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This review is from: This Isn't The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You (Paperback)
In his three novels, we have come to know Jon McGregor for his experimental approach to the novel. Here in this collection of short stories, This Isn't The Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You, that approach of experimenting is continued. McGregor is also know for his novels that deal with ordinary working class folk and here again in this collection of short stories McGregor's subject matter highlights the lives of ordinary folk.
The stories are varied in terms of length and subject matter. They range from a single sentence that constitutes a story to full length short stories. If there is an underlying unifying issue that connects the stories together it could be said to be place. The book is structured on the basis of areas in Lincolnshire. McGregor then gives us the names of towns and villages that form part of the geographical area. This leaves the reader with the impression that one of things McGregor is doing in the collection is to explore the impact of living in a particular place.
McGregor seems to take people from the places where his stories are set and then briefly explore an issue. So in the story Keeping Watch Over the Sheep, a man who is in dispute with his partner no longer has contact with his daughter and he does his best to see her in her first nativity school play. But of course that is not the sort of thing that happens to someone like me or you.
Whether or not the reader is comfortable with McGregor's experiments, this is what gives these stories their edge. In The Winter Sky, one gets the impression that McGregor is playing around with the composition of a short story. The pages that carry the narrative are juxtaposed with pages of what looks like notes for expanding the story. The notes have markings and lines drawn through the sentences, etc. While in If it Keeps Raining, McGregor seems to be trying to ascertain the possibility of experiencing the same thing in different ways.
McGregor is deft at building up tension and expectation as he does in the story We Wave and Call. I also admired McGregor's ability to work within the constraints of the short story form and reveal things in an efficient and timely manner. For example, instead of using specific narrative moments to tells us things about his characters, things are revealed by actions and through the course of the stories' main narrative drive.
Some of the stories convey weird and surreal-like experiences as in the experience of the café worker in French Tea
For all my admiration of McGregor's experimentation and the freshness of the stories, I was nonetheless left feeling that something was missing. For me McGregor's emphasis on experimentation was done at the expense of delivering stories that had little emotional impact on me.