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Hey Yeah Right Get a Life by Helen Simpson
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Hey Yeah Right Get a Life

by Helen Simpson

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Here is upper-middle-class London and the people who populate it. The women in these stories struggle with decisions in marriage, parenting, and life. Sometimes I felt that enough was enough, but then a story would pop up which put me back on the reading path.

That story was Wurstigkeit. This translates somewhat to English as a couldn't-care-less attitude. What the story really focuses on is shopping or the 'sausageness' of shopping. As the stories in this book weave their way around the loss of each woman's soul, the 'sausage' story becomes the fulcrum of the book. Looking at today's society, where females gain their most power spending money they don't necessarily have, this wonderful little story taps into the lost lives which revolve around clothes stores so exclusive you must know the password to get inside.

I felt this volume was a nice change of pace vis-a-vis short stories in general, as the characters are women and quite magpie-ish. It was a good read and has earned a hard won spot on the bookshelf.

Book Season = Autumn

( )
  Gold_Gato | Sep 16, 2013 |
Going into this, I was fairly sure it wasn't exactly my style, but I always love a set of short stories, no matter how atrocious. As I began to get into the lives of the many intertwining characters, something clicked. This book made me afraid to have children, but I think that was part of the point. ( )
  cinesnail88 | Dec 23, 2007 |
Saturday June 30, 2001
The Guardian

Hey Yeah Right Get a Life
Helen Simpson
(Vintage, £6.99)

A short book, this collection of stories: 179 pages. If you're a mother bringing up two or more small children, you should easily finish it by the end of the decade.

For this is Simpson's subject, as memory was for Proust or Dublin for Joyce: small children, and how they cut into your time, your reserves of strength. Those who think this is a trivial subject are mistaken. Even yours truly, the most insensitive of men, who only does a tithe of the child-rearing, realises it is important.

Then again, the children in Simpson's stories do seem to be uniquely demanding, liable to make even the most tender readers re-evaluate their positions on ad hoc corporal punishment, aka the slap on the arse. In one painfully hilarious story, "Café Society", two mothers meet for a chat. "Both women hope to talk, for their minds to meet; at the same time they are aware that the odds against this happening are about fifty to one." The long odds are down to one mother's "bright-eyed child", Ben.
"Ben rocks backwards in his chair a few times, seeing how far he can go. He is making a resonant zooming noise behind his teeth, but not very loudly yet." (I trust no one missed that beautifully placed "yet".) "An elderly woman pauses as she edges past their table on the way to the till. She cocks her head on one side and smiles brightly at Ben, whose mouth drops open. He stares at her, transfixed, with the expression of a seraph who has understood the mystery of the sixth pair of wings. His mother Sally knows that he is in fact temporarily dumbstruck by the woman's tremendous wart, which sits at the corner of her mouth with several black hairs sprouting from it... Surely he does not know the word for wart yet."

In other stories women are similarly crushed, stupefied, incapable of answering the simplest question because they have been woken, as the Geneva Convention says they must not be, several times during the night. This is one woman's answer to the question "Do you work then?"

"Yes. No. I shouldn't be here! You know, round the edges at the moment. I mean, I must. I have. Always. Unthinkable! But, erm. You know. Freelance at the moment." You have to laugh, for otherwise you would have to cry. It really is like that. One looks for consolations beyond the purely animal pleasure of holding one's own child close, but there are none. Happiness writes white in that regard. Even the career mothers - those more intelligent than their husbands, who fail to see the wisdom in studying law for years and then throwing it away to become a "mum" - still exist in a whirl of anxiety about nannies, childminders, schools, violin lessons. Big deal, you might say, but anxiety fills the space available for it. Simpson's characters exist in a state of almost supersonic stress and irritation, which is a bad place to be in the real world but a great place for comic writing. And this is first-rate comic writing, particularly in the way that the comedy, grim though it may be, comes from noticing life and not from describing it facetiously. Her prose is exact, faultless.

It's the kind of book you hope someone else reads: someone with some clout in social policy, and with the kind of vision to be able to prevent a generation going rancid with guilt or self-loathing. And I wonder how many childless people who read this book will go off and get themselves sterilised, just in case. ( )
  markajudd | Apr 29, 2007 |
Simpson's short stories capture not only the day to day existence of mothers, children, and families but also most importantly the varied emotions that are coloring those days. Although I liked Perotta's Little Children I thought Simpson's book was a deeper analysis and presentation of what it is like to be a mother. ( )
  tshoaps | Nov 24, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375724974, Paperback)

Hilarious, dark, and thoroughly entertaining, Getting a Life proves Helen Simpson to be one of the finest observers of women on the edge. Set in and around contemporary London, these nine stories explore both the blisses and irritations of domestic life.
An ambitious teenager vows never to settle for any of the adult lives she sees around her. Two old friends get tipsy at a small cafe and end up revealing more than they intended. In a boutique so exclusive that entrance requires a password, a frazzled careerwoman explores the anesthetizing effect of highly impractical clothing. And in the mesmerizing title story, a mother of three takes life one day at a time, while pushing the ominous question of whether she wants to firmly to one side.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:54:27 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Ten linked stories which display a multiplicity of London life glimpsed from buses, trains and the occasional taxi, with the Thames as a diamond-dusted ribbon seen from an aeroplane coming into Heathrow.

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