Author(s): Joanna Walsh
This is a woman as a mother, daughter, wife, spectator, lover, mistress. Observer and commentator. Actor and reactor. Dressed up bright as a child or submerged in the grey elegance of Paris, she shifts readily between roles, countries, and languages. Skilled and and successful, she controls how much she cares. Yet as every new woman emerges and every new story is told, each with a sharper, more deadpan, more aching simplicity, the calm surfaces of Joanna Walsh's Vertigo shatter, pulling us deep into the panic that underlies everyday life.
I first read Joanna Walsh in Hotel, in which she recounts her experiences as a hotel reviewer at a time when her marriage was falling apart. The movement in that book is from the particular to the personal to the theoretical, and Walsh succeeded in picking large enough holes in what at first seems like continuous thought to fall through, and to leave us on the brink with a feeling of vertigo. In Vertigo, a collection of short short stories, vignettes almost, Walsh reverses the current. Here the theoretical forces itself through the grille of the personal to induce the particular. The resulting text is perhaps flatter, less nuanced, than Hotel, but the stories are immediate, often pointed, and filled with sharply selected details which puncture, and thus reveal the emptiness of, the characters and situations her protagonist(s) encounters. When all that is left are the ordinary particulars of everyday life, and, as these particulars shrug off any ‘meaning’ draped over them, what is there to suppress the panic that arises when we question our relationship to those particulars?
Praise for Joanna Walsh: ------- 'Joanna Walsh is fast becoming one of our most important writers.' - Deborah Levy ------- 'Walsh's closest literary ally is probably Lydia Davis, with whom she shares a brevity and starkness of expression... Walsh's refreshing humour - sometimes biting; sometimes absurd - lends her work a poignancy that is genuinely affecting.' - Times Literary Supplement ------- Advance Praise for Vertigo: ------- 'With wry humour and profound sensitivity, Walsh takes what is mundane and transforms it into something otherworldly with sentences that can make your heart stop. A feat of language.' - Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review ------- 'Reading Vertigo has opened even wider my conceptions of what's possible in fiction - how a book can be like a series of photographs, like cinema. These stories appear as much as they engage with narrative, saturated with a calm yet rich colour. I've not read anything like it and feel it is quietly subverting the hell out of the form.' - Amina Cain ------- 'Stunning short, sharp shocks with insight that reminds me of the very personal work of Clarice Lispector... Packs a wallop into a very small space.' - Jeff Vandermeer ------- 'Joanna Walsh's haunting and unforgettable stories enact a literal vertigo - the feeling that if I fall I will fall not toward the earth but into space - by probing the spaces between things. Waiting for news in a children's hospital, pondering her husband's multiple online flirtations or observing the tourists and locals at a third-world archaeological site, her narrator approaches the suppressed state of panic coursing beneath things that are normally tamed by our blunted perceptions of ordinary life. Vertigo is an original and breathtaking book.' - Chris Kraus.
Joanna Walsh is a writer and illustrator. Her writing has appeared in Granta, Narrative, and Guernica and has been anthologised in Best European Fiction 2015, Best British Short Stories 2014 and elsewhere. A story collection, Fractals, was published in 2013, and her non-fiction book Hotel was published in 2015. She writes literary and cultural criticism for The Guardian, The New Statesman, and The National, is the fiction editor at 3:AM Magazine, and created and runs the Twitter hashtag #readwomen, heralded by the New York Times as 'a rallying cry for equal treatment for women writers'.