The stories in this remarkable collection—including “An Anxious Man,” winner of the National Short Story Prize (UK)—are vibrant and gripping. James Lasdun’s great gift is his unfailing psychological instinct for the vertiginous moments when the essence of a life discloses itself. With forensic skill he exposes his characters’ hidden desires and fears, drawing back the folds of their familiar self-delusions, their images of themselves, their habits and routines, to reveal their interior lives with brilliant clarity.
In sharply evoked settings that range from the wilds of Northern Greece to the beaches of
Cape Cod, these intensely dramatic tales chart the metamorphoses of their characters as they fall prey to the full range of human passions. They rise to unexpected heights of decency or stumble into comic or tragic folly. They throw themselves open to lust, longing, and paranoia—always recognizably mirrors of our own conflicted selves.
As James Wood has written, “James Lasdun seems to be one of the secret gardens of English writing . . . When we read him we know what language is for again.” This collection of haunting, richly humane pieces is further proof of the powers of an enormously inventive writer.
“Lasdun’s novels succeed as efficient entertainments, narrowly focused, linguistically dextrous, coolly presenting their characters’ foibles . . . His short stories relinquish none of this gamesmanship, yet they seem to expand where the novels contract . . . Their characters have a complexity and confusion that override the unfolding plot. And the narratives seem opened up to the entire history of ?ction . . . Touching and revelatory . . . Devastating.” —Mark Kamine, The Times Literary Supplement
“Reading Lasdun is like reading a sly collaboration between Kafka and Updike: elegant, acutely observed and utterly unflinching . . . This is a collection that examines the most inward mechanisms of rage, fear and desire with astonishing skill and strangely lyric power.” —John Burnside, The Times (London)
“Lasdun has a Nabokovian eye. Few exponents of the short form offer such tempting, disturbing pleasures . . . It’s Beginning to Hurt is . . . a superlative collection, exhibiting all of Lasdun’s familiar talents and a few new ones into the bargain.” —Richard T. Kelly, Financial Times
“A gem . . . James Lasdun writes the best sort of English prose.” —Colin Greenland, The Guardian
“A story master.” —Tim Adams, The Observer (London)
“[Lasdun] create[s] a world of objects and feelings that are rich, recognisable and yet elusive . . . His prose [here] is marked by a ?ne, thoughtful, humane exactness . . . Lasdun uses his dramatic skill to show the most subtle and delicate movements between poles of feeling.” —Tom Deveson, The Sunday Times (London)
“[A] marvelous, masterful collection.” —Lizzie Skurnick, Los Angeles Times
“Like such masters of dark literature as Edgar Allan Poe and Franz Kafka, Lasdun limns the deep cracks in the soul even as his tales are enlivened by his gift for insight and ear for language. His stories are a fury of elements: skilled dramatic monologues; sketches of fraught emotional states . . . [which] are shot through with crafted verse . . . Masterful.” —Susan Comninos, The Miami Herald
“There is much to admire in Lasdun's stories, not least the astonishing beauty and precision of his imagery. In a few perfectly chosen words, Lasdun can distill a character's essence and bring him to life.” —David Bezmozgis, author of Natasha
“[This] stellar collection combines a sharp eye for detail, subtle character development and virtuosic command of narrative voice . . . [It’s Beginning to Hurt] merits comparison with the understated artistry of William Trevor or Graham Swift.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“As he proved with Seven Lies, Lasdun is an elegant and incisive student of the human mind—an author who can register exactly when, for a character, ‘it’s beginning to hurt.’ This remarkable collection shows what happens when we break through the gauze of everydayness and existential panic hits . . . Affecting, yes; sentimental, no. Hard-edged truths about our predicament poke through this work, which is highly recommended.” —Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal (starred review)
“This accomplished poet, novelist, and story writer’s collection packs a devastating punch. Lasdun peels back the facades of middle-aged, middle-class types through their run-ins with cancer, infidelity and loss that lead them to deal with unexpectedly large and often ugly recognitions . . . Jewels of resignation and transformative personal disaster, these stories are written so simply and cleanly that the formidable craft looks effortless.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)