M ichel 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.
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MICHEL FABER is the author of the bestselling The Crimson Petal and the White, as well as three other books. His work has been translated into twenty languages. He lives in the Scottish Highlands.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
I wake up, blinking hard against the sky, and the first thing I remember is that my wife cannot forgive me. Never, ever.
Then I remind myself I don’t have a wife anymore.
Instead, I’m lying at the bottom of a stairwell, thirty concrete steps below street level in a city far from my home. My home is in the past, and I must live in the present.
I’m lying on a soft pile of rubbish bags, and I seem to have got myself covered in muck. It’s all over my shabby green raincoat and the frayed sleeves of my jumper, and there’s a bit on my trousers as well. I sniff it, trying to decide what it is, but I can’t be sure.
How strange I didn’t notice it when I was checking this place out last night. OK, it was already dark by then and I was desperate to find somewhere to doss down after being moved on twice already. But I remember crawling into the rubbish really carefully, prodding the bin bags with my hands and thinking this was the softest and driest bed I was likely to find. Maybe the muck seeped out later on, under pressure from my sleeping body.
I look around for something to wipe my clothes with. There’s nothing, really. If I were a cat, I’d lick the crap off with my tongue, and still be a proud, even fussy creature. But I’m not a cat. I’m a human being.
So, I pull a crumpled-up advertising brochure out of the trash, wet it with dregs from a beer bottle, and start to scrub my jacket vigorously with the damp wad of paper.
Maybe it’s the exercise, or maybe the rising sun, but pretty soon I feel I can probably get by without these dirty clothes—at least until tonight. And tonight is too far away to think about.
I stand up, leaving my raincoat and jumper lying in the garbage, where they look as if they belong anyway. I’m left with a big white T-shirt on, my wrinkled neck and skinny arms bare, which feels just right for the temperature. The T-shirt’s got writing on the front, but I’ve forgotten what the writing says. In fact, I can’t remember where I got this T-shirt, whether someone gave it to me or I stole it or even bought it, long long ago.
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Book Description Harcourt, 2007. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. First American Edition. New hardcover with dustcover. An unread copy from bookstore stock. Very minor shelf wear. May have a remainder mark and price sticker.; 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed! Ships same or next business day!. Bookseller Inventory # 111704100053
Book Description Harcourt, 2007. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. New In-Stock Ships Same Day We Ship 7 Days A Week. Bookseller Inventory # mon0000248010
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Book Description Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 1. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0151013144
Book Description Harcourt, Orlando, Florida, U.S.A., 2007. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 1st Edition. 0151013144 First Edition, 1st Print. New copy. Bookseller's Inventory #FICA06. Bookseller Inventory # FICF06
Book Description Harcourt, 2007. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: As New. 1st Edition. Faber, Michel. VANILLA BRIGHT LIKE EMINEM. NY: Harcourt, c2007. First edition. first printing. 246pp. Lg 8vo. New hardcover copy with as new d/j. Bookseller Inventory # 77476
Book Description Book Condition: Brand New. Book Condition: Brand New. Bookseller Inventory # 97801510131421.0
Book Description Harcourt, Orlando, Florida, U.S.A., 2007. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 1st Edition. new first edition hardback in new dj with slight creasing on interior flaps. Bookseller Inventory # 045011
Book Description Harcourt, 2007. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0151013144
Book Description Harcourt, 2007. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110151013144