07 February 2010

Anthropology and a Hundred Other Stories (Dan Rhodes)

My day was highly enjoyable. I made my way to Chalk Farm and walked the five minutes to Primrose Hill under a sky that was depressingly overcast, even for England. I had a coffee at the patisserie there, which was, actually, quite disgusting. (You can see how good the rest of my day must have been if this is how it started).

I then made my way to Primrose Hill Books. This is the only bookshop to rival Hatchards in London I believe. And it is TINY. Ridiculously small. But the stock is chosen with a great deal of care and attention and it shows. There is not really any crap in there at all. And because of their lack of space, the staff are forced to pile all the books on top of each other. Unless you are committed to digging into piles, you'll miss most of the titles.


Then I had lunch in the awesome Russian tea house there (the latkes are sublime) and a simply gorgeous elderly man leant across from the next table and struck up a conversation with me about Nick Hornby (I was finishing off Juliet,Naked). He turned out to be a very esoteric and surreal conversationalist so that was highly enjoyable. The dialogue swooped from Hornby to Pepys to apple crumble with alarming speed and before I knew it we had nudged our tables together and were sharing a pot of honey tea. I would feel chuffed that I had made a new friend, but it was so exhausting I don't know if I shall instigate any further correspondence.

One of the books I purchased was Dan Rhodes' Anthropology. It is a selection of 101 extremely short stories (each only about a paragraph long) and it is a very funny, (if bittersweet and slightly twisted) comment on love. In Rhodes' stories the women hold all the power and the poor, hapless man in each story is moved to great joy or despair depending on the seemingly vacuous whims of the fairer sex.

My two favourite stories are 'Sailing' and 'Words' and I will risk copyright infringement to share them with you here:

My girlfriend cannot play the guitar. She strums slowly, erratically and woefully out of time. She sucks her lips in concentration, and sometimes stalls for as many as fifteen seconds between chord changes. When she stops playing, her eyes are bright with anticipation. 'OK. What was that?'
'I'm not sure. Was it "Moon River"?'
'No.' She looks disappointed. 'It was "We Are Sailing". You know, by Paul McCartney.' She starts another, and I know I won't be able to identify it, no matter how hard I try. This has been going on for seven perfect years. I hope she never learns.
I fell in love the moment I saw her in her grandfather's kitchen, her dark curls crashing over her Portuguese shoulders. 'Would you like to drink coffee?' she smiled.
'I'm really not that thirsty.'
'What? What you say?' Her English wasn't too good. Now I'm seventy-three and she's just turned seventy. 'Would you like to drink coffee?' she asked me today, smiling.
'I'm really not that thirsty.'
'What? What you say?' Neither of us has the gift of language acquisition. After fifty years of marriage we have never really spoken, but we love each other more than words can say.
Rating: 8/10.
Search Engine Submission - AddMe