Always a risky business agreeing to a review request from an author, something I rarely do. If I don’t like their book, it feels as if I’ve slapped them in the face. Last year, I struck lucky with Deirdre Shanahan’s Carrying Fire and Water which is perhaps what made me accept Barbara Bleiman’s offer of a review copy of her short story collection, Kreminology of Kisses. That and its appealing theme, inspired by Chekov’s The Kiss.
Hard to choose my favourites out of the twelve pieces that make up this brief collection, most no more than ten pages long, but I‘ve managed to narrow it down to six standout stories. My absolute favourite, The Sitting, sees an unhappy Renaissance noblewoman posing for her portrait under the watchful eye of her jealous husband’s maid, yearning fo the artist’s kiss. In Harvey’s Wedding the eponymous groom can’t seem to tear his thoughts away from his first wedding, so much more exuberant than his second, as he drives his new wife towards their honeymoon while The Dating Game has a fifty-three-year-old woman put her toe in the online dating water, meeting potential lovers in her favourite local café but maybe what’s she’s looking for is right under her nose. Habit sees a waitress’ fantasies of being a nun backfire when her boss finds her in costume while a prostitute breaks her rule and is surprised at the result in This One. The final courtly, farewell kiss in The Girl with Tortoiseshell Eyes brings the collection to a fitting close
These are short, punchy stories full of sharp observation delivered in clean precise, unfussy prose, most from the perspective of women. Using the hook of a kiss works well: each story begins with an enjoyable anticipation of its kiss and how it might be bestowed. Kisses are counted, withheld, watched, enjoyed, missed and in one case, ingeniously delivered, in a multitude of different settings, from the dystopian near future where kisses are deemed ‘too germy’ – slightly uncomfortable reading in our current predicament –to a couple of paparazzi waiting outside a footballer’s Primrose Hill mansion, hoping for the money shot. Altogether a smartly written collection which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’m glad I accepted Bleiman’s request.
Blue Door Press: London 9781916475434 110 pages Paperback