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Little Black Book of Stories by A. S. Byatt

Little Black Book of Stories (2003)

by A. S. Byatt

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8572615,618 (3.74)38
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    Elegy for Iris by John Bayley (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: The behaviour of the sufferer from Alzheimer's in "The Pink Ribbon" resembles that of Iris Murdoch as recounted by Jon Bayley.

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Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
The human world of stones is caught in organic metaphors like flies in amber. Words came from flesh and hair and plants.

A collection of slightly stories which appear to announce in all-caps, IF I CARED MORE I WOULD PLAGIARIZE. Yet it doesn't. I am not sure about our own state either. Byatt is always will suited for the epic scale (As long as she avoids Babel) but the shorter pieces appear to stumble.

The Blitz features a few times here, as do geriatric concerns, obstetrics and gynecology. There's a fallen Creative Writing teacher and a woman becoming mineral--albeit with poetic panache. The arc is situated to inspire the broken logic of the nightmare but I feel Angela Carter has a better handle on such. There has been a theme in reviews regarding the characterization of a black book of stories. I offer no insights. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
These are good stories, masterly written, thoughtful and very moving. They are also somewhat contrived and lacklustre from time to time. The first story stands out. If I had had this knowledge beforehand, and the book in my hands in the bookshop, I'd have put it back on the shelf and look for "The Thing in the Forest" in the New Yorker Fiction archive.

Gentle reader! If you think that I should still read the popular work of A.S.Byatt which is, incidentally, in my possession, give me a buzz. Otherwise I might give it to the poor. ( )
  alik-fuchs | Apr 27, 2018 |
This is a collection of five stories that are supposed to be inspired by fairy tales. There were two in this collection I really enjoyed. “The Thing in the Forest” did an amazing job of blending history and fantasy and I love how is spanned so much time and told such a broad story. “A Stone Woman” was incredibly creative and I loved the imagery in this story; it was just beautiful.

The other three stories had some irony to them, but they were a bit to stridant for my taste. They kind of beat you over the head with their social commentary and principles and I really didn’t enjoy them as much. You can see below for short reviews of each story.

Overall this was a unique collection of stories. The writing style has a high literature feel to it and is very beautiful. These are stories you need to read slowly and savor; they don’t make for quick reads. I would recommend to those who are interesting in literature that has both a feminist and fairy tale feel to it. I think fans of Angela Carter would enjoy this book as well.

“The Thing In The Forest” (5/5 stars)
I really loved a lot of elements in this story. The writing was beautifully descriptive. I loved the blending of history and fairy tale. This was about two young girls sent off to a country plantation during the London bombings. While there, they see something truly disturbing and of a monstrous variety. This sighting effects both girls in very different ways as they grow into women, but the effect on them both is profound. I love how much story was in this 50 page short story, and how it spanned so much time and was so complete.

“Body Art” (3/5 stars)
This was an interesting story about a young woman artist who comes in to decorate a OB/Gyn ward at the request of the lead Ob/Gyn doctor there. Additionally there is a collection of strange antiquated medical objects that need to be catalogued and displayed somehow. The doctor gets very involved with the artist and her painful past, but he takes objection when she comes up with a creative way to display the medical objects. This was a bit of an odd read; there are some interesting statements on women’s rights, motherhood, and feminine pain throughout. However I didn’t like this as much as the first story.

“A Stone Woman” (5/5 stars)
I loved this story about a woman who slowly turns to precious gemstones. It was a beautiful story; very intriguing and creative. I love how she meets a stonemaker that takes her to Iceland where a stone woman can truly belong. I also really enjoyed the descriptions of Iceland itself, I have always wanted to travel there.

“Raw Material” (3/5 stars)
This was about a man who teaches a creative writing class and his obsession with the writing of an old woman who takes his class. I actually really enjoyed the stories the old woman wrote but the rest of the story was just kind of blah. I kept feeling like I was missing something at the end of this story and I reread it a few times but still don’t get it.

“The Pink Ribbon” (3/5 stars)
This was a story about a man who is taking care of his mentally disabled wife. We get some insight into how she ended up mentally disabled. There is a little twist at the end that I thought was actually a bit silly. This wasn’t my favorite of the bunch and actually took me a long time to read. ( )
  krau0098 | Feb 3, 2018 |
On the whole and as individual stories, very intriguing. I like Byatt's style and imagination and found it lead to intense moments that usually end up being the indelible breath of such things. For example, the first story, "The Thing in the Forest," takes a historical theme (children being sent out of London on trains during WWII) and adds literary elements that are very campfire-familiar (two kids in the woods end up seeing something that shapes their lives and relationship) to create an intense story that's on par with the original fairy tales that haven't had all the gore and gray sucked out of them for mass consumption. It ends in a way that leaves a tangible sensation hanging in the air and your brain humming. ( )
  lamotamant | Sep 22, 2016 |
I've read several of Byatt's books - mostly because the covers tend to be irresistible. Until now, I've always found them to be good, but not amazing. This slim book of short stories is definitely my favorite of her work that I've read so far - perhaps I should go out of my way to find more of her short work!
Although advertised as 'fairy tales' these works are more 'inspired by' fairy tales than actual fairy tales. Well. Kinda sorta. I would recommend this to people who enjoyed Angela Carter's 'Bloody Chamber.'

The Thing In The Forest
This is a wonderful story. It's also genuinely horrific, creepier and more disturbing than many so-called 'horror' tales. Two little girls, sent away from London during the Blitz (I wonder if anyone's ever done a count of just how many stories feature this plot element), encounter the titular thing. Later, we see how that one day has affected them, even as adults.

Body Art
OK, this story was beautifully written... and obviously, the author was intentionally going for a lot of moral ambiguity here. But I cannot get behind the story's seeming message that if you just force a pregnant woman who is obviously not mentally, emotionally, or financially at a point where she wants to have a child, to give birth, she will fall in love with her baby and everything will work out for the best. OH NO. Still... the art made with the stolen medical/historical stuff? Wow.

A Stone Woman
Here, Byatt takes the common metaphor of being turned to stone, and turns it on its head. Here, turning to stone is not becoming lifeless or numb, but becoming strangely beautiful, oddly more alive, more in tune with the ancient rhythms of the earth.

Raw Material
Byatt's taught writing at some point, hasn't she? She must have. The portrayals of the amateur creative writing students here are hilarious.. and their criticisms of the one possible talented student heartbreaking. The eventual result? Horrifying.

The Pink Ribbon
Another really tragic story, about a man attempting to deal with his wife's Alzheimer's. Very well done, very sad.

( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
It is a delightful collection. It is her sparest, and her richest.... tough and good, stony in all the best ways, vitally not nice. It is her finest collection yet.
added by KayCliff | editThe Guardian, Ali Smith (Dec 6, 2003)
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There were once two little girls who saw, or thought they saw, a thing in a forest.
Every time he forgot a phrase he had once known by heart, singing in the nerves, he felt a brief chill of panic. Is it beginning?
When "this" began, he had known that it required more courage to get up every day, to watch over Mado's wandering mind and shambling body, than anything he, or they, had faced in the past.
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Blending elements of folk tales with the darker elements of everyday life, a collection of short fiction includes the story of two middle-aged women confronting their childhood fears and the tale of a man who encounters the ghost of his living wife.

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