6 thoughts on “Essential Stories – V.S. Pritchett


    A seeming,y demented common woman with her eponymous sack, imagining a monocled General and orange gardens in Valencia, as she dreamcatches her lights in Piccadilly – sometimes lights are bodily innards like lungs, though? cOVID-19? Coronavirus? A plague upon lights. And golden circles like orange spheres? A “ballet into nothing”, or VOID…

    “…people’s faces bobbed up and down like Chinese lanterns.”

    Chance is always powerful. Let your hook be always cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be a fish.
    – Ovid, Heroides


    “She, fey and war-like, was waving her twig.”

    This story is a real discovery! Rarely published? The two members of a long-married childless couple, he a rent collector, sleep in separate rooms, and talk to each other through the wall or via the open doors before going to sleep. Open doors, but did he lock the gate outside to where the windfall apples clustered? He said, yes he locked the gate. So poetically astonishing the observations of conversation and of their anxieties and of their falling asleep images, later disturbed by truly eerie events, like strange men walking through their rooms or at best dreams, intent on the apples that had thumped and thumped from Elizabeth Bowen’s The Apple Tree, or horses as holy hokum equine spirits or children of his ambitions beyond rent collecting? The gate was left open, after all, by him, or God had later opened it surreptitiously? Who rents what from Heaven? The last is a serious question.


    “He didn’t wear a hat. He gave me a look and I gave him a look. I didn’t like the look of him. And he didn’t like the look of me.”

    And if you don’t wear a hat you can’t raise it for a passing hearse. Even for a hearse carrying a coffin with yourself in it! This is a highly poignant story of the narrator – a travelling salesman whose father is an undertaker – a narrator staying at a hotel, getting off with the girl receptionist who wants to get out of such downtrod hotel life, then they are both stalked by her boy friend on his motor bike, followed by a lot of twists and turns (one of them deadly traffic) that take me back to how I started this review. A mutual cross-reference of the dead and the living, the loved and the loved, even if both were unloved when compared with life’s aspiration of moving on for the better. Staccato, deadpan and naive. An essential story. With a sense of wry humour.

    “Hearses are funny things to drive.”


    “‘Nobody have any soup. I want soup. Nobody soup,’ he said sadly to the proprietor.”

    Great short stories, it seems to me, always have a brush with NEAR-Absurdism. A brush with a brush with the deadpan truth and the disarmingly idiosyncratic as it were. Here seven men have a reunion in and we are told of their various quirks and style of personality. And the dinner party tale of one of them drowning in his pyjamas. Or did I get that wrong?

    “We agreed with what he said. We all stood up and, by our private parts, swore that he was right. It was one of the evils of Spain.”


    “At Carragh-cross road the signpost stood emptily gesticulating like some frightened speaker with the wind driving back the words into his mouth, and the two roads dangling from its foot.”

    And, in Ireland amid the troubles, extroverted Micky visiting, until his money runs out, for a year or so, visiting his introverted brother Charlie (Micky, as a Canadian, being a fighter with the British during the World War) had shot down the Holy Ghost thinking it was a bird. Charlie arguably a coward by staying in Ireland, by being sick.
    And whose enemy was whose? A tale of two brothers and the dog Micky gives Charlie, snatched away, a tale that is darker than the darkest tale you might read in any fiction genres, even in the darkest genres that there are. Or is the word somber, not dark? The brothers’ respective introversion and extroversion are far deeper and more wayward than these two clinical words – that I have probably misused – portend.
    It takes a drinking schoolmaster to transcend the knots – until you realise that ‘schoolmaster’ is an old nickname not an occupation.

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