The cad with the turquoise eyes
Clare Boylan's short stories are sharp, witty and irrestistibly brilliant about men. ; That Bad Woman by Clare Boylan Little, Brown, pounds 13.99
Saturday 05 August 1995
In her latest collection, That Bad Woman, Clare Boylan scores every one a winner - almost. The three exceptions out of a total of 15 stand out all the more precisely because the other 12 are so good. One of the duds is a thinly-disguised and feeble piss-take of Barbara Cartland, which makes one nearly sorry for the "daft old bat", an achievement indeed. A ruthless hackette goes to interview "Arabella Cartwheel" with the sole intention of "climbing so far up her nose that the old lady would tell her to ... off." While the whole story strives to be funny, it is just plain silly. This is a pity, because Boylan is actually funny, as she amply proves in the title story, among others.
Where she is not satirising a woman who is surely beyond satire, where she's not having UFOs and children from Mars visiting lonely widows, and where she's not pretending to be Charlotte Bronte in "The Secret Diary of Mrs Rochester", Boylan is sharp, and witty, and irresistibly brilliant about men. A second husband in one story takes his beautiful young wife in his arms when she tells him she's "late". "This is hell, he thought," but then, "There was a fainting stirring of optimism. They had been given a remission: nine months' worry-free fucking."
Elsewhere, the young lover of an older, married woman called Camilla manages "to suck all the steel out of her body and leave behind only accessible flesh. Employing his array of compliments he had filleted her." It is this same turquoise-eyed lover who later declares, "Darling, I've never felt this way before." Talking about marriage, he is "transformed by tenderness." We feel Camilla at this moment is herself transformed by the excitement of illicit anticipation. "Congratulate me, darling," he then adds. "Her name is Heather." It is a wonderfully excruciating moment, compounded by the despicable explanation of his which follows. " 'I picked you with great care,' he exulted. 'It had to be someone whose life was totally fulfilled. Otherwise I would have felt a shit.' "
And you want to exclaim, yes, this is what Boylan's about, this is her strength, for it is only a brave, courageous, and perceptive writer who can pull this off, this character, this moment. In lesser hands, it would be completely implausible. Male readers would scoff that no man would behave like that; even female ones might wonder if shits can really be that callous. But Boylan makes you so sure of it, you think, indeed they can; indeed, in real life, they so often do.
It is to be hoped that men will read and appreciate this collection as much as women will surely do. It is also to be hoped that they enjoy Boylan's clever observations of women and men alike, from the childless lady who steals a baby from outside a supermarket, (Boylan is excellent on the scratchy suspicion and tacit competition between women who have children and those who don't); to the old comedian who vaguely battles with his conscience when a plain Lolita figure attaches herself to him because she wants to get into show business. Male readers might even, unlike me, relish the UFOs.
elephant appealThe first 23 lots in our charity auction have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
The magicians using online collaboration to push boundaries
lifeIt takes year-long dedication to get Selfridges ready for 25 December. And they're already working on plans for 2015...
Jennifer Lawrence attacks mass media again over body image
Arts & Ents blogs
Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber announces he's 'retiring from music'
Coriolanus, theatre review: 'Tom Hiddleston has blazing stellar power'
Nymphomaniac, film review: 'Despite the surreal sex scenes this is a serious drama'
A special delivery: Behind the scenes on the set of 'Call the Midwife'
Justin Bieber's mishaps and controversies
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
You can STILL be jailed for being a republican, government confirms, and it remains illegal to even 'imagine' overthrowing the Queen
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Fighting back: the woman giving a voice (and 49,999 others) to the victims of sexism - by giving an airing to their horror stories
PM denies two child limit for benefits is part of Tory welfare policy
Ethan Couch: Texas quadruple murderer – or a victim of ‘affluenza’?
- 1 America's 'virgin births'? One in 200 mothers 'became pregnant without having sex'
- 2 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 3 Ian Watkins: Police forces probed over earlier allegations as paedophile Lostprophets singer sentenced to 35 years for child sex offences
- 4 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber announces he's 'retiring from music'
- 5 Children evacuated from swimming pool after prosthetic leg mistaken for paedophile
- < Previous
- Next >