by Ilana Teitelbaum
Famous for the bestselling novel The Crimson Petal and the White,
set in the Victorian era, Michel Faber is back—but this time there
isn’t a corset or a scented handkerchief in sight. In this collection,
Faber has assembled a wide range of moods, emotions, and even
realities; the overall experience is that of a surreal roller-coaster
ride—with images and characters that stay with you.
Not all the stories employ devices
of science fiction or surrealism. Some are purely psychological in
their focus, such as Andy
in which the protagonist awakens from a five-year coma to discover that
his marriage will never be the same. Another such story is The Smallness of Action,
about a young mother of an infant who begins to realize how fatally
easy it is to harm her baby. This horrid little story about a mother
who experiences no empathy at all for her child is difficult to
explicate, since it is uncertain whether she is genuinely incapable of
empathy or suffering from post-natal depression. As such, its principal
effect is simply to shock.
The title story of the
Bright Like Eminem,
is perhaps one of the most poignant and subtly rendered of the stories.
This story gives us a tiny moment in a man’s life, delicately
portraying the fragility of the present moment while also offering an
insight into the true meaning and value of happiness.
then there are the stories in which a device that is either surreal or
science fiction is incorporated into the tale. Perhaps the oddest of
these is Explaining
which almost must be read to be believed: In the story, a group of the
world’s wealthiest men pay a fortune in order to sit in a conference
room and watch a woman give a presentation on the properties of the
coconut. The presentation clearly delivers an extraordinary erotic
charge to the audience, but the reader is left puzzled as to why. Most
puzzling is the emphasis the author gives to the notion that this
experience is so incredible that only the very rich can afford
my view the best stories of the collection are those that explore a
fragment of someone’s life, even if it is only a tiny moment in time,
and somehow illuminate that single moment in significance. Whether it
is a young woman renewing her relationship with her son after a long
absence in rehab and the hospital, or a father and husband realizing
all that he has before the currents of time wash it all away, Faber is
at his best with characters whose experiences speak to us.
Read the title story from this collection in Prospect Magazine.
Ilana Teitelbaum is a freelance writer and editor
living in Jerusalem.
Publisher: Harcourt Trade Publishers
Faber is a Dutch-born author who writes in English and
currently resides in Scotland. His other publications include the
Crimson Petal and the White and the short story
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