Skip to main content

Last Vanities by Fleur Jaeggy

Haunting collection of loosely connected tales. Connected mostly by their macabre and decadent themes. The psychological horrors her characters inhabit creep up on you...

Boo!....Like that.

Scare you? No? Don't worry, Fleur Jaeggy will. And if she doesn't scare you, she'll certainly disturb you. And she'll do it in only 95 pages, comprising seven stories. Every story lingers, long after you've finished, like regrets.

In the title story, a husband thinks his wife is ill, as their golden anniversary approaches. He's disappointed too when she turns out not to be ill at all...well, not physically ill, as he thought. His wife doesn't much care for him wishing any kind of ill upon her, and does something discreet, though drastic, in triumphant retaliation.

An overly generous man, in "The Free House" has opened his large house to the mentally ill. He and his wife sleep in separate beds. The man's wife spies on these mentally ill while her husband sleeps. She spies on a promiscuous nineteen year-old girl in particular. Exciting! Though she'll soon wish she hadn't spied. What business do the so-called "sane" have spying on the so-called "insane" anyway?

In "The Twins," orphaned, identical twins, grow up loving only one another for the rest of their lives. I'll leave it at that.

A woman promised her father she'd find a good man to marry, in "The Promise". After he dies, in honor of his memory, she gives it a good go, and sleeps with three men in her village. Dissatisfied with all three, she's nevertheless quelled her conscience. She kept her promise to her father. She did her best to find a good man to marry. Not finding any, now she can live happily, as she is, and as her father never knew her to be, with the woman she's loved all along.

Fleur Jaeggy is a stylist's stylist. Her prose is concise. Absent are parentheticals and semi-colons. Digressions don't exist. Not to say her language isn't euphonious. Because it is. She makes her prose sound more like poetry than prose.

Jaeggy's minimalism is more minimal than Hemingway's, Carver's, and Didion's. She's heard the right words and placed them on the page in the precise order she heard them. Stripped down. Bare naked writing. Wordiness be banished, her wonderful writing declares. The irony of her minimalist style is that she packs abundant, maximal substance into each short piece. I can't wait to be eminently disturbed by her diminuitive work again.


Popular posts from this blog

A Brief introduction to the Novels of Khwaja Ahmad Abbas

The majority of the material for this post is taken from Contemporary Novelists, 3rd Ed., Edited by James Vinson, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1982

Khwaja Ahmad Abbas (1914-1987)

There's only eight books of K.A. Abbas cataloged in LibraryThing (five or six different works).  He's virtually forgotten in the United States, though still revered in Indian literary circles.

On highbrow literary critics in India, Abbas said they "have sometimes sneeringly labelled my novels and short stories as 'mere journalese'. The fact that most of them are inspired by aspects of the contemporary historical reality, as sometimes chronicled in the press, is sufficient to put them beyond the pale of literary creation.

"I have no quarrel with the critics. Maybe I am an unredeemed journalist and reporter, masquerading as a writer of fiction. But I have always believed that while the inner life of man undoubtedly is, and should be, the primary concern of literature, thi…

Guest Post: Farewell to Manzanar reviewed by Mac McCaskill

"Mountain now loosens rivulets of tears.
Washed stones, forgotten clearing."
 —Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston

When my father was a boy, he learned that he’d been adopted by the man whom he’d thought was his father. Digging through a dusty trunk in his attic, he found legal documents that gave him the name he wore and the father he knew, but also uncovering an origin that had been hidden from him.

His mother was, by all accounts, a volatile woman — her siblings called her “the hornet” because her sting was quick and painful. She was a hard woman, and reticent to either acknowledge or divulge anything about his biological father. Over the years, he eventually learned from other relatives that she met Mr. Black — it was his name, but also a metaphor for much more — in a late 1920’s dance hall. He left her pregnant, taking whatever money he could get his hands hand on when he went.

Late in his life, after his mother died, my dad started quizzing other relatives for information about Mr…

Guest Post: Play It As It Lays reviewed by Joseph Brinson

You know, I began a try at this review writing about Iago in Othello and the nature of evil.

And about ennui and apathy.

And that the answer is: nothing.

And how I felt deep empathy for Maria.

And then I deleted it all.

This is my review: This novel depressed the fuck out of me.

That, and giving it four stars, should sum it up.

Joseph Brinson (a.k.a., "Quixada"), a poet and a longtime online pal, made me fucking howl when I first read his deadpanned piece on Play It As It Lays years and years ago.  Yes, it is brief — yet is playfully, skillfully thorough. His homage still slays me today.