Top critical review
Literary vignettes, but not a lot of story.
on 2 October 2015
If Helen Simpson is the best short story writer of our time then short stories are in trouble, on the evidence of this collection. There is a tendency to focus on short and omit the story - scenes are set up, but don't really play out. This, plus an overtly preachy approach to global warming deniers, which colours a good number of the stories, left me wondering if I was going to finish the book. I'm glad I did, because the one story that holds largely together, Diary of an Interesting Year, is second to last. Even that is a little eco-preachy, and it's interesting that Helen writes characters either side of the debate which are no more likeable than each other.
A couple of fantasy moments could have been explored in more depth, mainly "The Festival of the Immortals", but even with the shade of Shakespeare somehow lurking in the wings of a literary festival, the story itself is humdrum and lacks conflict, resolution, and, frankly, a point.
Fortunately, I DON'T think this represents the entirety of the short story genre, I think that genre is much wider than this, and while a certain tendency towards vignettes seems to have found favour with the literary critics, it does very little to appeal to this reader.