Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Saturday, October 6, 2012

"I Arrive First" by Emma Jane Unsworth

"I Arrive First" by Emma Jane Unsworth (2011)

I have recently begun to read through The Best British Short Stories 2012.  There are twenty stories in the collection, edited by Nicholas Royle.  I plan to read all the stories in the collection and post on some of them.   (Not posting on a story is not always a sign I did not like it that much, though it might be, it just is a question of time as it takes me just as long to write a post on a short story as it might to read one!)   I will keep a tab of my "fab five" (in no order), just for the fun of it.  I also have two anthologies of best  American short stories and  Best British Short Stories 2011 and I think  I will stage a transatlantic battle.   (So far the UK stories are a good bit better but I am just getting started.)

Top Five (in random order) Reading Life Best of British Short Stories for 2012-
1.  "iAnna" by Will Self
2. "The Heart of Dennis Noble" by Alison Macleod"
3.  "I Arrive First" by  Emma Jane Unsworth
more to come (I hope!)

Bio from the blog of the author

My name is Emma Jane Unsworth and I live in Manchester, England. My short fiction has been published in various places including The Best British Short Stories 2012 (Salt). I am a columnist for The Big Issue in the North.
My first novel Hungry, the Stars and Everything was published by The Hidden Gem Press in 2011 and won a Betty Trask Award.

"I Arrive First" is a romance fantasy for library lovers.  Reading this story once again made me thing of the great hole in the culture of the giant megacity of 20 million I live in brought about by the lack of public libraries.   One thing libraries are said to be is a very good, hopefully safe for book lovers, often typed cast as shy and romantically backward to meet each other.  This is sort of what Unsworth brilliant and heartwarming story is about.  But it is much more than that, it is about the closing of a loved library and about a life imagined or projected through the titles of books and their beloved content.  I will tell just a bit of the plot of this marvelous totally enjoyable story as I do not want to spoil it for potential readers.  

A young, perhaps college age woman and man have been making eye contact for a good while in a library.  They each feel a strong attraction, or at least the woman narrator of the story feels it is mutual.   They communicate through leaving a carefully selected book title, on a table in the library, that is meant to express their as yet unspoken feelings for each other.   This has been going on for a month now.    She first noticed the man when he was sitting at his library table and he left, facing away from him so others could see it, a copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude.   She sees this as an obvious cry for help.  As I read the story I began to wonder how much of this byplay in real and how much the fantasy of the young woman.  She tells the man her name without speaking to him by making sure he sees a copy of Rebecca.  She is in a state of panic as the library will be closed soon and she wants to make real life, or does she, contact with the man.  She sees him what a copy of After You'd Gone and sees it as direct message from him.  They go back and forth with book titles, maybe the man is also interested.   The interaction goes on and on, fired up by the closing of the library.   I will leave the rest of the story untold so as not to spoil it for potential readers.

"I Arrive First" is a very smart story, it leaves you wondering if this is just the woman's projections or if it is real.  It is also an account of how any communication from a possible lover is fraught with meaning.  Anyone who has ever fancied a stranger in a library will relate to this story well.  I greatly enjoyed read this wonderful story and hope to read more of the work of Unworth one day.

You can learn more about her work from her blog, fall and fall again.

I owe my thanks to Max u for giving me an Amazon gift card that made reading and posting on this story possible.

Mel u
The Reading Life

1 comment:

Nancy said...

I love libraries! I borrow books from the school almost every other weekend. So I think I will love this story. Looking forward to reading this. :)