Dan Rhodes’ Marry Me (2013), just out in the U.S. from Europa Editions, is a collection of around 80 short — very short — stories focused on, says Michael Dirda in his exciting review for The Washington Post (here), love, marriage, infidelity, divorce, and death. Perfect for Valentine’s Day, right?
I actually do not have this book. Earlier in the week, Europa Editions emailed folks and gave permission to post a few of the stories from this book on their blogs. I read the three stories they sent, and now I’m kicking myself for not getting the whole collection. After reading Dirda’s review, which contains several of the stories as well as his astute analysis, I kicked myself even harder. These understated — often unstated — stories are funny and biting as they eschew conventional views of love and even masculinity. I’m rereading Jane Austen this year, and even before Dirda made the comparison I was thinking how much she’d love these pieces.
Anyway, here are three of the stories (though not three that particularly remind me of Jane Austen), presented in increasing degrees of dread, the first being the most lovey I’ve seen from the collection.
I asked my girlfriend to marry me, and she said yes. I couldn’t afford a diamond, so instead I handed her a lump of charcoal. ‘It’s pure carbon,’ I explained. ‘Now, if we can just find a way to rearrange the atoms . . .’
She stared at the black lump in her palm, and I began to worry that ours was going to be the shortest engagement in history. She smiled. ‘We’ll put it under the mattress,’ she said. ‘Maybe we’ll squash it into a diamond over time.’
It’s been there ever since. We check up on it every once in a while, and it never looks any different. I think we would be disappointed if it ever did.
My fiancée suggested we get married while strapped together and falling ten thousand feet from an aeroplane. I wasn’t nearly as interested as she was in that kind of thing, and suggested we have a more conventional ceremony. She dismissed my misgivings. ‘Feel the fear,’ she said, ‘and do it anyway. That’s my motto.’ Not wishing to appear unmanly, I went along with her plan, and I have to admit that in the event it was a lot of fun exchanging vows in mid-air while a vicar plummeted alongside us.
Unfortunately, our parachute has failed to open, and our marriage is looking likely to prove shortlived. She’s screaming in terror, and I’m wondering whether this would be a good moment to remind her that it had been her idea.
A week before our wedding day, my fiancée suggested I go into suspended animation and leave all the last-minute preparations to her. At first I wasn’t sure about the idea, but she soon convinced me that it would be best for both of us if I was to take something of a back seat. She took me to the local cryogenic freezing centre, and told me she would thaw me out on the morning of the big day. She kissed me goodbye, and shut the door to the chamber.
When I unfroze, there was no one there to meet me. I walked over to her place to see how things were getting along. She saw me coming down the past, and called out, ‘Look everyone, it’s the Iceman.’ As I got closer, I noticed she looked a bit different, in a way I couldn’t quite put my finger on. A tall, handsome man I had never seen before came out of the house, followed by a group of children, and they all started pointing at me and laughing.
She explained that she’d gotten cold feet, and hadn’t been able to resist setting the time for fifteen years. Then she stopped laughing, and her face turned to stone. She told me she hardly remembered me, and that it was time I left. She said I was trespassing, and that she would be well within her rights to call the police.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
I enjoyed all three of those, but I’m not sure I could take 80 of them.
Well, the illustration on the cover certainly isn’t “startlingly original.”