Anthropology: And a Hundred Other Stories Paperback – 5 May 2005
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Dan Rhodes' first book Anthropology consists of 101 stories, each around 120 words in length, and all working highly surreal variations around a single theme: relationships. A simple enough idea which is superlatively executed--the range and inventiveness of the texts within the strict format reveal a writer of formidable imaginative powers, able to move with ease from wit to farcical comedy to genuinely heartfelt evocations of loss and love. Each story is almost like a condensed novel, a distilled narrative that focuses on a particular moment, gesture, or conversation, humourously unravelling the fragile structures and barely disguised inequalities that characterise the détente between the sexes.
If the stories are individually quirky, bizarre and amusing, paradoxically the incremental effect is one that is surprisingly revealing of the deep, tectonic instabilities in our relationships with partners and lovers.
If the touchstone of Anthropology is, in the end, a kind of disbelieving laughter, it is emphatically not observational humour, nor the bittersweet angst of wry comedy that dominates much contemporary fiction: Rhodes highlights the essential absurdity of heterosexual relationships, the fundamental incomprehension and misunderstandings that divide men and women. The wayward commandments of desire, the desperate mismatches of affection, the hilarious disjunctions of perception, the disequilibria of power, all are scrutinised in turn by the author's cool, deadpan prose; and the superficial equivalence of form mimics the fact that, while relationships may seem similar on the surface, each is uniquely odd, perverse, or disfunctional.
The structure of the book is reminiscent of Raymond Queneau's Exercises in Style, its tone occasionally recalls Donald Barthelme's elegant postmodern short fiction, but Anthropology nevertheless mines a seam distinctly its own: quirky, surreal, often wildly funny, and cumulatively profound. --Burhan Tufail --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Very funny and sharp . . . crushingly wicked. (The Times)
A great collection, by turns funny, dark and touching. (Dave Gorman)
Tiny flights of absurdist fancy . . . exquisitely funny. (Guardian)
Essential reading for anybody who has ever been in love. I cannot express to you how much this book delighted me. Go and read it. (Big Issue)
A book you want to hurl from rooftops at passers-by to spread the word. (Uncut)
it's easy to make time to enjoy these (Easy Living)
Effortless to read, amusing and yet coloured with a deep sadness about the passing of things. In Rhodes's eccentric emotional world, girlfriends with the improbable names of Azure, Xanthe and Hummingbird hold all the cards (Independent)
A gleaming box of jazzy miniatures. Exquisitely funny. (Guardian)
Touching and insightful . . . you'll want to devour every one. (Heat)
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Top Customer Reviews
ANTHROPOLOGY is like a bag of Revels - each story a treat of a sweet; every one a surprise and every one leaving you wanting another. Unlike a bag of assorted-centre sweeties, however, devouring them all at once won't leave you feeling bilious - just a little dizzy perhaps.
The single-paragraph stories contained in ANTHROPOLOGY are pretty odd - sometimes you just can't believe what you're reading; they're certainly surreal; they're poignant. Some are like jokes with sick punchlines; some are like a punch in the stomach; some are impossible to read out loud because the huge lump in your throat stops you from being able to speak.
Sometimes, as I read, the words Spike and Milligan and Brian and Patten spring to mind. In my view, not a bad thing.
There's a photo of Dan Rhodes at the back of the book: he was born in 1972 but doesn't even look young. He looks like a man who doesn't get much sleep. With a mind like that, it's hardly surprising. Maybe it's the lack of sleep that brings on these warped yet perfect observations. He merges utter fantasy with pure mundanity. Occasionally, the stories deliberately miss the point, which makes them all the more entertaining.
I keep my copy of ANTHROPOLOGY on my desk. When there's a lull (and sometimes I create a lull on purpose), I pick up the book an read a story. It stops me eating sweets.
If Dan Rhodes reads this, please get in touch: I need to know more...
But one is missing so much if 'Anthropology' is simply levelled with the adjective 'quirky'. Dan Rhodes has achieved miracles in distilling emotions - well, one particular emotion particularly, that of obsession - into such brief, but affecting passages. I defy you not to read this book again immediately after you've read it the first time. I defy you not to cry at certain stories (crying at 101 words! ), and I defy you not to find yourself continually saying, "That's me!" or "I've felt like that!" Most of all, this book speaks to you about these things but does it in the blink of an eye - inflicting real emotion on the incredibly short attention spans we have developed in modern society.
Oh, and a last point - Dan Rhodes is 28. If this is a summary of his emotional ups-and-downs, I feel quite fortunate . . .
The strength of this collection is also its weakness. 101 is an arbitrary number, an arbitrary scaffold that simply constrains the art. Some stories would benefit from being a few words longer, others a few shorter, and, many of the stories are just re-hashes of earlier ones. On a number of occasions I thought 'here we go again', yes I know she's so beautiful and you love her so much that her total indifference to you only makes you love her more. Blah blah blah.
To some extent the collection of stories feels a little too self-consciously smart, with the author saying 'hey look at me.' However, I don't fully agree with 'pmcnjbi' who's review acerbically asserts 'A book for people who like being seen with books but find reading tiresome' but, I think I have some inkling of what s/he means.
I will no doubt read it again however, perhaps a couple more times.
A relative of Raymond Queneau's `Exercises in Style', `Anthropology and a Hundred Other Stories' was the debut collection by Dan Rhodes, offering up 101 paragraph long stories centred on a single word. Each `story' can be read in seconds, all centre around girlfriends from a male perspective, many of them feel like variant on the same joke.
The first time I read this was on a train, I'm sure the people sitting opposite me thought there was something wrong with me as I made hysterical noises in a public place. Parts of it are as hilarious as early Martin Amis - there's one part in `Dead Babies' (haven't read it in years) that made me shudder with laughter - this book is like a one-hundred-and-one versions of that.
Some of the stories are a bit surreal and may not seem as funny as certain others, but there is no problem as you can just flip to the next one.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
... You may enjoy it alot; certainly, it left a mark - it's the sort of book you find yourself, afterwards, thinking "I wonder what that was about" and drawing random... Read morePublished 26 days ago by Jeremy Wilson
I needed this for uni to write a pretty large essay. As a word of warning to anyone who needs this, be very warned. Read morePublished 29 days ago by Pingu
Surely one of the few best things to come out in culture in the 2000's. Its a genius read of 101 stories of 101 words length, or an example of micro-fiction if you like. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Mr. Robert Marsland
An amusing and soul provoking read. Easy reading being only one page at a time. Ideal for busy folk.Published 5 months ago by OJ
Dan Rhodes can do no wrong. I am unable to write a balanced review but I guess all Dan's work is like that so I will now copy and paste this into all the other Dan Rhodes' books I... Read morePublished 6 months ago by CLIVE S G FENN