James Lasdun - It's Beginning to Hurt (3 stars)

James Lasdun - It's Beginning to Hurt

(Jonathan Cape)


A child is thought kidnapped only to be found playing nearby. A middle-aged man flirts with infidelity only to be consumed by guilt. An unfaithful husband is reprimanded by his wife but only about forgotten groceries. James Lasdun, poet, novelist, short story writer and Englishman turned American émigré, offers up permutations of suppressed inner turmoil in this short story collection.

The danger inherent in every day life is the recurring theme, which is treated with a restraint that only heightens the tension. ‘An Anxious Man’ (which won the inaugural National Short Story competition) hints at divergent choices smothered by ennui and hesitation, resulting in a return to the status quo. This is the formula for most of his vignettes. On occasion, such as the supernatural intrigue of ‘Annals of the Honorary Secretary’, the dark depravities hinted at break through, but as a whole, the lack of release to all the tension makes for a frustrating experience.

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