The Emerald Light in the Air, by Donald Antrim: a delicate balance of comedy and tragedy

Paperback review

Sat, Apr 4, 2015, 01:00

   
 

Book Title:
The Emerald Light in the Air

ISBN-13:
978-1847086495

Author:
Donald Antrim

Publisher:
Granta

Guideline Price:
£12.99

Comedy and tragedy are delicately balanced in this collection of stories, Antrim’s first in his two-decade career (he has written three novels and a memoir).

These graceful, finely-crafted tales concern themselves with madness, chaos and emotional disintegration, but a strain of surreal and tender humour is never far from the surface.

Here, dysfunctional couples run through their repertoire of deceptions, accusations and manipulations while trying to offer one another temporary comfort; neurotic, cultured New Yorkers self-medicate as their anxiety threatens to escalate into something worse; and depressive, self-doubting artists find themselves stranded in middle age.

The success of the writing lies in its tone – the narrative voice is funny and sad, elegant and offbeat, brutal and merciful, careful and mysterious.

The threat of disaster waits in the shadows for these characters and the tension builds with slow precision right until the strange often unexpected conclusions.