Lush Library Recommends: Anna James’ Books for 2018
Variations and fugue on the theme of obsession
Vesna Main disturbs our self-image as educated, reasonable and ironic people who read modernist fiction. She disturbs us because we recognise ourselves in her obsessive and bloody-minded characters as they are pushed to the extreme. But they are only too human and seek love, just like us.
This is a collection of twenty short stories of different lengths and written in a variety of styles. Main writes about characters whose passion borders on obsession and who are seeking love and companionship but are doomed to remain alone, with their sense of personal failure as the only company.
‘Vesna Main’s short fictions have all the truly experimental virtues: wit, inventiveness, formal ingenuity, sharp-eared dialogue, thematic range, and marvellous economy of narrative means. A notable first collection.’ —Christopher Norris
‘By turns forthright and uncanny, witty and serious, Vesna Main’s stories interrogate our difficult world. With their cast of prostitutes, prisoners, husbands, wives, exiles, misanthropes and writers, they ask questions about intimacy and love, ageing and death, about solitude and identity and the transformative power of art.’ —Carys Davies
‘In the opening pages of Vesna Main’s short story collection we meet two women – both objects of the male gaze but under very different circumstances. The first story references EastEnders, the second the Salon des Refuses, challenging the reader’s moral perception and demonstrating the nuances of consent. Themes like these emerge throughout the otherwise disconnected 20 stories in the Croatian author’s collection. They are introduced with a quote by Alberto Manguel from his novel All Men Are Liars: “It is strange that no reader ever understood that my only subject is love.” The desire to be loved runs throughout Temptation, but there are no happily-everafters here.’ —Antonia Charlesworth, Big Issue in the North
‘In these beautifully observed stories, Main deftly explores love’s myriad forms.’ —Emily Rhodes, The Spectator
‘Lush Library Recommends: Anna James’ Books for 2018 Another collection of short stories, this one from Croatian writer Main, these look at ideas of loneliness, passion and obsession and the sometimes gray areas between them. In these experimental stories of different lengths and styles, her characters include a prostitute turned murderer, a self-destructive book collection and a perfectionist dinner party hostess.’ —Anna James
‘Main is excellent at building suspense, which is very difficult to achieve effectively in a short story. The successful development and maintenance of suspense is the difference between plucking delicately on a string to set up a subtle, subliminal vibration of psychological discomfort, rather than sawing on it to create a jarring noise which just irritates. Main is a writer who works subliminal for all it’s worth.’ —Elaine Aldred, Strange Alliances
‘Main’s stories are vivid, strange, thrillingly brief and filled with sex, violence and the banal horror of daily life. They are unusual tales filled with often unlikeable characters. Temptation is for you if you like witty, sharp dialogue, experimental modernist fiction and stories which speak to the darkest corner of ourselves.’ —Megan Kenny, Disclaimer Magazine
‘Vesna Main’s novel is inventive, witty, “experimental” in style and structure, but none the less involving and powerful for that. It is written in purely dialogue form and makes a point of leaving its readers with their own share of imaginative work to do. The multiple narratives are ingeniously interwoven and the dialogue handled with a deftness of touch that keeps readers perpetually on their toes. Although she has learned some handy lessons from Nathalie Sarraute and other, mainly French practitioners of the “new novel” Vesna Main here shows herself a highly distinctive, adventurous, and formally accomplished writer whose work should find many admirers.’ —Chris Norris
‘The Reader, the Writer is a dialogue novel, a rare species which has roots in Plato’s , and has since been adopted by a small number of writers from Diderot through to Dave Eggers. Its format is well suited to the discussion of ideas in depth. The Reader, the Writer is a pure example: there is only dialogue, without scene-setting, introduction to protagonists, description or exposition. It addresses a problem seldom spoken of, but surely not uncommon in our sexually open society.’ —Mike Gordon