Skip to main content

New Yorker Fiction Review #157: "Dido's Lament" by Tessa Hadley

Story from the August 8th & 15th issue of The New Yorker...

Two reviews in one day? What?? Believe it. And with the double issue, I've fast-forwarded three weeks in less than 12 hours. And am only 3.5 months behind now. But I digress...

I am not a big Tessa Hadley fan. That doesn't mean I can't recognize game when I see it. All the same, I am not a fan. Her (mostly female) main characters tend to be dainty, self-possessed, a bit haughty, and even somewhat timid; people whom life or some lover has passed by while they were absorbed in their own pain, wounded pride, or self-centered myopia...not unlike a lot of people who call or have once called themselves artists at one time or another and/or those who have yet to grow up. So, for anyone who has spent any amount of their life feeling that way (as I have, I admit), Hadley's characters will be somewhat relatable but, all the same, a bit to delicate for me.

When the main action of the story (as in "Dido's Lament") is the main character slipping and falling as she leaves -- unnoticed, mind you, and without any real romantic confrontation -- the house of a former lover, you can perhaps see what kind of snooze-fest we are dealing with. A well-written snooze-fest. But a snooze-fest all the same. I mean, it has the word "lament" in the title. Just kill me.

If Tessa Hadley's fiction were itself a person, it would be a vaguely-sniffly middle-aged woman curled up on a sofa in a drafty old English farmhouse on a rainy day, covered by an Afghan blanket, with a scarf around her neck, sipping chamomile tea and reading a dusty old copy of Anna Karenina for the fifth time, pausing now and then to put the book down and remember her long-lost love, Harold, or Bernard, or Tom, whom she loved ardently in her 20s but after whom she never found it within herself to love again.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

New Yorker Fiction Review: "The Apologizer" by Milan Kundera

Issue: May 4, 2015

Rating: $$

Review: It took me five years and three separate attempts to finish Milan Kundera's famous novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, but in spite of that, quotes and insights from that book still rattle round my head on a weekly basis. What I mean to say is: my feelings on Kundera are very similar to my feelings on Haruki Murakami. I enjoy reading his work, but in small doses, like this short story.

Like Murakami, Kundera uses elements of magical realism, but where in a Murakami story you might encounter a flying dolphin or a disappearing hotel or a person who has lived his whole life in the same room, refusing to leave, Kundera's magical realism offers more direct insights and perspective on real life.

In Kundera's worlds, time and space are malleable and everything that ever happened in history is happening at the same time, and the narrator is a completely omniscient, caring, witty, and hands-on god-like being.

And so it is with "The Apo…

New Yorker Fiction Reviews: "Meet the President!" by Zadie Smith

Each week I review the short fiction from a recent issue of The New Yorker. If you told me when I was 12 that I'd be doing this I'd have been like, "Dork. There's no such thing as blogs," and I'd have been right...

Issue: Aug. 12 & 19, 2013

Story: "Meet the President!"

Author:Zadie Smith

(Please note: I've developed a highly sophisticated grading system, which I'll be using from now on.  Each story will now receive a Final Grade of either READ IT or DON'T READ it. See the bottom of the review for this story's grade...after you've read the review, natch.)

Plot: Set in England, far into the future (lets say 2113) a privileged youth of 15, named Bill Peek, encounters a few poor villagers from a small, abandoned coastal town on the southeast shore. He meets a little girl named Aggie, who is going to her sister's funeral. Peek is cut-off from real life by a sophisticated video game system that is implanted in his head, therefore th…

A Piece of Advice I Learned From My Grandfather

My grandfather was one of the most learned men I know. He read widely and voraciously, and not just in the sciences (he was a doctor); he loved politics, philosophy, and great literature as well. Whenever he finished a book he would write his thoughts about the book in the front cover and then sign and date it. To this day every once in a while I will open a book from my bookshelf or my mother's bookshelf, or at one of my family members' homes, and there will be my grandfather's handwriting. He was also a great giver of his books; if you remarked that you liked a particular one or wanted to read it, you were almost sure to take it home with you.

Reading is a very solitary pursuit but my grandfather was not a solitary person. He relished having family and friends around him which is convenient because he was blessed with a lot of both. And he carried out his intellectual life in a very "public" way as well. He was, in some ways, an intellectual evangelist. If he r…