As our wedding day approached, I became increasingly unsure about the idea of spending the rest of my life with my fiancée. I started to think quite seriously about calling everything off. As I was explaining this to my friend Demetrio, news came through that she had been horribly mauled by an escaped tiger. I rushed to the hospital and found her lying there, eyes peeping through a gap in her bandages. I knew then that I had to tell her about my misgivings.
Why I read it
I came across the predecessor to this book, Anthropology, a few years ago in Berkelouw Books in Paddington. It was the first time I’d been there, and I was a bit high on the experience in the way good bookshops can cause. There were all these wooden shelves with beautiful new editions, comforting and full of possibility, and soft warm lighting was an antidote to the winter evening chill outside, and absolutely everything on display looked brilliant and interesting. Then I flipped open Anthropology and realised after reading the first, page-long story, that I had found a new favourite author.
Since then, I’ve loaned my copy out to so many people I’m not even sure it’s even on my shelf as we speak. I’ve made stop motion adaptations of the stories for fun, tried to emulate his style, occasionally referred to J as ‘boyfriend features’, and just enjoyed rereading the stories again and again. I liked his other stuff too, but this remains my favourite one of his books.
I came across Marry Me in a local bookshop two days ago. Excitement; transaction; ownership.
‘Marry Me’ procedural notes
If the first person you are going to wave this book at excitedly is a friend of the opposite sex, just make sure, you know, there’s no possibility for misapprehension. Preface things with something like, ‘You know Dan Rhodes? Turns out he’s got a new sequel to those flash-fiction stories on dating. Now that he’s married, the new one is about weddings.’ And then whip it out of your bag to show it off. May prevent lingering, unspoken awkwardness. Or unplanned betrothal.
What it’s about
This is a collection of short, short stories about proposals, weddings, marriage and divorce. No story is longer than a page and a half. They’re all told in an unadorned male narrative voice. Most use humour, exaggeration or unexpected twists.
They can go from zero to heartbreaking in four paragraphs (‘News’) or deliver a knock-out comic punch from absolutely nowhere (‘News II’). Some stories are riffs off one idea (‘Science’) and others turn a sad situation into dark comedy in the space of four final words (‘Stick’). One delivers set-up, twist and tension in just four lines (‘Fate’). ‘News II’, the final story, made me chuckle out loud on a train, and then pass it to J who roared with laughter.
You can read some of the stories on this blog.
Why I love it
These stories are my kind of poetry. They are clever, witty and poignant, and are delivered as straightforwardly as possible. There’s no need for flowery adjectives and adverbs. They are hugely imaginative and well crafted, and I like them a lot.
Anthropology is probably still my favourite of the two, though.