(CLASSIC: from First Love and Other Novellas, Penguin Modern Classics)
Samuel Beckett’s ‘First Love’ (1945) marks a turning-point in his work: the moment he was able, by writing in French, to shake off the influence of Joyce and create something uniquely Beckettian. (The narrator here only ‘loves’ in order to secure a room in which to do nothing.) Darkly funny, with musical cadences that have been much imitated but never matched, ‘First Love’ is worth reading comparatively, in the French original and in Beckett’s own, English translation. He was a talented author in the first language but a genius in the second.
(MODERN: from In-Flight Entertainment, Vintage).
Helen Simpson is one of the best living exponents of the short story. Each of her collections is worth owning; but I recommend ‘The Tipping Point’ because, quite simply, it takes the most effective approach I’ve yet encountered in the form to the psychological and moral enormity of climate change. It has pulse, a compelling voice, and its massive scope is bound within an intimate drama.
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