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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'A haunting, beautifully written debut' Times 'Miraculously convincing and beautifully written' Daily Telegraph 'An incredibly powerful novel, rich and satisfying' Guardian
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
About the Author
Jackie Kay was born in Edinburgh in 1961 and grew up in Glasgow. She has published three collections of poetry, the first of which, The Adoption Papers (Bloodaxe 1991), won the Saltire and Forward Prizes. The second, Other Lovers (Bloodaxe 1993), won the Somerset Maugham Award. Trumpet, her first novel, won the Author's Club First Novel Award and the Guardian Fiction Prize. She lives in Manchester with her son.