Friday, 24 April 2009

The Book of Other People edited by Zadie Smith

I'll try my best to review this but I never really know where to start reviewing short story collections. The Book of Other People is a collection of stories written (mostly) by well known authors in response to the brief-make someone up!

This results in a very varied collection of stories, all focused on one particular character. In a lot of cases, these are like little snapshots of a certain moment in their lives. Some of them are ordinary people, a couple are historical characters(which I'm not sure really fit the brief), but were interesting all the same, and some were about fantastical creatures, and one about an animal. There were also two graphic stories, but I couldn't really get my head round these. I did try, but I just don't think telling a story in pictures is for me.

As to which ones I liked best, I think Theo by Dave Eggers was one of my favourites. Basic premise being that three 'hills' suddenly 'wake up' and are revealed to in fact have been sleeping giants! And since there are three of them,one female and two male, the inevitable love triangle occurs. Interesting, and a bit strange. I also liked Aleksandar Hemon's The Liar, an interesting take on Jesus at his crucifixion.

I suppose that since this is a book about character, the stories that presented the most interesting characters really deserve a mention. A.L Kennedy, in Frank, creates an introspective character who seems slightly disturbed, and is in a situation that I would like to know more about, including how it came to be. However, I think my all time favourite would be Roy Spivey, written by Miranda July. Here, a woman meets a famous person on a plane, and feels an almost immediate attraction to the man. Taking his phone number, minus the last number, which she has to memorise, they part at the airport. The interesting part of this is the way the woman uses the phone number. Although she never calls it, it plays a big part in her life. I think is the story that appealed to me most on a personal level, and that's way it's my favourite.

This is not a very inspiring review, partly because of my difficulty in reviewing short stories, but I also think partly because I wasn't that inspired by this book as an entity. Some of the stories were good, and those are the ones that will stay with me. The rest I enjoyed as I read them, but they've gone from my mind fairly quickly. So, enjoyable, not brilliant, but definitely worth a read,especially if you enjoy short stories.

It has made me want to go and read some more from the authors who wrote the stories I liked though. So I'm on the lookout now for Aleksandar Hemon, Dave Eggers, Miranda July and A.L Kennedy.


Savidge Reads said...

Hmmm this sounds really interesting. If I had seen it in the shop I admit I may have passed it by (partly because of Zadie Smith and On Beauty) if I spot it again I might have to get it.

Carl V. said...

Love the cover, and the idea sounds like a fun one that could yield some very different and interesting stories.