Book Review: “A Selfie As Big As The Ritz” by Lara Williams

A Selfie As Big As The Ritz by Lara Williams

This collection of (very) short stories tells of life in Williams’ Manchester (just released in the US this fall). The stories are about relationships and mostly break ups, unhappiness, sadness, depression, death, and many other unpleasantries. Altogether, it is G-R-I-M, grim.

Williams style is intentionally compressed, squeezing a lot of personal history into f few pages. It is rather lossy compression, and the stories are ambiguous and sketchy, leaving much to the inference of the reader. In many cases, I didn’t really know what had happened or was happening, or whether the events were past, present, or fantasy.

The stories are about relationships, especially in the life a young woman with a Masters in writing living in Manchester. “Write what you know”, I guess.

Any one of her stories is a little puzzle to work out. But taken together as a collection, it’s really awful to read dozens of permutations of unhappy, lonely people.

The stories are mostly about breakups and disappointments. When there are happy moments or relationships, they are rapidly ended, sometimes before they can even start.

I couldn’t really understand the protagonists, let alone identify with them. It’s not that they can’t find happiness, they seem to want to be unhappy. They push away good things, sometimes for no reason I can discern.

If this is a slice or life or, heaven help her, autobiographical, it’s outside my own experience. If these are metaphors or messages, I haven’t a clue what she is trying to tell me. If this is supposed to be theraputic or to help people, please tell me how it is supposed to do any good.

Williams writes reasonably well, but these stories (especially collected in a mass) are unpleasant to read. I’m left wonder why anyone would be writing such depressing stories.


  1. Lara Williams, A Selfie As Big As The Ritz, London, Penguin, 2016.

 

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