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The Quivering Pen: "simple, direct, furnace-hot."

Date: Jun 14 2014

If you only know Jane Gardam as the novelist behind the Old Filth trilogy, then you're in for a treat with this collection which brings together short work from throughout her long career. Her previous short story collections include The Pangs of Love, Going Into a Dark House and Missing the Midnight. Weighing in at nearly 500 pages, The Stories of Jane Gardam gathers 28 of her best stories published between 1977 and 2007 in one volume. "Old Filth" is here, too--a story published in 1996, eight years before the novel appeared on our shelves. It begins with a wickedly delicious paragraph echoed in the novel:

Old Filth had been a delightful man. The occasional kink, but a delightful man. A self-mocking man. The name had been his own invention, a joke against himself: a well-worn joke now but he had been the one to think of it first. "Failed In London Try Hong Kong." Good old legal joke.

In her introduction to this collection, Gardam cites James Joyce's Dubliners as a primary influence on her writing: "[He] showed me how...short stories can have the power to burn up the chaff, harden the steel without comment or embellishment or explanation." That's Gardam in a nutshell: simple, direct, furnace-hot.