Anthropology – Dan Rhodes

I mentioned on Valentines Day that I find books about love a difficult genre. I tend to like them to have an edge like ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’ of the latest NTTVBG read ‘The Girl with Glass Feet’ rather than a straightforward slush fest. So imagine my joy at realising I had a collection of tales of love that all had an unusual edge, twist or way of looking at the subject.

When I first saw my copy of Dan Rhodes collection ‘Anthropology’ I couldn’t quite see how in a book of such a small size, for it is small indeed, you could possibly have 101 stories of love in all its forms? Well the premise is that each story is 101 words (or around that as I bet some clever so and so will try counting them) and so you get a story a page. Despite being a big fan of Dan Rhodes’ work I wasn’t convinced this would work especially as I am quite difficult with short stories anyway.

How wrong could I have been? I really, really liked this collection and I think it actually goes to show just how good a writer Dan Rhodes is. In around 101 words he encapsulates a relationship with ease. You have tales of a girlfriend who has been in out of space and wont shut up about it on return, a man who’s girlfriend is kidnapped and objects to a high ransom especially when they keep chopping bits of her off and not reducing the price, a man who’s girlfriend goes off to work with gay people in Mongolia only to become one though he thinks she literally has become a gay man from the Village People with the beard and all. All these tales and more are cleverly depicted in 101 words, how many authors could do that?

The other thing that I really liked about the book was the emotions. Each story has a very different depiction of love be it true love, young love, unrequited love, obsessive love, the ending of love. It also looks at all the emotions behind them the good, bad, happy, ridiculous, compulsive, sad and funny. I thought I would treat you to two of the tales the first a more sombre and sad tale of a love that’s ended called ‘Museum’…

I turned our flat into a museum. Visitors are welcome to marvel at the daintiness of the pumps she left behind, and to look at the band with which she would tie back her hair from the face I kissed so many times. There are cabinets full of photographs, and letters she sent me. There’s a framed birthday card on the wall, with three big kisses in silver pen. No one ever visits but I am here everyday, keeping my head as still as I can. I don’t want to lose any of the brain cells that hold those precious memories.

And here is a funnier one which will hopefully leave you will a smile on your lips called ‘Beauty’…

My girlfriend is so beautiful that she has never had cause to develop any kind of personality. People are alays wildly glad to see her, even though she does little more than sit around and smoke. She’s getting prettier, too. Last time she left the house she caused six car crashes, two coronaries, about thirty domestic disputes and an estimated six hundred unwanted and embarrassing erections. She seems quite indifferent to the havoc she causes. ‘I am going to the shop for cigarettes’ she’ll say, yawning with that succulent, glossy mouth. ‘I suppose you’d better call some ambulances or something.’

I wanted to print one story called ‘Innocence’ which is so rude I couldn’t for fear of offending anyone but when I read it I actually cried with laughter for about ten minutes, read it again and laughed another ten. Yet more proof, for me anyway, of the masterly writing of Mr Rhodes. I am not reading any more of his for a while though as I am getting through his back catalogue rather quickly. I know what to grab of the shelves when I next need a pick me up though that’s for sure. I think this might be my very favourite short story collection too. What’s yours?



Filed under Canongate Publishing, Dan Rhodes, Review, Short Stories

19 responses to “Anthropology – Dan Rhodes

  1. This sounds like so much fun! I just read Little Hands Clapping, and it piqued my interest in Rhodes’ other books.

    My favourite short story collection is Lives of Girls and Women, by Alice Munro (they’re all about the same protagonist though, so it’s a bit like a novel).

    • Glad you like the sound of this and what I forgot to mention is that you get all this fun for £3.99 I dont like my posts to sound like adverts though, you know what I mean?

      I must, must, must read some Munro!

  2. This sounds like such a great book. I loved the “Beauty” – oh my! Hilarious! I’ll have to add this to my list. I’ve never read any of Dan Rhodes work, so this one will be my first and from what I gather, I won’t be disappointed. Thanks!

    As for my favorite book of short stories, that would have to be Jhumpa Lahiri’s, Interpreter of Maladies. Amazing!

    • There are a few ‘oh my’ tales in this collection but that I think adds to the joy of it all!

      I dont have ‘Interpreter of Maladies’ but I do have Lahiri’s ‘Unaccustomed Earth’ so hope thats as good!

  3. gaskella

    I’ll have to get this one. These micro-stories sound a real tonic.

    I’ve read very few short stories, (shame on me, I know), but I’ve read a couple of good story cycles … Walter Moseley’s Socrates Fortlow stories were originally published individually, but make up a cracking collection together.

    • They are and its a collection you can actually read in one go which I think is rare in the world of short stories.

      I wouldnt worry Annabel, I read hardly any short stories so you arent alone, though I agree it is shameful haha.

  4. Eva

    Ohhh-you totally sold me on this! And that cover is SO neat. I love the short story format, so it’s difficult for me to pick just one collection. 🙂 But I have some awesome short stories linked in my sidebar! They’re not necessarily my favourite of all time, but they’re all stories that I’ve read and loved and that have stuck w/ me and are available for free online. lol

    • I will have a look at your sidebar when I play blog catch up today! Oooh free short stories online am even more intrigued, though that does worry me somewhat as authors don’t get paid enough if they arent Dan Brown or Stephen King etc.

  5. JoV

    Man Simon… your blog is a TBR hazard. Now I’ve got to include this in my TBR. Sounds fun! I could do with Love short stories.

    I love Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Interpreter of Maladies” and “Unaccustomed Earth”. I plan to conquer the Granta volume of annual American Short Stories, but I never got around doing it. 😦

    • Sorry Jo! I can’t help but enthuse about some of the books I read and urge you to read them it just poors out of me, there is another one coming soon too!

      I have the second of the Lahiri so am very excited about that!

  6. This sounds like such an amazing little book – from the actual execution of the stories to the concept of 101 stories in 101 words! It’s also really great to see a book that is able to acknowledge and focus on the fact that love comes in a number of different shapes, sizes, colors and situations. Thanks for a great review, Simon!

  7. How awesome is that?! Love the post, Simon, and loved the stories you picked to quote. I’ve just had a check on my library website, and they do have a copy of this book, though the cover’s pink, and not nearly half as pretty as the one you have up there. You mentioned Gold is a good place to start Dan Rhodes, yes? Maybe I should really get on to it now.

    Anyway, I’ve not had much experience with short stories yet, so we’re more or less on the same boat here, waiting for some good suggestions to come our way. =)

    • Glad that you liked the post and hopefully you will get the book and give it a whirl. I think that I would give Gold and this a whirl and then you get allsorts of insights into him and his work and the different way he can tell a tale.

  8. This book sounds like a lot of fun – “Beauty” is great. My favorite short story collection is probably Tenney’s Landing by Catherine Tudish. The stories are all connected in some way to Tenney’s Landing, a small town in Pennsylvania.

  9. I just read JoAnn’s review of this collection over at

    She linked to you and I wanted to read more about this book. You have both hooked me in. I have to get my hands on this book. Beauty had me laughing hysterically and I enjoyed the two stories that JoAnn posted as well. Thanks so much for reviewing this book and bringing it to my attention.

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