The Thing in the Forest Body Art lovely A Stone Woman exquisite Raw Material The Pink Ribbon ONCE UPON A TIME there was magic immersed in real life Magic And magic was palpable just like in fairy tales and people believed in it When exactly in the evolution of humanity did we lose the ability to believe in what we could not see When did we forget that there are things which cannot be explained by science, that our world is not only populated by visible beings, but also by invisible creatures These are some of the questions that Dame Byatt wants to make the reader of this book think of.
Usually fairy tales have happy endings the prince and the princess get married after struggling with opposite forces, the dichotomy good versus evil is ever present and good defeats evil with no exception In Byatt s stories however, real life takes over rather than focusing on how people get together and stopping at that, Byatt s princesses and princes, heroines and heroes who are actually real people have to face consequences after an important moment from their lives In Byatt s imagined worlds there is no such thing as happy ending maybe this is why the volume is called Little Black Book of Stories All the stories from this volume are good, but there are two which are really amazing Body Art and Stone Woman I will only talk a little bit about the second one because it s fresher in my mind.
Ines, whose mother has recently died, starts noticing after a surgery that her body is turning to stone While looking for a place where to stay when her metamorphosis is complete, she meets a stone mason from Iceland He tells him her secret and he invites her to Iceland, after telling her stories about trolls and their transformation over time They go together to this primal chaos of ice, stone silt, black sand, gold mud Iceland and her metamorphosis is completed there Byatt explores in this story many aspects related to stones and she creates very plastic descriptionsThe mind of stone lovers had colonized stones as lichens cling to them with golden or grey green florid stains The human world of stones is caught in organic metaphors like flies in amber Words came from flesh and hair and plants Reniform, mammilated, botryoidal, dendrite, haematite Carnelian is from carnal, from flesh Serpentine and lizardite are stone reptiles phyllite is leafy green orLabradorite is dark blue, soft black, full of gleaming lights, peacock and gold and silver, like the aurora borealis embedded in hardnessIn the context of this story which takes place in Iceland, the valences of this phrase are simply exquisite.
A wonderful book which made me highly appreciate Byatt s sharpness, eloquence and way with words, a book which made me want to see Iceland very soon and made me read about artists such as Matisse and his contemporaries and a book which convinced me to explore her literary abilities further in the near future Highly recommended for anyone who still believes in magic.
Why black Because black absorbs and radiates Because the subjects are full of pain Because the black book contains our connections Because the dark is where we paint our fears and hopes I am cursed with this line seeking mind I abandoned Ariadne Why will this story not lie flat and hand me the thread Literature, why do you merely intrigue me, draw me deeper, without ever solving the labyrinth When I read Byatt I argue with my inexplicable sense that this is the only literature be calm child, there are millions of books is this even true I m dissatisfied, I m lucid, I beat the walls There s only this place I m dreaming and there are only dreams The Thing In The ForestWhen I went to see War Horse I was very upset, even though the ending was happy, because there is no consolation for the war that mowed down a generation when I think of it I ache In contrast when I saw a production of Antigone I actually laughed aloud when they all came back to bow covered in blood spoiler everyone dies I think this story gives shape to the ineffable aching grief that WWII wrought in the hearts of Byatt s generation An actual shape.
Nightmare strays into the world, like the demon in The Ring who crawls through the television it took me six weeks to repair the breached boundary in myself and I ll never watch a horror film again, ever, of any kind I suppose the war was like that to the children in the story, an unreal horror that lurched across the bridge of fairyland and stole the people who protected them.
The girls react differently The women react differently The world reacts differently And I must find my own way out.
Body ArtByatt is baiting me and I am wriggling on that hook I will wriggle and writhe all she wants I m saying my piece Stop right there male protagonist and rewind That moment where you, the maternity specialist, noticed the homeless art student you had taken in standing by your bed in her underwear and you decided it would be rude not to have sex with her Argh I have no spoiler free words for my rageWhile rape culture looms LARGE and very UGLY in this story, art, as so often in Byatt, threatens to steal the show gloriously from that mess And while the ending hardly delivered justice, it gave our survivor hero a shred of power through love.
A Stone WomanByatt just can t resist revelling in the paradise of sonority and etymological delight that is geology I loved the introductory part about the love between daughter and mother, and all the sensuous description, and the smallness of sentimental Christian iconography in the shadow of geological time This made me want to go to Iceland even than I do already The cherry though is the folk tale inclusion that Byatt s tale spectacularly mirrors Not since Dracula s dem die Todten reiten schnellhas a line in a foreign language delivered such a delicious chill for the dead ride fast sorry if my German sucks Raw MaterialI often fail to get the unlikeable protagonist thing I m a na ve reader, easily led and oblivious Not only do I hunt for the thread and the exit, I also conjure a minotaur where really there is a man, human and redeemable This story about a creative writing class at first bubbles along full of cartoon villains, mimicking the teacher s lack of inspiration I imagine Byatt didn t know what to do with these beautifully written ethnographic essays, and at last settled on weaving them into this cunning demonstration not exactly of how to write, but of how open minded we might need to be about writing A pat conclusion seems imminent when something totally horrible and unexpected and melodramatic happens But as with all these stories, the pain is real, like the war that made me cry at War Horse Did I learn the lesson ma am The Pink RibbonAnother white male lead who behaves with subtle delusions of entitlement I know, you re stunned I don t know the idea of the Fetch, but I do enjoy how she gives the protagonist s wife the voice she dared not use until it was too late I wonder why she comes clothed in his desire I wonder if it s signifying the unintentional nature of male privilege it s structural It s automatic You have to actively work to turn it off I m projecting feminism But feminism is my project And yes, we need so many stories about getting old.
The human world of stones is caught in organic metaphors like flies in amber Words came from flesh and hair and plants.
A collection of slightly stories which appear to announce in all caps, IF I CARED MORE I WOULD PLAGIARIZE Yet it doesn t I am not sure about our own state either Byatt is always will suited for the epic scale As long as she avoids Babel but the shorter pieces appear to stumble The Blitz features a few times here, as do geriatric concerns, obstetrics and gynecology There s a fallen Creative Writing teacher and a woman becoming mineral albeit with poetic panache The arc is situated to inspire the broken logic of the nightmare but I feel Angela Carter has a better handle on such There has been a theme in reviews regarding the characterization of a black book of stories I offer no insights.
I read all of these dark, fairy tale like stories dutifully but was glad to be finished Byatt writes paragraphs of lush, descriptive prose but I found the language overpowering I had an urge to skim My favorite was The Stone Woman I can still see the images vividly in my mind.
Having heard good things about A.
S Byatt s mastery of the short story, I was anxious to read this book Unfortunately, I found myself disappointed Byatt certainly knows how to begin a story The first offering in this collection is The Thing in the Forest and it begins, simply and intriguingly, with this sentence There were once two little girls who saw, or believed they saw, a thing in the forest Note the deliberate phrasing here with the word believed It is pivotal to the whole story Everything that happens to these two little girls, and to the women that they become, revolves around that thing and the question of whether they actually saw it After the incredible buildup of the girls evacuation from London during wartime and their encounter with the thing in the forest, however, I found the denouement of the story to be a letdown Something strange happened to these two at a young age Byatt wants us to understand that how they dealt with it and incorporated it into their lives determined who they ultimately became The ending is set up to be an a ha moment, but for me, it fell flat because it failed to live up to the promise of that wonderful beginning.
I felt that each story in this collection had a hinge within it, some important pivot point around which the story turned and became something else Sometimes the hinge is an event, like the formation of a scar after surgery, and sometimes it is an encounter with an unexpected person, like the young, fragile artist or an elderly woman with vivid memories Although it s not always clear in what direction the story is turning, these points are like huge signs that blink to get our attention, and I found myself wishing the machinations were a little subtle.
Byatt s writing is strong, in a conversational style that is warm and easy to read Sometimes I found her overuse of adjectives to be annoying, as if she were a journalist desperate to get down every nuance of a scene I also found the pacing to be a bit slow for my taste, with some stories dragging on interminably A Stone Woman had the wonderfully surprising premise of a woman literally turning to minerals but there were only so many times I could read about the crystal growths under her skin and the clinking, chinking noises she made when she moved, before I began skimming those descriptive passages.
I thought my favorite story was going to be Raw Material, about a disillusioned writer living in a trailer and teaching creative writing to a group of talentless wannabes An elderly woman joins the class and begins to turn in essays on things she remembers from the past Her writing is clear and clean, both descriptive and evocative, both literal and metaphorical It sparks the jaded writer s own urge to write well, his own passion for the written word Unfortunately, this story fell apart for me at the end The final turn of events came completely out of left field and felt forced to me, almost as if Byatt had been writing along and couldn t figure out how to end the story, then suddenly came up with this shocking revelation The pieces did not fit together, which I think is how Byatt wanted the reader to feel, as a mirror to the main character s own reaction But for me, it simply knocked the whole story down and made it too unbelievable.
Much of the disappointment I felt in these stories came from a lack of interest in the characters and situations, as well as the very open nature of the endings The writing is quite engaging and I always felt a keen sense of anticipation upon starting one of these stories Unfortunately, by the end, I usually found myself saying so what Ultimately, I came away feeling unfulfilled despite the promise of some very interesting beginnings.
I love Byatt s ability to take a simple idea and create a lovely story with a strong theme.
In The Thing she uses echoes of Hansel and Gretel with a modern twist We are reminded that the wounds of our childhoods scar and shape us for the rest of our lives Each person has to figure out how to cope with her Thing from the forest in order to survive Setting this story in WWII is a stroke of genius The children being evacuated from London during the war are vulnerable before they go into the forest Body Art cleverly reminds us of the overwhelming love a parent feels for his her child, and Byatt masterfully emphasizes that a baby is a separate person view spoiler Daisy so desperately wants an abortion and is convinced she will die if she doesn t have one She is single minded in her pursuit, and hates the baby until she is born hide spoiler From what others have said, Byatt has the sort of background where I know I m missing quite a bit when I read anything she writes, not even catching a stray ripple That first story, whuh Even the other four, where I caught my breath or found myself with a sore back from unconsciously hunching as I became enrapt with the stories, I wonder what I m missing Still, those four, thumbs up My take on them may be the obvious take, but they dance on my mind Loss and parenthood, grief and geology literally becoming stone , a sly or obvious dig at writers who mine or steal experience, obligation.
Wonderful, magical stories that will stay with you well after you finish reading them I even feel inspired to sign up for a creative writing course after reading this collection I am looking forward to reading my next Byatt book.
A New Collection Of Stories From A S Byatt Is Always A Winner, And This One Takes An Unexpected Turn, Bringing Shivers As Well As Delights Leaves Rustle Underfoot In A Dark Wood Two Middle Aged Women Walk Into A Forest, As They Did When They Were Girls, Confronting Their Fears And Memories And The Strange Thing They Saw In Their Childhood Or Thought They Saw So Long Ago A Distinguished Obstetrician And Young Woman Artist Find They Have Sharply Contrasting Ideas About Body Parts, Birth And Death An Innocent Member Of An Evening Class Harbours Unexpected View On Raw Material The Stories In This Marvellous Collection Are By Turns Funny, Spooky, Sparkling And Haunting The Little Black Book of Stories Holds Its Secrets, Adding A Dark Quality To Byatt S Famous Skill In Mixing Folk And Fairy Tale With Everyday Life