“The Ankles of the Medusa”, a selection of wildly imagined stories from AS Byatt spanning three decades

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The story of the princess – her title is “Cold” – is here. This delicate young woman marries a prince of the desert who, fearing to melt in the setting sun, builds her an underground palace in spun glass. One story called “Dragons’ Breath” is about huge worm-like creatures, shades of “Dune,” which slide down a mountain, sucking up ponds of hapless goats and ducks and flattening houses in their path.

Credit…Michel Trevillion

“Heavenly Bodies” is about a singer named Lucy Furnix and a tycoon named Brad Macmamman. Lucy, or her avatar, is transformed into a beaming “sky woman” with “gently lifted breasts” and a “harem pants” that fill the night sky. The world marvels. This sort of thing is sure to give ideas to Grimes and Elon Musk, as well as their couple’s advisor; at least until Lucy is torn apart by more venerable celestial bodies.

“The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye” tells the story of a middle-aged woman, a “narratologist” named Gillian, who uncorks an antique bottle and, shazam, finds a handsome genius in her bedroom. hotel. The genie imitates Helmut Kohl and Donald Duck, conjures fresh figs and grants his three wishes.

Their love – “Gillian seemed to swim through his body forever like a dolphin in an endless green sea, so that it became vaulted tunnels under mountains through which he pierced and rushed, or caves in which he curled up like dragons “- is for the ages, and sounds great when read aloud to pan flute music.

Other stories fly a little closer to the earth, though you rarely feel like you’re reading about beings you might be interested in, or anything at stake. They’re too heavy, forced into a greenhouse. .

There are a lot of stories in stories. If such stories were good, they wouldn’t be in another. While reading I often glanced at my wife from across the room and made this brilliant new international hand gesture it means “help me”.

A human theme emerges from this book. Byatt is an insightful writer on aging, what it’s like to feel like you’ve vanished, like Homer Simpson into that hedge, of the brighter world.


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