Something Like Happy. by John Burnside
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In these remarkable stories, John Burnside takes us into the lives of men and women trapped in marriage, ensnared by drink, diminished by disappointment; all kinds of women, all kinds of men - lonely, unfaithful, dying - driving empty roads at night. These are people for whom the idea of 'home' has become increasingly intangible, hard to believe - and happiness, or grace, or freedom, all now seem to belong in some kind of dream, or a fable they might have read in a children's picture book. As he says in one story, 'All a man has is his work and his sense of himself, all the secret life he holds inside that nobody else can know.' But in each of these normal, damaged lives, we are shown something extraordinary: a dogged belief in some kind of hope or beauty that flies in the face of all reason and is, as a result, both transfiguring and heart-rending. John Burnside is unique in contemporary British letters: he is one of our best living poets, but he is also a thrillingly talented writer of fiction. These exquisitely written pieces, each weighted so perfectly, opens up the whole wound of a life in one moment - and each of these twelve short stories carries the freight and density of a great novel. Scottish Book of the Year 2013.
The truth is, I cultivated the mystery between us: I made it happen, with all kinds of slight yet deliberate ruses and tricks. I was quiet. I was unforthcoming. I was also away much of the time and, when I was home, I moved silently around the house as if I were a ghost, or a servant, taking care of things, making sure she had everything she might need, leaving little gifts where she could find them, knick-knacks and curiosities from my travels, lavishly wrapped boxes of the chocolates I knew she
Amanda looked away. She didn’t want to hear that laugh, or see him like that, with a girl he liked, among friends, celebrating the end of exams. Now and then, she would imagine him drinking, or at a party, she would even imagine him out with friends, but those others were never very clearly defined. They were amorphous, anonymous, the merest background to the leading actor in her fantasy. Not that she fantasised often; that wasn’t the point of this ritual. It wasn’t about the boys; it was about
he would ever come home and find someone he cared for, but no longer loved, asleep in an armchair. It was a tender thought, I suppose, but it wasn’t sad, or sentimental, and it didn’t have anything to do with death. It was just a notion, passing through my mind, while I waited for the kettle to stop whistling. Only it didn’t stop and, after a while, I walked back inside and turned off the gas myself. At exactly the same moment, Sall came through, her eyes bleary, an odd, faraway look on her
anything to do with this side of the business – it was all managed by the agency now – she stayed sober through the long afternoon, at least until Beppe’s van brought the new arrivals in from the station at Salerno. There was really no reason to interrupt her normal routine, but every time a fresh set of tourists checked in, she sat waiting on her little patio, screened off from the main courtyard behind a stand of oleanders, in the hope that, this time, there would be a boy she could play with.
Group Limited can be found at: www.randomhouse.co.uk/offices.htm The Random House Group Limited Reg. No. 954009 A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN: 9780224097031