Tales of Art, Love and Drink as Poets Turn to Prose
Royle, Nicholas, The Independent (London, England)
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Two debut collections of short stories by poets: which one profits from diversifying and which is still feeling its way in an unaccustomed form? Sue Hubbard, in fact, is no stranger to fiction, having published a novel highly praised by John Berger. But while Depth of Field was enjoyable for its rich detail and well-turned prose, it would arguably have benefited from a rigorous edit, so perhaps the shorter form would suit. She certainly fashions an arresting opening in which Adam and Maggie gaze at a large magenta Rothko that prompts him to utter a paean to her genitals. But Adam is just the first in a long line of disappointing men blundering naively or selfishly through Hubbard's stories. Inability to commit, unreliability, unfaithfulness - just some of the character faults her protagonists encounter in male partners.
Other recurring motifs are mildewed books and broken frames, silvery stretch marks, women washing under their breasts and their armpits, doing up ruins in Italy. Art links the stories and all the artists invoked are men. Unexpectedly, perhaps, the most powerful results are achieved when Hubbard ventures beyond her middle-class creative types. Janice, the farm worker's abused wife whose knowledge of art is limited to the lid of a biscuit tin, wins our hearts when she starts stockpiling apple chutney in her son's toy cupboard as a hopeful means of escape.
Evidence of the poet's gift for imagery - "the wind snaps at the washing, filling out the drying shirts like the bloated bodies of the drowned" - is in plentiful supply. Of the …
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Publication information: Article title: Tales of Art, Love and Drink as Poets Turn to Prose. Contributors: Royle, Nicholas - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: January 9, 2009. Page number: 34. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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