Published: (3rd ed) 2002 by Picador
My copy: Borrowed from the ‘swap shop’ shelf at work
Memorable quote: “How nice to be in a room full of strangers, the lights out, the rain streaking the garden. The shitty day she’d had – waiting for a phone call that never came and being too morbid to get dressed – swiftly rewrote itself. Now it all seemed to have been part of the build-up to this romantic moment – lying on the couch in her petticoat reading, the silence of the hot afternoon.”
Emily Perkins is a shrewd and cutting observer of human foibles. She also has a playful approach to language and the enviable knack of making each of the short stories in this her début collection feel more like tiny novels. I’d never heard of Perkins when I randomly picked up this book from the swap shop shelf at work, but I’m glad I read this. Certain passages and tragically beautiful images will undoubtedly stay with me for a long time to come: a drunken couple lost in the sea of foreign language at all night bar in Prague; an aspiring poet waiting every day for news from a publisher, life on hold while she day-dreams of literary success. At the same time, however, I’m glad this collection wasn’t any longer than it was. There’s only so long I can stay in Perkins’ world which is inhabited exclusively by the young, hip, and tragically self-obsessed; hers are aimless, wandering drunken characters whose melancholy derives from the fact that their brief love affairs never live up to the depiction of romance in the movies. This is quite a depressing read: suicide, eating disorders, unemployment, rejection, it could be triggering for some but Perkins’ skill in observing all the funny, quirky little details of daily life repeatedly pulls the collection back – just – from the brink of being unbearable. Visit Perkins’ world, certainly – contemplate, laugh, observe, regret – but don’t linger too long.