by Polly Samson
Awards: Shortlisted, 2011 Edge hill Short Story Prize
don’t know how long I stood there just staring and stroking the
silky brown leather of the strap. I longed to hold that strap to my
face, to wind it in bracelets around my wrists, to inhale the scent
of the leather, but cold feel Barry’s eyes on me. He spoke some
more, about perfection.
by Michelle Reale
Samson puts the quotidian at center stage in these 11 stories told
against the backdrop of the ocean, her characters inhabiting homes at
a seaside town. I immediately liked the setting of the stories,
water being the great symbol of the subconscious. So what do we
find here? Samson regales us with tales of lives slightly off
kilter, better situations to be found elsewhere, where everyone is
prettier, more faithful, dreams come true, passions are well noted
and encouraged, where one realizes in the moment how good life is,
without having to learn by near misses.
Admittedly this is my first
encounter with the author’s writing. I groaned inwardly at her
interesting and rather flamboyant life, expecting to find stories of
truly perfect lives, where perhaps, the worst tragedy to befall
anyone would be for a heel to fall off a Manolo Blahnik. I am
ashamed of myself, of course, because when I began reading,
immediately, I could see the acute attention to very real emotional
detail and overall verisimilitude portrayed on the page. These were
no stories of the Jackie Collins variety.
Leaving Hamburg, a concert pianist leaving the German city worries
over her strong reaction daughter’s recent tattoo, a butterfly ".
. . a single splash of graffiti, no longer a guilty secret; a lone
dark dog shit scrawled on the snow covered pavement." She
juxtaposes her angst with a visitation to her grandmother’s grave
in the Jewish cemetery remembering her beloved Bobo and the
sacrifices she’d made for her family.
The Birthday Present, a woman dabbles in the guilty pleasure of
picture taking with a Leica camera her husband does not know that she
has and that she cannot afford. Her real life has taken a back seat
to the life she sees through the lens, until that life becomes more
real and desirable than the one she is living. Forgetting her
husband’s birthday and his sweet nature over her transgression,
make her obsession all the more poignant and alarming.
picture restorer in A Regular Cherub barely recognizes her husband
who has taken to nature in a way that makes her increasingly
uncomfortable. She cares for their child with a chilling detachment,
while coming up against her mother-in-law, an earthy and aggressive
woman who wants to envelop her grandson into the only way of life she
knows and believes in.
is a story of an unlikely friendship between two women who drive
together stalking the house of Morganna’s ex-husband, father of her
children, only love of her life, as he co-habits with his much younger
and talented girlfriend. When he lands in the hospital with a head
injury, he prefers the company and caring of his wife to his
girlfriend, giving Morganna the one opportunity to get from him the
most important thing he has denied her since their divorce.
portrays life much in the way it is lived by most of us: the
highs occur, surely, moments when we can’t believe our luck and the
lows where we cannot imagine what we did to offend the gods in a
former life. Most of us, perhaps, thankfully, live in between. It is
that middle area that Samson portrays so well.
an academic librarian on faculty at a university in the suburbs of
Philadelphia. Her fiction has been published in many venues. She
was included in Dzanc’s Best of the Web 2010. Her chapbook Natural
Habitat was published by Burning River in 2010. Two chapbooks are
forthcoming from Thunderclap Press and Burning River in 2011.
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Polly Samson was born in London in 1962 and grew up in the West
Country. Her first job was in the clay industry, her second in
publishing. At the age of twenty-four she became a director of Jonathan
Cape and subsequently became a journalist, including a three year stint
at the shallow end of the Sunday Times. Since the early 1990s, Polly has written lyrics with David Gilmour, firstly for Pink Floyd's The Division Bell and latterly for On an Island,
both of which went straight to number one. She has been on the judging
panel for the Costa Prize, and will judge the 2011 Asham Prize for
Polly has four children and four stepchildren, and lives with her
family in London and on the South coast. Her previous collection, Lying in Bed, was followed by a novel, Out of the Picture.
with Polly Samson