James Lasdun has a unique gift: he is able to write disparate short stories which convey the
depths of human despair, love, passion, fear and power as he writes with words that seem both
frenzied and unimaginably calm.
The stories are set in various places, ranging from Cape Cod to Greece. While each story is
complete in itself, I couldn't help but feel I was reading the same protagonist's
point-of-view—which I likely was—the view of the author himself as he put himself firmly
into character as he wrote. "It's Beginning to Hurt" highlights the fears we as humans encounter
from illness to infidelity, to fear that our child is in danger. There are money woes that border
on extreme paranoia in "An Anxious Man." "Caterpillars" artfully puts the reader into the shoes of
all of the main characters, and yes, they do indeed all hurt.
"Annals of the Honorary Secretary" haunts me the most of all the short stories in this book. A
web is spun of a group of most unusual people who have secret meetings and rare talents. The bulk
of the story is about a young woman who is able to use her quiet power to change people's perceptions
of themselves and the world around them, and none of them have a pleasant experience. It is one you
will really need to read for yourself to even begin to have an understanding of the author's point.
Very well done, indeed.
This is a very special book that should appeal to anyone with a taste for books that are slightly
off the beaten path. In its own gentle and yet often violent way, the book pulls the reader into
each mini-drama and comes through with flying colors as satisfactory conclusions unfold. The
psychological traumas are sometimes painful to read. It does "begin to hurt," yet ultimately
there are lessons to be learned, and I am still finding myself pondering some of the stories
before I fall asleep at night.