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Formes brèves

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Cécile Meynard
, 
Emmanuel Vernadakis

Quatrième partie : Fragment et inachevé

Fragments and fragmentation in Helen Simpson’s short stories

Laura Torres-Zúñiga

Texte intégral

1Helen Simpson is a rara avis in the British literary world: despite having been included in magazine Granta’s list of the Best Young British Novelists in 1993, her first novel is still to come. She belongs with Canadian Alice Munro and Irishman William Trevor to the select club of short story-only writers,1 and through her short story collections she has demonstrated the potential of the short form for satisfying the most demanding literary aspirations. Short stories have allowed her to express the commonalities, glories, and miseries of contemporary urban life through texts so enriched with wittiness, humour and linguistic adroitness, that she has had no wish – or need – to confront the “big bully”2 of the novel for achieving her poignant portraits of contemporary women.

  • 3 M. L. Pratt, “The Short Story: The Long and the Short of It,” in C. E. May (ed.), The New Short Sto (...)
  • 4 R. M. Luscher, “The Short Story Sequence: An Open Book,” in S. Lohafer and J. E. Clarey (eds.), Sho (...)
  • 5 Loc. cit.
  • 6 E. D’hoker and B. Van Den Bossche, “Cycles, Recueils, Macrotexts. The Short Story Collection in a C (...)

2Simpson’s short stories have a multifaceted relationship with the concept of fragment or fragmentation: due to their generic character, because of their thematic content, and as a result of their narrative style. To begin with, as Mary Louise Pratt has reminded us, short stories are typically presented as portions of a more extensive work, be it a compilation, or maybe a periodical, and this configuration “reinforces the view of the short story as a part or fragment.”3 Thus, although Helen Simpson’s stories are individually self-sufficient, they could be considered as such type of fragments of a larger whole, because it is true that in many of her collections the stories present certain cohesiveness that creates what Robert Luscher calls a “cumulative impact”4 in their individual meaning, so that each story’s meaning is expanded and enriched when they are considered in interrelation to each other. Thus, the use of repeated characters in various stories within the collection Hey Yeah Right Get a Life (2001), the overarching environmental concern that offers thematic background and characterization in In-Flight Entertainment (2010), or the temporal and spatial structures that predominate in the stories of Cockfosters (2015), inspire the reader to read these volumes as an “open book” and “construct a network of associations that binds stories together” while at the same time they retain their full, independent sense.5 Thus, Simpson’s collections take an intermediate position along the “continuum extending between the ‘mere’ collection of loose stories and the integrated form of the novel,”6 with stories that act like fragments of a puzzle that is up to the reader to compose.

  • 7 P. March-Russell, The Short Story: An Introduction, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009, p. (...)
  • 8 H. Simpson, loc. cit.

3Not only in their interconnections as parts of a larger whole, but also as regards their aesthetic intentions can short stories and literary fragments be compared, like Paul March-Russell has done, since both stories and fragments are “prone to snap and to confound readers’ expectations, to delight in [their] own incompleteness, and to resist definition.”7 Helen Simpson herself has celebrated this resistance and highly values the “huge imaginative advantages” of short stories, whose author is “not forced to take a line and then stick to it; your explorations can be genuine. You are not coerced into making judgments,”8 she adds, judgments that may assign a univocal, definitive and complete meaning to the texts.

  • 9 J. Kristeva, “Women’s Time,” trans. A. Jardine and H. Blake, in T. Moi (ed.), The Kristeva Reader, (...)
  • 10 Ibid.
  • 11 H. Simpson, Dear George, London: Minerva, 1996, p. 86.
  • 12 Id., Hey Yeah Right Get a Life, London: Vintage, 2001, p. 37.
  • 13 Ibid., p. 38.

4Thematically speaking, fragmentation does play an important role in one of Simpson’s most distinctive topics: her characterization of contemporary women in their role as mothers and the emotional and physical turmoil that motherhood entails. Many Simpson’s women have experienced what Julia Kristeva denominates “the radical ordeal of the splitting of the subject” that takes place during pregnancy, a watershed of “separation and coexistence of the self and of an other [sic]”9 that challenges identity. Not only do the women’s selves see themselves split with the arrival of the newborn as a new person created within themselves; Simpson’s protagonists experience a psychic and physical fragmentation too when they adopt the role of mothers as contemporary ideas of intensive mothering configure it. So, they find themselves torn apart between their previous own ego/woman self before motherhood, and the need to construct a new mother, “selfless” self. The role of the Mother, with capitals, demands from them an “apprenticeship in attentiveness, gentleness, forgetting oneself,”10 dismissing their previous identities as women. Thus, Frances in the story “Heavy Weather,” in Dear George, shows the early symptoms of experiencing an estrangement from a previous, non-mother self: “She had started using sentences beginning, ‘When I was young.’ Ah, youth! Idleness! Sleep! How pleasant it had been to play the centre of her own stage.”11 In similar terms, Dorrie, the protagonist of “Hey Yeah Right Get a Life,” compares herself to those “free-standing feisty girls who had not yet crossed the ego line” and were “the stars of their own lives,”12 and laments the servility of her new motherly self – or lack thereof: “With tiny children you really have to be so… selfless… In the end you really do lose yourself.”13

  • 14 Id., Dear George, op. cit., p. 81.
  • 15 Id., Hey Yeah Right Get a Life, op. cit., p. 21.
  • 16 Ibid., p. 22.
  • 17 Ibid., p. 41.
  • 18 Ibid., p. 57.
  • 19 Ibid., p. 162.

5Also physically do Simpson’s women feel this fragmentation after their entrance into motherhood. Frances warns her husband: “You should never have married me. […] I’m being mashed up and eaten alive.”14 It is Dorrie, the sacrificial mother in the stories “Hey Yeah Right Get a Life” and “Hurrah for the Hols,” that is the primary example of disintegration of her own body and individuality. After having three children in the space of four years, Dorrie feels “broken […] into little pieces like a biscuit,”15 scattered for everyone to digest but herself. Cannibalistic imagery recurs in the descriptions of her children’s approaches, “shov[ing] and biff[ing] their way into shares of her supine body.”16 This physical dismemberment seems an inevitable consequence for the nourishing maternal body, as “[t]he whole pattern of family life … [is] a seamless cycle of nourishment and devoural. And after all, children are not teeth extracted from you. Perhaps it was necessary to be devoured”17 and “let it gnaw at her entrails like some resident tiger.”18 Dorrie has no other option but to submit to this cannibalistic, fragmenting routine: “Here, have some fingers… Have a leg. Have an ear. Nice?,” she succumbs, while the children play at “sawing at her limbs, tugging her ears, uprooting her fingers and toes.”19

  • 20 J. Lothe, “Aspects of the fragment in Joyce’s Dubliners and Kafka’s The Trial,” in P. Winther, J. L (...)
  • 21 Ibid., p. 99.
  • 22 Ibid., p. 100.

6Besides this consideration of the short story as a piece of a larger whole, and the representation of the emotional and physical fragmentation of women as mothers, it is in Simpson’s narrative style where the use of the fragment becomes more evident. It is precisely that previously mentioned premise of the incompleteness of meaning of the short story – considered not as a shortcoming, but as an invitation to explore its almost inexhaustible hermeneutic potential –, that opens a door to a new reading of some of Simpson’s short stories, just like that Jakob Lothe’s study of the “Aspects of the fragment in Joyce’s Dubliners and Kafka’s The Trial” has offered for these two authors. In the section that Lothe devotes to Joyce’s short stories, he analyzes how in “Eveline” and “The Dead,” Joyce introduced short textual segments – just two repeated words in the former case (“Derevaun Seraun! Derevaun Seraun!”), and three lines of a song in the latter – that can be considered fragments since they constitute “parts broken off or otherwise detached from a whole,”20 and are “at one divorced from and integral to the short story’s narrative discourse.”21 In simpler words, while they are integrated in the larger fictional narrative, these fragments also serve as a kind of comment on it. For example, the incomprehensible words in “Eveline” may represent the voice of the dead, which seems to be what eventually will make the protagonist unable to elope with her fiancé, while at the same time their unintelligibility signals the real impossibility for Eveline – and for us, the readers – to grasp the actual reasons for her remaining in Dublin instead of breaking away. In that way, Lothe affirms, this fragment “accentuates and contextualizes Eveline’s predicament” at the same time.22

  • 23 “Good Friday” appeared in Simpson’s first collection, Four Bare Legs in a Bed (1990), “Last Orders” (...)
  • 24 H. Simpson, In-Flight Entertainment, ibid., p. 113.

7In the case of Helen Simpson’s stories, the insertion of fragments goes hand in hand with her frequent use of intertextual references to authors and literary works of the Renaissance, Restoration and Romantic periods. To mention but a few, we can find more or less direct allusions to John Donne in the story “Good Friday, 1663,” Chidiock Tichborne in “Last Orders,” Robert Burns in “Burns and the Bankers,” and Milton in “The Tipping Point,” as well as a parodic reworking of Marvell’s “To his Coy Mistress” into her story “To her unready boyfriend.”23 In many cases, the intertextuality is clearly manifest through the insertion of quotations from other literary works, so that the introduction of those short passages from centuries ago – incidentally, all written by male authors – creates a stark contrast, first, through the juxtaposition of verses and prose narrative, and also between the mores and societies those writers represent in their work and the reality of Simpson’s contemporary characters. As one of the women in “The Festival of the Immortals” laments: “it’s not in the books we’ve read, is it, how things have been for us.”24 The power of these intertextual fragments to accentuate and contextualize – in Lothe’s terms – the meaning of the larger texts is most evident in two stories that show thematic similarity and open one collection each: “Dear George,” from the homonymous collection from 1995, and “Lentils and lilies” from the collection Hey Yeah Right Get a Life (2000). In these two stories we find two adolescent protagonists, young girls who interlace comments about their English literature homework with ruminations about their puppy loves, their families, and their future. In both cases, the narration of the girls’ thoughts or actions is interrupted by the insertion of a few lines of verse (which typographically makes these fragments stand out very clearly) from plays by Shakespeare in “Dear George” or poems by Wordsworth and Coleridge in “Lentils and Lilies”.

  • 25 H. Simpson, Dear George, op. cit., p. 1.

8Nevertheless, the functioning of the quotations at diegetic level, within the stories’ world, is a little different in each text. As is the case with most of Simpson’s other stories that include literary fragments, in “Dear George” these are part of the diegetic world; another example would be the readings of Robert Burns’s poems during Burns’ night in the story “Burns and the bankers”. In these stories, the characters happen to read, listen to or remember literary fragments that bring about their own comments or reflections on the fragments’ content or connection with their lives. In “Dear George,” thus, we see how a nameless girl reads herself fragments of several Shakespearean plays and reacts to them – sometimes deliberately, sometimes less consciously. This prepubescent protagonist is procrastinating her homework, an essay on As you like it, by instead writing make-believe letters to her crush at school, George, fantasizing different voices and discourses with which to entice him and perfecting her handwriting to the tiniest curl of an f. She faces the assigned reading with boredom and dislike, and all she can write about it are “scathing comments.”25 For instance, after a fragment such as:

Cel : I pray you, bear with me, I cannot go no further.
Tou : For my part, I had rather bear with you than bear
you : yet I should bear no cross if I did bear you.

  • 26 Ibid.

9she reluctantly writes down: “It is rubbish. People only say this is good because it is Shakespeare. It is really boring. It is not even grammar, e.g. I cannot go no further.”26 After other fragments, however, the correlations that the narration suggests show that despite her dislike, the girl cannot help but experience some kind of identification with the Shakespearian characters; so, right after she reads the lines:

Jaq : What stature is she of ?
Orl : Just as high as my heart.

  • 27 Ibid., p. 2.
  • 28 Ibid., p. 7.

10a free indirect speech narrator remarks: “George was tall, that was the best thing about him. She would be higher than his heart.”27 This placing herself and her platonic love in the same position as the Shakespearean lovers is later emphasized when the girl experiences an episode of budding eroticism, unbuttoning her shirt and caressing herself while daydreaming of George’s hands. She then quickly reaches for her volume of the Completed Works and spots concrete fragments of Antony and Cleopatra and what she calls other “juicy bits.”28 Thus, this fragment from an unnamed but easily recognizable play:

Des : O, banish me, my lord, but kill me not !
Oth : Down, strumpet !
Des : Kill me tomorrow ; let me live tonight !
Oth : Nay, if you strive –

  • 29 Loc. cit.

11serves to fuel her fantasies: “There was George, big George, looming like a tower in the half-dark, and herself in a white nightdress… his hot hands round her neck… [She] pressed a bit against her windpipe with her thumbs.”29 Unlike the “rubbish” she deemed the Shakespearean comedy to be, these tragedies’ passion and violence prove to appeal to her and inspire her with words and images to represent her incipient desire, so that with shudders she imagines very identifiable scenes interpreted by her love and herself.

  • 30 J. Lothe, op. cit., p. 99.
  • 31 H. Simpson, Hey Yeah Right Get a Life, op. cit., p. 2.
  • 32 Loc. cit.
  • 33 Loc. cit.
  • 34 Ibid., p. 4.

12The other story, “Lentils and Lilies,” which opens the volume Hey Yeah Right Get a Life, features Jade, an older girl that escapes the boredom of studying at home for the A levels and goes walking in the sun on her way to a holiday job interview. Her forsaken homework this time is to compare the poetry of Wordsworth and Coleridge – yet the warmth of the summer sun and the colours and smells of flowers turn out to be more enticing. During Jade’s walk, the inserted literary quotations from Wordsworth’s Ode on the Intimations of Immortality and Coleridge’s response to it, “Dejection: An Ode,” occupy a more ambiguous position within this story’s diegetic world, seeming at the same time “divorced from and integral to the short story’s narrative discourse,” as Lothe put it.30 Only the first quotation operates in a similar way as the fragments by Shakespeare in “Dear George”: Jade remembers some verses by Coleridge (“I may not hope from outward forms to win / The passion and the life, whose fountains are within”),31 and she comments with similar dislike as the other girl: “That was cool, but Coleridge was a minefield. Just when you thought he’d said something really brilliant, he went raving off full steam ahead into nothingness. He was a nightmare to write about.”32 She makes explicit the contrast between that melancholic view and her own joyful appreciation of the external world: “she herself found outward forms utterly absorbing, the color of clothes, the texture of skin, the smell of food and flowers. She couldn’t see the point of extrapolation,”33 as she demonstrates throughout the text by precisely admiring the sweet air, the dashes of colors of the flowers, or the warm kiss of the sun rays through the trees. Unlike the lamentations upon the loss of childhood and innocence these poems exclaim, for Jade the arrival of maturity promises “choice landscapes and triumphs and adventures,” unless until she is “about thirty-three or thirty-four, leaving her at some point of self-apotheosis, high and nobly invulnerable […]. This was about as far as any of the novels and films took her too.”34

13However, the connection between the quoted fragments and the surrounding text becomes less clear in the following examples, as the former do not elicit an explicit response from the protagonist. Unlike the girl in “Dear George,” Jade is not reading those literary works at the time of the narration – she continues her walk pondering about her future –, so it becomes unclear whether the inserted verses are fragments she remembers by heart, or external addenda introduced by the narrator and thereby progressively divorced from the internal discourse. There seems to be a transition from the first quote mentioned above, which can be considered purely intradiegetic, to the next ones that progressively detach from the fictional world and instead interact with the narration as a sort of epigram to the different sections in which the girl’s ruminations are reflected. Thus, after Wordsworth’s verses:

Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing boy
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy.

  • 35 Loc. cit. ; italics added.

14there is no direct comment by Jade, but the narrator describes how the girl “looked back down her years at school, the reined-in feeling, […] the teachers in the classrooms like tired lion-tamers and felt quite the opposite. She was about to be let out.”35 (loc. cit.; italics added) Here the free indirect narrative introduces a certain ambiguity: is the opposition of feelings established by the narrator or the girl herself? The next fragment to interrupt the narration still offers an implicit thematic contrast:

Full soon thy soul shall have her earthly freight,
And custom lie upon thee with a weight,
Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life !

  • 36 Loc. cit.

15but there is no explicit mention to it in Jade’s subsequent thoughts: “She was never going to go dead inside or live somewhere boring like this and she would make sure she was in charge at any work she did and not let it run her.”36 So is the case with the following quote, inserted abruptly after the girl despises the materialism of the bourgeois neighbourhood she is traversing, interrupting her train of thought:

Whereas her gap-year cousin had just been all over India for under £ 200.
The world is too much with us ; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.
Little we see in Nature that is ours ;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon !
Although after a good patch of freedom she fully intended to pursue a successful career…

16While at times the narrative style in free indirect speech employed by Simpson produces a sustained ambiguity, there arises the doubt whether Jade really knows all these verses by heart and is herself remembering them, or instead, if these fragments act as narratorial comments on the story, in particular on Jade’s expectations of an unburdened future.

  • 37 I am greatly indebted to Prof. E. Vernadakis for pointing out this connection to me.
  • 38 J. Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies, London: Ballantyne, Hanson & Co., 1907, pp. 37-38.
  • 39 Ibid., p. 109.
  • 40 Ibid., p. 122-117.

17The possibility of the fragments constituting a (quite dismal) counterdiscourse is reinforced by other subtler intertextual references in the story. Firstly, its title seems to be a disguised pun based on John Ruskin’s book of essays Sesame and Lilies (first published in 1865),37 in which the first lecture, “Sesame. Of Kings’ Treasuries,” deals with the importance of the learning to be obtained from good literature – we, both men and women, should follow the thoughts and feelings of great writers rather than to think for ourselves38 –, and the second lecture, “Lilies. Of Queens’ Gardens,” discusses what the duties and the sphere of power of women should be. Ruskin’s depiction of the woman’s place, based on authorities such as Shakespeare or Dante, constitutes a complete repertoire of Victorian stereotypes of the angel in the house, with women described as the bearers of purity, strength, love, self-sacrifice and dignity, and the arrangers of the safety and peace of the home, the place a woman belongs to for “wherever a true wife comes, this home is always round her.”39 Nevertheless, Ruskin also advocates for women receiving the same education as men (although with a more utilitarian application to “daily and helpful use”) and for their being free to “have access to a good library of old and classical books.”40

  • 41 H. Simpson, Hey Yeah Right Get a Life, op. cit., p. 8.
  • 42 Ibid., p. 7.

18Ironically – or intentionally –, the story’s plot follows a similar progression as Ruskin’s book, although counterarguing his reasonings by first showing the disconnection between Jade’s reflections and the feelings of the literary works, and then describing her encounter with one of Simpson’s typical mothers, a “useless great lump”41 in Jade’s words, whose portrait completely dismantles the idealized vision of the homemaker that Ruskin (and others still nowadays) sustains. This nameless woman is an overwhelmed stay-at-home mum, a wretch who horrifies Jade with her pitiful looks and her seeming inability to manage both her children – e.g. stopping the eldest from repeatedly sticking things up her nose, such as lentils – and her home, symbolized by the “hideous orange amaryllis lily on its last legs, red-gold anthers shedding pollen” on a coffee table.42 It is that pathetic figure and the domesticity she is trapped in that represent the future Jade intends to eschew, “never going to go dead inside or live somewhere boring like this,” as quoted above.

  • 43 Ibid., p. 4.
  • 44 In the American edition of this story, the reference to Ruskin’s book is lost as the title was chan (...)
  • 45 Ibid., p. 3.

19Yet the likelihood of this happening – Jade’s succeeding in not ending up being part of the “suburban purdah”43 she looks down on – becomes remote when the story closes with another brief intertextual reference that works retroactively unveiling a certain coherence between the previous literary quotations that turns them into a kind of ominous warning and reinforces their interpretation as extradiegetic, narratorial comments. This intertextual clue is an explicit comparison of the protagonist girl to the huntress Atalanta, who in Greek mythology took an oath of virginity to the goddess Artemis and defeated in footrace any suitor that approached her, until Hippomenes and Aphrodite tricked her into marriage – precisely the fate that the rebellious Jade spends the whole story criticizing.44 This last-line identification undermines the reader’s belief in the feasibility of this young girl’s intentions to avoid the fall into domesticity and “never be like her mother”45 – even more so when, as we read into the volume Hey Yeah Right Get a Life, we see how it continues with other stories that deal precisely with the tribulations (and also satisfactions) of maternity and family life, including those of Jade’s mother herself.

  • 46 H. Simpson, Dear George, op. cit., p. 90.

20Thus, in retrospect the literary fragments in “Lentils and Lilies” attain a different dimension from the more integrated quotes in “Dear George”: both stories share, on the one hand, the contextualization of these girls’ liminal situation at a crossroads of cultural discourses – literary canonical works and patriarchal films they are exposed to and from which, almost unaware, they extract ideas and roles to identify with or against. Not surprisingly, unlike Ruskin affirmed in “Sesame,” the works from all those male, centuries-old authors do not seem to cater for the girls’ needs and aspirations or are completely far from recommendable (e.g. taking Othello as an example of a healthy love relationship). As Frances in “Heavy weather” complains: “What a cheesy business Eng. Lit. is, all those old men peddling us lies about life and love.”46

  • 47 P. March-Russell, The Short Story: An Introduction, op. cit., p. 170.

21On the other hand, with their more detached, fragmenting nature, the quotes in “Lentils and Lilies” intrude on the text as epigrams that “invite a way of reading the story,” in Paul March-Russell’s words,47 when considered thematically in relation to the other intertextual references in the story and other stories in the collection. Then, what the poems’ elegiac tone seems to grieve for is not this moment of transition from childhood to adulthood, as Jade interprets them – they are not mourning what Jade is leaving behind, but alerting about what she is advancing towards: the moment of the fall from that “self-apotheosis” that would put an end to “the long jewelled narrative which was her future,” caused by the weight of the marriage custom that seems an inevitable earthly freight for Simpson’s women. Not the school left behind, but the nursery lying ahead, may be Jade’s prison-house, to follow Wordsworth’s terms above.

  • 48 H. Simpson, Hey Yeah Right Get a Life, op. cit., n. p.
  • 49 E. A. Poe, “The Philosophy of Composition,” in P. Van Doren Stern (ed.), The Portable Poe, New York (...)

22In summary, the juxtaposition of fragments that interrupts the narration in “Lentil and Lilies” manages to both contextualize and accentuate, as Lothe affirmed, Jade’s predicament: they anticipate that point in the life of these girls when their own narratives will be interrupted and – as mentioned in the first part of this essay – they will undergo a psychic and physical fragmentation in order to try to reconstruct a new identity as mothers. The mother in distress that cannot handle the lentil in her daughter’s nostril is a proleptic image of this apparently inescapable woman’s destiny. In less tragic terms, the epigram from Tolstoï’s War and Peace that opens the volume already points at that transformation as the overarching topic of Simpson’s collection: “it was hard to recognise in the robust-looking young mother the slim, mobile Natasha of old days. [...] often her face and body were all that was to be seen, and the soul was not visible at all.”48 It is, however, up to the reader to consider the counterpointing effect of the fragments or to subsume their meaning into the full narrative; to read the story as a single and self-sufficient unit, as Edgar Allan Poe contended,49 or to consider it in relation to other texts in the volume, and maybe compose her own puzzle.

Notes

1 J. Lawless, “A Woman of Few Words,” Oregon Life, 5th Aug. 2007, p. 32, news.google.com/newspapers?id=pmBWAAAAIBAJ&sjid=svADAAAAIBAJ&pg=5820%2C1291494, accessed 31 July 2017.

2 H. Simpson, “With Child,” The Guardian, 22nd Apr. 2006, www.theguardian.com/books/2006/apr/22/featuresreviews.guardianreview3, accessed 31 July 2017.

3 M. L. Pratt, “The Short Story: The Long and the Short of It,” in C. E. May (ed.), The New Short Story Theories, Athens: Ohio University Press, 1994, pp. 91-113, p. 104.

4 R. M. Luscher, “The Short Story Sequence: An Open Book,” in S. Lohafer and J. E. Clarey (eds.), Short Story Theory at a Crossroads, Baton Rouge (LA): Louisiana State University Press, 1989, pp. 148-170, p. 149.

5 Loc. cit.

6 E. D’hoker and B. Van Den Bossche, “Cycles, Recueils, Macrotexts. The Short Story Collection in a Comparative Perspective,” Interférences littéraires/Literary interferenties, Feb. 2014, 12, “Cycles, Recueils, Macrotexts. The Short Story Collection in Theory and Practice,” E. D’hoker and B. Van Den Bossche (eds.), pp. 7-17, p. 10.

7 P. March-Russell, The Short Story: An Introduction, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009, p. viii.

8 H. Simpson, loc. cit.

9 J. Kristeva, “Women’s Time,” trans. A. Jardine and H. Blake, in T. Moi (ed.), The Kristeva Reader, Oxford: Blackwell, 1986, p. 206.

10 Ibid.

11 H. Simpson, Dear George, London: Minerva, 1996, p. 86.

12 Id., Hey Yeah Right Get a Life, London: Vintage, 2001, p. 37.

13 Ibid., p. 38.

14 Id., Dear George, op. cit., p. 81.

15 Id., Hey Yeah Right Get a Life, op. cit., p. 21.

16 Ibid., p. 22.

17 Ibid., p. 41.

18 Ibid., p. 57.

19 Ibid., p. 162.

20 J. Lothe, “Aspects of the fragment in Joyce’s Dubliners and Kafka’s The Trial,” in P. Winther, J. Lothe, and H. H. Skei (eds.), The Art of Brevity: Excursions in Short Fiction Theory and Analysis, Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2004, pp. 96-105, p. 100.

21 Ibid., p. 99.

22 Ibid., p. 100.

23 “Good Friday” appeared in Simpson’s first collection, Four Bare Legs in a Bed (1990), “Last Orders” and “To her unready boyfriend” belong to Dear George (1995), whereas “Burns and the Bankers” is part of Hey Yeah Right Get a Life (2000) and “The Tipping Point” of In-Flight Entertainment (2010).

24 H. Simpson, In-Flight Entertainment, ibid., p. 113.

25 H. Simpson, Dear George, op. cit., p. 1.

26 Ibid.

27 Ibid., p. 2.

28 Ibid., p. 7.

29 Loc. cit.

30 J. Lothe, op. cit., p. 99.

31 H. Simpson, Hey Yeah Right Get a Life, op. cit., p. 2.

32 Loc. cit.

33 Loc. cit.

34 Ibid., p. 4.

35 Loc. cit. ; italics added.

36 Loc. cit.

37 I am greatly indebted to Prof. E. Vernadakis for pointing out this connection to me.

38 J. Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies, London: Ballantyne, Hanson & Co., 1907, pp. 37-38.

39 Ibid., p. 109.

40 Ibid., p. 122-117.

41 H. Simpson, Hey Yeah Right Get a Life, op. cit., p. 8.

42 Ibid., p. 7.

43 Ibid., p. 4.

44 In the American edition of this story, the reference to Ruskin’s book is lost as the title was changed to “Golden Apples;” this change, however, reinforces the identification of Jade with Atalanta, whose temptation by some golden apples during her race made her lose it to Hippomenes, and it also brings about another intertextual reference, maybe more suitable for an American audience, with Eudora Welty’s collection of stories The Golden Apples (1949).

45 Ibid., p. 3.

46 H. Simpson, Dear George, op. cit., p. 90.

47 P. March-Russell, The Short Story: An Introduction, op. cit., p. 170.

48 H. Simpson, Hey Yeah Right Get a Life, op. cit., n. p.

49 E. A. Poe, “The Philosophy of Composition,” in P. Van Doren Stern (ed.), The Portable Poe, New York: Penguin, 1973, pp. 549-565.

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