Elevate Difference

It's Beginning to Hurt

As the title of It’s Beginning to Hurt suggests, one may expect this book to be a compilation of short stories filled with love, despair, loss, and anguish that reach into the profound depths of unimaginable hurt—and it is. James Lasdun writes his stories without embellishment, and intricately examines life in its most mundane form.

Lasdun’s stories run along a similar thread of exploring the human condition through everyday thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that overwhelm all of us without giving into hype or dramatic overtones. Instead, he concentrates his work on creating realistic worlds that are as simple as making a cup of coffee or taking a swim. Each character he introduces experiences the world in a different, personal way. In a similar vein, each character suffers from her or his inaction. Lasdun's stories take on a feeling of paused lives; any motion is somehow slowed or suspended to the point that the characters’ worlds do not change much at all.

Throughout It’s Beginning to Hurt__, Lasdun endeavors to downplay the difficulties the characters face in their worlds. The stories do not grapple with conflicts in order to reach a resolution. Instead, most of the stories come back to beginning without much, or any, movement. In “The Anxious Man,” the narrator is a neurotic, middle-aged man on the verge on having a fling with his neighbor. He is a good husband and father, but frustratingly weak. I easily became impatient when characters conformed, remained static to a fault, and avoided conflict at any cost. Their resistance to act resulting in the creation of more problems down the road.

Two stories worth noting that depart from this mode are “Caterpillars” and “Cranley Mellows.” They involve more direction and incite a more intense emotional reaction. Their twist of fate upon the characters’ actions is both appalling and genuinely unfathomable. Unfortunately, these two stories do not capture the gamut of Lasdun’s writing talent.

Written by: Mona Lisa Safai, October 16th 2009