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Why Don't You Stop Talking: Stories [Paperback]

Jackie Kay
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 Jan 2003

Following on from her award-winning first novel, Trumpet, comes a collection of superlative stories.

In true Kay style, these small masterpieces cover a great deal of emotional and narrative terrain, from an immaculate observation of the female physiognomy to the bewilderment of the elderly; from silent hidden love to a lifetime reminiscence of an immigrant's England. Warm and tender, frightening and funny, these stories confirm the arrival of a major storyteller.

'A stunner. I am heartbroken to have finished it' Ali Smith

'The beauty of Kay's stories is in how much they continue to resonate long after finishing' TIME OUT

'These pieces contain - and ultimately liberate - definitively human ordinariness, a rigmarole of isolation and love, fidelity and betrayal, noise and silence, birth and death' GUARDIAN

'One of the liveliest talents of her generation' SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; New edition edition (3 Jan 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 033037334X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330373340
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 13 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 998,016 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Fear, fantasy, loneliness and desire are the themes of Jackie Kay's debut collection of short stories, Why Don't You Stop Talking. Brian the fitter in "Shark! Shark!" has a hysterical fear of sharks that dominates his life. In "Big Milk" a woman's passionate jealousy of her lesbian lover's relationship with her baby forces her to revisit her own childhood. Kay has a particular talent for describing the physical manifestations of psychological troubles. In "The woman with knife and fork disorder" the breakdown of the ability to organise cutlery stands in for a woman's mental dissolution in response to sudden abandonment by her husband, while in the Kafkaesque "Shell", a stoical, isolated single mother turns slowly and painfully into a tortoise. If you want to see what happens when the stylistic resonances of Borges and Gogol meet impeccable feminism, this is it.

Many of these stories mediate an uncertain boundary between the literal and the metaphorical, and much of their pleasure and challenge lies in this ambivalence. Kay's poetic voice is well suited to the short story form. This is the Jackie Kay of The Adoption Papers and Off Colour: serious, redemptive, forcing the consumer-sanitised reader to recognise the truly impoverished, traumatised reality around them. The heart-aching "In between talking about the elephant" is a particularly brilliant example of how fantasy enables people to survive the banal inevitability of the ordinary experience of death. Kay is good on the troubled relationships between teenagers and their parents and there are a number of lighter and energetically comical stories that add levity to the otherwise twilight tone of this collection. Why Don't You Stop Talking is a memorable collection about the pathology of everyday life. Through these stories, Kay fundamentally challenges and renders suspicious the notion that there are such beings as untroubled, ordinary people.--Rachel Holmes --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


'A haunting, beautifully written debut' Times 'Miraculously convincing and beautifully written' Daily Telegraph 'An incredibly powerful novel, rich and satisfying' Guardian

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intensity, Isolation and Laughing out Loud 14 Feb 2003
Why don't you stop talking. It's an instruction, not a question, taken from one of the most powerful stories in this collection. It isn't aimed at us readers, there'd be no need - the intensity of Jackie Kay's stories leaves you struggling for breath let alone speech.
From the first line, Kay's writing firmly pulls you a couple of layers down below comfort level. Most of the stories centre on private pain, impossible to show or share. Many of them feature women alone and isolated. All of them invoke strong emotions and unsettling thoughts. But they also make you laugh out loud, smile secretly, re-read phrases again and again for sheer joy. And then stay up until you've read all fourteen in an evening, knowing you want to save some, knowing you can't.
Kay is best known as a poet, and every word here is put in place with a poet's precision. Every layer of rhythm and meaning is carefully and confidently constructed, carrying you along like the subtlest of melodies.
Hard to believe this is Kay's first book of short stories and harder still to imagine what she'll do next.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, quietly powerful stories 9 Oct 2009
A highly enjoyable collection. Jackie Kay deftly weaves harsh reality with the surreal;Why don't you stop talking: Stories to create stories about the nitty-gritty of 'ordinary' folk's lives, which, although often dealing with the tragic, sparkle with warmth and humour.

A life-affirming collection.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rapt by her words 2 Nov 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Jackie Kay has the skill to take you on a journey from the mundane to somewhere strange and curious. The characters in her stories are endearingly odd and this book is definitely one of my favourite short story collections.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great collection of short stories 18 Feb 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Great collection of short stories, each one has a really strong voice and sense of character. I would recommend for any commuter or short-story lover.
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