Review of M. John Harrison, “Cicisbeo”, in Settling the World: Selected Stories 1970-2020, with a foreword by Jennifer Hodgson (Comma Press, 2020): 243-256. — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)
Harrison is so good at giving us intimate pictures of complete strangers. While some of his stories feel like the narrator is intrusively observing someone else’s life, in this story, it feels like we the reader are the ones intruding. The experience of the reading is somewhat uncomfortably voyeuristic, but I at least couldn’t stop “watching” the unfolding relationship car crash, because there kept being hints of something more, something deeper, something fantastic — and when the reveal finally came in the very last paragraphs, it was worth it.
(It was also worth it just to learn the meaning of the title word, a word I hadn’t come across before. Hurrah for vocabulary expansion!)
(First published in Independent on Sunday, 2003).