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Black Vodka: Ten Stories Paperback – 30 Nov 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 125 pages
  • Publisher: And Other Stories (30 Nov. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1908276169
  • ISBN-13: 978-1908276162
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 1.3 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 103,557 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'There is a sexy hauteur in Deborah Levy's prose reminiscent of the voice of Marianne Faithfull. The rasping, deadpan delivery of these ten new stories emit a dreamy harshness at once jaded and invigorating.' Catherine Taylor, New Statesman -------- 'Here, as in her previous plays, stories and novels, her writing exhibits a rhetorical severity which has a mythic, lullaby quality, experimental and at the same time simple and beautiful.' Alex Christofi, The Literateur -------- 'fabulously jolting', 'accomplished and uncanny', 'The strange, unpredictable journey is worth it.' Alex Clark, The Guardian -------- 'Levy's sinister, near-private language' provides 'more signs that her work is mellowing - these ominous, odd, erotic stories burrow deep into your brain.' Anthony Cummins, Financial Times -------- 'Levy's latest collection of short stories explores love, loss, and betrayal as well as the small cruelties that play out in modern day lives through elegantly conceived and executed prose.' Lucy Popescu, The Independent on Sunday -------- 'Deborah Levy's Black Vodka is a collection of mischievous vignettes of Mitteleuropa in the almost quarter of a century since the fall of the Berlin Wall.' Catherine Taylor, The Telegraph -------- 'The full work lingers on as more than the sum of its parts, so that each elliptical story becomes, by virtue of inclusion in the collective, its own second, larger narrative.' Fiona Melrose, Writer's Hub -------- '[a] sharply surreal collection of pieces - Like Lydia Davis, Levy pushes the idea of 'story' - these are shots, potent and punchy, to be read individually and savoured rather than drunk down in one go.' Julia Bell, Books of the Year, Writer's Hub -------- 'Humane in its perception, dazzling in its originality and crystalline in its expression.' Isabel Costello, The Literary Sofa -------- 'It seems only fitting that [Levy] follows her tour-de-force with this selection of her pared-down short fiction - [her] pen is a volatile weapon.' Lucy Scholes, The Observer -------- 'Deborah Levy is one of the most exciting voices in contemporary British fiction, and her new collection, Black Vodka, delivers the sophisticated and astringent tone her readers have long come to expect.' Lauren Elkin, TLS -------- 'These tales of unconventional love reinforce Levy's reputation as a major contemporary writer who never pulls her punches.' Julia Pascal, The Independent -------- 'Black Vodka's stories, characters and settings live and breathe beyond the last page detailing their lives - Somewhere, these stories live on, testament to the vivid prose and razor sharp structure of Levy's writing.' Jennie Blake, Book Hugger -------- 'Excellent collection Black Vodka - It's beautifully and subtly done; a tale obliquely told through objects lost and vivid impressions of a couple of summer days - All the stories in this collection are worth lingering over and rereading.' Jenny Wren and Bella Wilfer -------- 'There is darkness here, puzzlement and often a sensation that you need to read each story again and again to get more from it - so I did - A brilliant collection indeed.' Savidge Reads -------- 'Metropolitan and knowingly sophisticated, Levy's sparse, elegant stories are poetic and faintly surreal'. Phil Baker, The Sunday Times -------- 'Black Vodka is an inexhaustible feast. Its richness can be ascribed in part to that style of weighted reticence we sense at work in Swimming Home.' Kevin Breathnach, The Stinging Fly

About the Author

Deborah Levy writes fiction, plays and poetry. Her work has been staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company, and she is the author of highly praised books including Beautiful Mutants, Swallowing Geography and Billy and Girl. Her most recent novel, Swimming Home (2011, And Other Stories) was shortlisted for the 2012 Man Booker Prize. Black Vodka, the title story in this collection, was shortlisted for the 2012 BBC International Short Story Competition


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By Ripple TOP 500 REVIEWER on 14 Dec. 2012
Format: Paperback
"Black Vodka" is a collection of ten previously published short pieces of writing by Deborah Levy, many first published in the early 2000s. The most recent is the piece from which this collection gains its title which has been shortlisted for the 2012 BBC International Short Story Award. As a compilation of her writing, obviously these were not written to appear together, but some clear themes emerge from the collection, namely a deeply disturbing look at the search for love, particularly amongst those on the edge of society.

The collection is described as ten "short stories" and while there can be no doubting the accuracy of the term "short" here - all of the pieces are short and some very brief - these are "stories" only in the widest sense of the word. It's probably better to think of them as creative writing pieces. They are more like vignettes or snippets of haunting dreams. They work on the reader much more like a poem does, providing images and set ups rather than what you might conventionally think of as stories.

The other part of the publisher's cover blurb that I take partial issue with is the reference to Levy's "razor-sharp humour". The "razor-sharp" phrase is accurate - her writing is indeed sharp and edgy, but I, for one, detected nothing that I would call "humorous". In fact, the collection as a whole is mysterious and more often than not, deeply sad. Perhaps the essence the publishers were trying to convey is a sense of playfulness about some of the settings, but I'm not sure you can have "razor-sharp playfulness" - but if you can, then this is a good example of it. Many of her settings are strange and if I hadn't known the author's identity, I would have guessed at a Latin American origin. It has that almost nightmare-like sense of strangeness.
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By Eleanor TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 31 Dec. 2012
Format: Paperback
"Black Vodka" consists of ten stories, half of which can also be found in Pillow Talk in Europe and Other Places (Lannan Selection). In the title story an advertising man, known by his colleagues as 'the Crippled Poet', is tantalized by the promise of love from an archaeologist fascinated by his deformity. This sets the tone for many of the collection's stories in which the bonds which connect people are examined, both as they form and as they fall apart.

As in her recent novel Swimming Home, Levy's style is lucid but poetic. Surreality or strangeness often intrudes into her recognisable settings and one gets glimpses of the whole history of twentieth-century Europe in her characters. This is especially true of 'Vienna' in which a man of Russian descent imagines his rich lover as being middle Europe, specifically Vienna: "She is the sound of polite applause. She is a chandelier. She is a velvet curtain. She is made from the horn of deer found deep in the pine forests of middle Europe."

In other stories the strangeness takes centre stage. 'Stardust Nation' tells of a man who absorbs the life experiences of those around him, whilst in 'Cave Girl' the narrator is unsettled by his sister's desire to have a sex change - one which will turn her into a different sort of woman, a caricature of a femininity.

"Black Vodka" is an enjoyable collection and most of the stories leave a strong impression. I found myself re-reading several, savouring Levy's characters, imagery, and poetry.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read Swimming Home (Booker short listed in 2012) and enjoyed it a lot, then saw Deborah Levy at Charleston short story festival and bought this book on the strength of it. The best ones are Black Vodka and Placing a Call.
Although these stories were written separately over a period of more than ten years there is a theme of falling in and out of love and the impact of resulting loss.
The characters come across strongly and there is a tangible sense of place in many of them. I liked the European feel to the collection with settings in Vienna and Czech Republic, dreams of Rome, visits to Spain and Ireland and many of the characters being non British. The collection feels very fresh and modern and part of multi cultural UK.
My only beef is the ratio of pages (100) to price (£12) - I wanted more!!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
These are wonderful, wonderful stories.
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