Difficulties of a Bridegroom: Collected Short Stories, by Ted Hughes (Faber, £6.99 in UK)
Story writing for Ted Hughes appears to be an avocation rather than a vocation, and the nine pieces collected here range over four decades and are a strangely uneven lot. The title story, apparently, is based on an early experience of the poet's while camping and hunting with his brother, and it could even be called a ghost story. The "fable" O'Kelly's Angel was, according to Hughes, "written during the year I left university (1954), as a joke of sorts about Terence McCaughey, my closest friend through those college years, who did later become, just as in my story, a professor (of Ancient Irish) at Trinity College, Dublin". The Wound is really a play, or playlet, since it is almost entirely in dialogue. Hughes's nature animism, his empathy with animals and natural forces, and an almost surreal vein of imagination which is close to Magic Realism, are recurrent elements throughout.