh.

Read an interview with Dan Rhodes






We have five copies of this book to give away, plus one copy of Dan Rhodes' new novel.

 Visit the competitions & giveaway page to win.



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"My girlfriend joined the police without telling me. I didn't find out for two years, and then I came across a truncheon in the magazine rack. Confronted with this evidence she blushed, stammered and looked so pretty that I forgave her."

Reviewed by Pauline Masurel


A hundred and one stories in 101 words, about women who are plain and pretty, vivacious and vacuous, some a little dotty and others plain barking. There are even a few fiancees and wives too, plus quite a lot of exes and a smattering of deceased sweethearts. The alphabetical ordering of the titles gives an implied randomness to the reading and you could dip into this book anywhere and enjoy the stories in any order that you choose. Their effect is a cumulative one, rather than being reliant on serial consumption. These stories are easy to read and often make you smile, but there are also darker, more bitter-sweet revelations about human nature and interactions.

Beauty is a quintessential example of this type of observational story,
"My girlfriend is so beautiful that she has never had cause to develop any kind of personality. People are always wildly glad to see her, even though she does little more than sit around and smoke."
The story then goes on to take this adulation and vacuity on beyond the limits of probability. In fact, there are a lot of unlikely women on pedestals in these stories and it's undeniably funny. But after a while there's a bit of a build-up of sameness, an accretion of inexplicable admiration, and these "girlfriends" become a rather amorphous generality rather than individuals, even though they often have different, and extraordinary, names.

The narrator in these stories is hugely accepting of a whole range of unreasonable behaviours and is determindly doting throughout most of them. These certainly aren't easy women to cope with. At the drop of a hat they will steal eagles eggs, retail reptiles in the street, fondle their dying friends, form a support group for their ex-boyfriends, gamble their hair, pretend to develop a heroin habit or watch their bloke through night-vision goggles while he's asleep. The girlfriend in the title story ends up growing a handlebar moustache and herding yaks in Mongolia.

The story Real starts out with the boyfriend having to pinch himself to make sure he isn't dreaming. So far ,so cute. But eventually, "I carve chunks out of my flesh with a surgical saw. Somehow it still seems too perfect to be real". And, perhaps that's a fair way of characterising many of these stories. They are clever, fun and beautifully written, but in the end, we don't need to believe the outcomes could be real. The stories in this collection are about their own world, not a starkly realist representation of the one that we live in but they definitely allude to aspects of it. They are deliberately, outrageously strange for the sake of our entertainment, so it would be churlish to turn round and call this a fault. After all, Quentin Tarantino has made a fine career exploiting gratuitous oddness.

And speaking of movies, five of these stories have been produced as very short films by Victor Solomon. They can be seen at his website. The films are beautifully coloured-in representations of the stories and work really well as an introduction to the collection if you want to get a flavour of the stories themselves. But the visual medium doesn't really add a huge amount to the texts, as they are still essentially voiced-over with monologues rather than being film adaptations. Plus, as a word of warning to the squeamish, you might prefer to avoid watching Pieces while you're eating your dinner.

Buy the book for some wry laughs and clever stylised observations of human nature in terms of how men and women woo, love and lose each other. Each tiny story is neatly crafted, so it's a satisfying, if slight, read on its own. But rather like Belgian chocolates, you may not want to plough through too many at one time, for fear of indigestion. The quote on the cover of the book says that this is "essential reading for anyone who has ever been in love", but it's probably also a useful warning for anyone who hasn't tried it yet.




We have five copies of this book to give away, plus one copy of Dan Rhodes' new novel. Visit the competitions & giveaway page to win.


Read several stories from this collection on DanRhodes.co.uk


Pauline Masurel is so in love with tiny stories that she sleeps with one under her pillow every night. Her husband doesn't complain but if she asked him for a threesome with a micro-fiction then there might be trouble. The stories maintain a dignified silence regarding their chaste, muffled existence..
Pauline's other Short Reviews: Erin Pringle "The Floating Order"

Jim Crace "The Devil's Larder"

Mark Budman, Tom Hazuka (eds) "You Have Time for This"

Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities

Carson McCullers "The Ballad of the Sad Cafe"

Jeffrey Eugenides (ed) "My Mistress' Sparrow is Dead"

Kasia Boddy, Ali Smith, Sarah Wood (eds) "Let's Call
the Whole Thing Off"

Ben Tanzer "Repetition Patterns"

Paul Meloy "Islington Crocodiles"
                     
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If you liked this book you might also like....

Dan Rhodes "Don't Tell Me the Truth About Love"

Jim Crace "The Devil's Larder"

Mark Budman, Tom Hazuka (eds) "You Have Time for This"

Kasia Boddy, Ali Smith, Sarah Wood (eds) "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off"

What other reviewers thought:

Flak magazine

Fantastic Fiction

Two Thousand

The Complete Review

Savidge Reads

The Literary Octagon

Goodreads