Story One: ‘Terrific Mother’ by Lorrie Moore
‘Terrific Mother’ is my first Lorrie Moore. I know she is much praised here so when I saw this Faber mini book I thought why not?
Adrienne is 35 years old and childless. The best compliment a woman can get is ‘you’d make a terrific mother’ when they hold someone else’s babies. So when her friend Sally asked her to hold her baby during Labor Day picnic, Adrienne did so. She sat on a picnic bench which joints were lose, the bench toppled on her and the baby died.
Adrienne then shut herself in her apartment for seven months. Her boyfriend Martin tried to console her. He proposed to her and took her to northern Italy to a villa set up for scholar conferences. Adrienne was to accompany Martin (who was writing a book about Third World monetary system) and be a spouse.
So the rest of the story tells about Adrienne and her life in Italy among pretentious scholars (her remarks were funny and cynical), other spouses, and her appointments with a masseuse who gave her a religious experience (because the massages were so good).
I have to say that the first two paragraphs are the best in the book. We will then learn Adrienne’s view of her marriage with Martin, ‘I don’t believe in casual sex, I believe in casual marriages’ and her obsession with her massage experiences. Reading the short story I can tell that the writer is a master. The story line is great. But I just can’t connect with Adrienne.
Maybe the part where she was offered a marriage as a salvation and paid holiday/retreat in a northern Italy to just paint and had massages to forget her pain is just too hard to believe. I want to know more about the seven months she shut herself in her apartment and I want to know her agony.
Have you read this one? Maybe you can help me understand. Or any suggestions for other Lorrie Moore’s works?
Story Two: ‘The Victim’ by P.D. James
‘The Victim’ by P.D. James is my second #faberstories which I finished in 20 minutes and actually this one makes me wish it was a longer story. I enjoyed reading it a lot!
The main character is a bitter ex-husband whose wife left him for a richer man. He begins the story by telling us a celebrity named Ilsa Mancelli. Ilsa had married three times to all successful and rich men. The first was a movie producer and the last was to a prince (score!). He tells us that the media never knew Ilsa’s previous marriages. Before, Ilsa was Elsie Bowman.
She was 17 when our narrator married her and he thought he was so lucky that Elsie agreed to marry him – 15 years older, 32-year-old virgin and worked as an assistant librarian. Their marriage lasted for three years before Elsie decided to left him for Rodney Collingford. A successful lawyer who was her boss at the time (she worked as a typist).
‘But for her, marriage wasn’t permanency. It was the first and necessary step towards the kind of life she dreamt and meant to have.’
So our narrator channeled his anger towards Collingford and started to plan his murder. PD James showed us the inside brain of a methodical and patient killer in this perfect short crime story.
Story Three: ‘The Shielding of Mrs Forbes’ by Alan Bennett
‘Like many handsome man, Graham Forbes had chosen to marry someone not nearly as good looking as himself and slightly older’
How cannot the first line of this short story get you? The rest of the book is as the first line promised – funny, satirical, and also comical. I really enjoy the conversation between Mr and Mrs Forbes:
‘She’s probably,’ said Mr Forbes, warming to the fray, ‘a bit of a goer.’
‘A goer? Edward. When are you going to learn that there are certain phrases you cannot use?’
‘I’ve heard Graham use it.’
‘Graham is different. Graham is young, attractive and drives a sports car. He has a life with a top down and a language to match. He can say “guy” and “bird” and “cool”, all the things young people say. You can’t. I heard you say “tits” the other night at the Maynard’s. You’re too old to say “tits”.’
‘What age is that? When is the cut-off point?’
‘It’s not just the question of age. Some people can say it all their lives. Whereas you, you’ve never had enough dash.’
‘Oh. Dash is it now?’
‘Dash. Flair. Brio. All the qualities that come to Graham naturally.’
Mrs Forbes adores her son, too much sometimes, that her husband, her son, and her daughter-in-law think that she needs to be shielded from the fact that Graham is gay.
In fact everybody tries to shield this fact from each other. It’s so hilarious and at the end, touching. A very unexpected plot and surprising characters! So much good things in a very short book. Allan Bennet is definitely a master!
These editions are published by Faber and Faber. Here are the complete list from Goodreads.