Synopses & Reviews
Michel Faber is that rarest of writers: a virtuoso who can move effortlessly from the futurist novel to the historical epic to the contemporary short story. In this, his second collection of stories, he levels his gaze at humanity in all its despair, it madness, its hope. Renown for its pitch-perfect prose, Fabers work is fearlesslessly inventive, slyly satirical, and utterly spellbinding.
These 16 stories depict individuals at turning points in their lives, places often uncanny but always profoundly human. Whether his story features a taxidermist who ends up making an exhibit of himself, a group of sex-crazed executives in Indonesia, or a dictator holding a surgeons family hostage to the outcome of a risky operation, Faber creates characters with exquisite empathy. In The Safehouse the terminally alienated go to live out their lives, forsaking all contact with the outside world, their histories and diagnoses written like endless ads of their T Shirts. In The Eyes of the Soul a woman purchases perpetual televised beauty to replace the derelict view from her suburban picture window. In the title story, a man experiences a distilled moment of perfect happiness with his rebellious teenage son.
Faber is consistently one of our most interesting, daring, and accomplished writers.
"Poignantly eerie...odd and haunting...When Mr. Faber, who wrote the intoxicating novel 'The Crimson Petal and the White,' shoehorns the name Eminem into the title of a literary short-story collection, he isn't overreaching. These stories blend darkly phantasmagoric elements with humorously commonplace ones, and Eminem makes a perfectly good avatar for that kind of thinking...Every one of the main characters here...¦reaches some point of change by the end of the story. But these are not cheap epiphanies; they are genuinely odd and stirring changes of heart. Mr. Faber, who remains a writer capable of invoking all manner of inchoate dangers, teases...[characters] toward a realization that life-or-death power is beyond both of them." Janet Maslin
PRAISE FOR VANILLA BRIGHT LIKE EMINEM
"By turns crepuscular, buoyant, delicate, wry, horrific, and otherworldly, this worldly and organ-rupturingly funny collection is a vitamin boost for the short story." --David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas
"Not only can he scare the bejesus out of you, he can make your heart swell" --The Times (London)
"[Faber] mines the mundane for the unexpected, even the surreal, with impressive assurance. Occasionally, his facility gives an impression of superficiality, but at his best he explores conflicts with a compelling balance of menace and wit."
The New York Times Book Review
"Eccentrics, misfits, sociopaths and outright criminals populate the cosmopolitan (Dutch-born, now Scottish) author's sleek, disturbing, gruesomely funny short stories."
"Freakish and deeply satisfying. Faber's elaborately imagined stories often end at a moment of tension or ambivalence, underscoring his characters' fragility and giving the book an uncanny coherence."
"In the 16 short stories collected here, Faber (The Crimson and the Petal, 2002) continues to demonstrate the full range of his talents. Most of the stories contain a fantastical or magical element that only serves to underline Faber's disquieting take on alienation in modern society, and the effect is somewhat like an episode of The Twilight Zone as penned by Ian McEwan...Expertly crafted short fiction." Booklist
"A cunning, sui generis New York Observer
"The mark of greatness in golf is the ability to play long ball and sink a chip shot. Apply the same measures to writing, and you begin to get a sense of Michel Faber's talents. Vanilla Bright Like Eminem [is] a set of 16 stylish, harrowing stories that get off to running starts and have concise, cut-to-the-chase precision...Faber ranges widely among the mundane and the fantastic...but regardless of theme, a sense of empathatic understanding pervades all these tales." New York Times
"A cunning, sui generis --New York Observer
Michel Faber is not only a master storyteller but a daring innovator as well. Here are the pitch-perfect prose, indelible characterizations, and deep empathy for which he has been highly acclaimed. Here also is a satirical streak that depicts individuals at uncanny and all-too-familiar turning points in their lives. The alienated find sanctuary in "The Safehouse," their histories and diagnoses written like endless ads on their T-shirts. In "Andy Comes Back," a man awakens after a five-year coma, only to flee his home. In "The Eyes of the Soul," perpetual televised beauty replaces the derelict view from a suburban picture window. In "Finesse," a dictator holds his surgeon’s family hostage to the outcome of a risky operation. These sixteen stories move from unspeakable sadness through moments of exquisitely distilled happiness.
The bestselling author of "The Crimson Petal and the White" presents this collection of 16 stories that move from unspeakable sadness to moments of exquisitely distilled happiness.
In these seventeen daring and inventive stories, bestselling author Michel Faber flirts with a variety of characters and settings. At turns humorous and darkly hopeful, all feature breaking points in characters lives, in which they experience emotions that are often foreign to them.
In the title story, 'Vanilla Bright Like Eminem," a seemingly uneventful family train ride down through the Scottish Highlands to Inverness also happens to the moment of purest joy in a fathers life. In "Flesh Made of Flesh," a Victorian industrialist with a fascination for taxidermy sets out to literally stuff members of the lower orders and ends up making an exhibit of himself. In "Mouse," a young computer geek is forced to come out hiding and interact with the girl from downstairs, who turns out to be equally obsessed with a New Age religion. In "Fitness," a dictator must trust his life to the woman doctor whose husband and children he has imprisoned. In "The Smallness of Action," a distressed mother "breaks" her baby in increasingly more severe ways, while her husband remains oblivious. In "Explaining Coconuts," a woman erotically demonstrates the benefits of the coconut for an audience of clammy executives. In "Serious Swimmers," a young mother recovering from heroin addiction takes her son on a supervised outing to the local swimming pool.
From cybergeek to dictator, young child to 19th-century industrialist, the stories in VANILLA BRIGHT LIKE EMINEM all touch on the most basic of human emotion in settings that are both fantastic and mundane. Insightful, wise, and always entertaining, this is a book by a writer at the height of his powers.
About the Author
Michel Faber's work has been published in twenty countries and received several literary awards. He lives in Scotland.
Table of Contents
The Safehouse 1
Andy Comes Back 27
The Eyes of the Soul 37
Serious Swimmers 49
Explaining Coconuts 61
Flesh Remains Flesh 97
Less than Perfect 111
A Hole with Two Ends 127
The Smallness of the Action 139
All Black 153
Someone to Kiss It Better 193
Beyond Pain 209
Tabitha Warren 227
Vanilla Bright like Eminem 239