Friday, October 16, 2009

It's Beginning to Hurt by James Lasdun

It's Beginning to Hurt: Stories

Lasdun is so revealing. Why is it that when one sees the innermost thoughts of a forty- or fifty-something man one feels slightly embarrassed, as though there were something pitiful about the conclusions they manage to align like a teetering stack of children's building blocks? Though writing from the United States, Lasdun always retains his essential Englishness, like, I might add, Netherland author Joseph O'Neill. These men, writing about the minds of men, bring out the voyeur in me.

But these men manipulate me, and I allow them to do so, because of their felicity with language. They can pull back a corner of the veil to reveal something true but which may not be wholly complete, and I will follow them there.

In this book, Lasdun reminds me of Cheever, talking as he does of cocktails among the monied working classes--not so wealthy as to be unafraid of losing it all--but sort of windmilling on the edge of losing their money, their house, their wives, their sanity. In Google's "Image Results for James Lasdun," the painting After Ovid: New Metamorphoses makes an appearance. It seems to show what I am trying to explain.

Lasdun's short stories are marvels of clarity and brevity. In one story, called "The Natural Order," Lasdun invites us to look in the mirror along with his main character:
"He looked in the mirror, felt the familiar jolt at the disparity between his persistently youthful idea of his physical appearance and the image that confronted him. His hair lay thinly over his temples; his torso looked shapeless in the useful lightweight beige anorak he had brought along for the cooler evenings. An hors de combat jacket, Stewart had jokingly called it when he first saw Abel sporting it...He smiled wanly at himself. He looked middle-aged."

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