The stories in Black Vodka, by acclaimed author Deborah Levy, are perfectly formed worlds unto themselves, written in elegant yet economical prose. She is a master of the short story, exploring loneliness and belonging; violence and tenderness; the ephemeral and the solid; the grotesque and the beautiful; love and infidelity; and fluid identities national, cultural, and personal.
In "Shining a Light," a woman's lost luggage is juxtaposed with far more serious losses. An icy woman seduces a broken man in "Vienna," and a man's empathy threatens to destroy him in "Stardust Nation." "Cave Girl" features a girl who wants to be a different kind of woman-she succeeds in a shocking way. A deformed man seeks beauty amid his angst in the title story.
These are twenty-first century lives dissected with razor-sharp humor and curiosity. Published simultaneously with Things I Don't Want to Know: On Writing, Levy's stories will send you tumbling into a rabbit hole, and you won't be able to scramble out until long after you've turned the last page.
"Deborah Levy showed she is a top-hitting novelist with a Man Booker Prize shortlist place for Swimming Home. Can she conquer the genre which demands she fashion perfect jewels? . . . Yes, Levy can do macro- and microcosm. These tales of unconventional love reinforce her reputation as a major contemporary writer who never pulls her punches." -The Independent
Levy, author of the Booker-shortlisted Swimming Home, proves with this collection that her precision and unusual imagination are well suited to the short story form. The 10 spare stories included here explore the desire for a change in identity, in oneself and in others. In "Cave Girl," the narrator's sister undergoes what she refers to as a sex change, but instead of being surgically transformed into a man, she merely receives a cosmetic makeover to become "another kind of woman" one who is more overtly feminine. In "Stardust Nation," one man appropriates another's memory of childhood trauma. Frequently, both personal and national identities are in play, as in "Vienna," where a man dubs his aloof lover "middle Europe," or when, in "Shining a Light," a British woman, separated from her luggage in Prague, is adopted by an amiable group of Serbian expats. In the particularly strong title story, an ad executive with a hunchback perceptively notes that his date, an archaeologist, is more interested in him as a specimen than as a lover. The closing story, "A Better Way to Live," offers a sense of hope after the downbeat preceding entries, as two people, both orphaned as children, find a new home with each other. Levy's talent is evident throughout though the stories themselves can be unsettling, their evocative language invites the reader to settle in.