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.