Dan Rhodes brief career as a writer is almost up. He published his first
book Anthropology only a year ago. Don't Tell Me The Truth
About Love followed this year. A third and final book is in the
pipeline, but after that it's all over.
Initially it seems inexplicable: both his books got good reviews and
sold well. He writes short comedies about love in cut down to the bone
prose. Anthropology consists of 101 stories - each only 101 words
long. They are by turns playful, macabre, mysogynist, feminist - but
always sharp, original and funny. He read a couple of examples:
My girlfriend is so beautiful that she has never had cause to develop
any kind of personality. People are always wildly glad to see her, even
though she does little more than sit around and smoke. She's getting
prettier, too. Last time she left the house she caused six car crashes,
two coronaries, about thirty domestic disputes and an estimated six
hundred unwanted and embarrassing erections. She seems to be quite indifferent
to the havoc she causes. "I'm going to the shop for cigarettes," she'll
say, yawning with that succulent, glossy mouth. "I suppose you'd better
call some ambulances or something!'
I found my girlfriend smashing our two year-old's toes with a rock.
I told her to stop. "What are you doing?" I cried, above the baby's
agonized wails. "You wouldn't understand," she said, winding a bandage
tightly around the crushed digits. "It's a woman thing. It'll help her
get a boyfriend:' "But darling, don't you remember what the doctor told
us? It's a boy baby?' "Really?" She looked surprised. "Oh well. Men
look nice with small feet too. I expect he'll be gay, anyway. He's got
that look about him. See?" I had to agree that she had a point.
Don't Tell Me The Truth, a collection of longer short stories,
shows the same sharp humour. However it also reveals a tender side to
his writing. Some of the pieces are imbued with a deep sadness.
Asked about his experiences of writing, the mystery of why he's stopping
quickly becomes clear. He enjoyed writing before he was a writer. However
since becoming a professional author, he has had to deal with the business
side of writing. It has not been a pleasant experience. In particular
he his keen to put as much distance as possible between him and his
publishers, who he describes as "shape-shifting giant lizards". As soon
as the third book - title not yet settled - is out, he plans to pack
up and move to Vietnam. There he will teach English as a foreign language,
which he describes as a modern day version of joining the foreign legion.
There is something quite tragic to it all. A talented young writer -
if perhaps overly sensitive - has been crushed and beaten by an insensitive
overly commercial publisher. Someone should have noticed and protected
him. Hopefully in time though he will write again.
© Daniel Winterstein, 21st August 2001