A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman: Complete Short Stories

A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman: Complete Short Stories

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Margaret Drabble’s novels have illuminated the past fifty years, especially the changing lives of women, like no others. Yet her short fiction has its own unique brilliance. Her penetrating evocations of character and place, her wide-ranging curiosity, her sense of irony—all are on display here, in stories that explore marriage, female friendships, the English tourist abroad, love affairs with houses, peace demonstrations, gin and tonics, cultural TV programs; in stories that are perceptive, sharp, and funny. An introduction by the Spanish academic José Fernández places the stories in the context of her life and her novels. This collection is a wonderful recapitulation of a masterly career.

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  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547550411

  • ISBN-10: 0547550413

  • Pages: 256

  • Price: $9.99

  • Publication Date: 05/18/2011

  • Carton Quantity: 1

Margaret Drabble

Margaret Drabble

MARGARET DRABBLE is the author of The Sea Lady, The Seven Sisters, The Peppered Moth, and The Needle's Eye, among other novels. For her contributions to contemporary English literature, she was made a Dame of the British Empire in 2008.
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  • reviews

    "Smooth, reflective prose... Drabble's fans will savor these bite-sized examples of her humane intelligence."-Kirkus Reviews

  • excerpts


    Les Liaisons Dangereuses

    It was the kind of party at which nobody got introduced.

    The room was dark, lit only by candles in bottles,

    and although a certain amount of feeble shuffling was going

    on in the centre of the floor, most of the guests were grouped

    around yelling in a more or less cheery fashion to people

    whom they were lucky enough to know already. There was

    a lot of noise, both musical and conversational, and the general

    tone seemed to Humphrey to be rather high, a kind of

    cross between the intellectual and the artistic. He could

    hear from time to time words like ‘defence mechanism’ and

    ‘Harold Pinter’ being bandied about above the deafening

    body of sound. He supposed, upon reflection, that one might

    have expected this kind of thing from his host, a young man

    whom he had met in a pub the week before, who had been

    most pressing in his invitation, but who had hardly seemed

    to recognise Humphrey at all when he had duly arrived,

    some time ago. Now, after half an hour of total neglect, he

    was beginning to feel rather annoyed. He was in many ways

    a conventional young man, and had not the nerve to go and

    accost a group of strangers, who anyway seemed to be getting

    on quite nicely without him, simply in order to add his

    own unoriginal views on Harold Pinter. On the other hand,

    he did not really want to leave.

     The situation was made even more annoying by the fact

    that everyone looked so interesting. That was why they were

    all getting on with each other so splendidly, of course. The

    only people who were not shouting or shuffling were extremely

    boring-looking people like himself, who were

    propped up sadly in dark corners. And the girls, one could

    not deny it, were most impressive. He liked artistic and intellectual-

    looking girls, himself; he could never see what other

    people had against all these fiercely painted eyes, these long

    over-exposed legs, these dramatic dresses. They all looked

    a little larger and brighter than life, and talked with a more

    than natural intensity, and laughed with a more than natural

    mirth. He found them most exhilarating. He gazed with

    frank admiration at one exotic creature with long pale hair

    and a long maroon velvet dress: her legs were not over-exposed

    but on the contrary totally enclosed, though she made

    up for this modesty elsewhere, displaying to the world a vast

    extent of pallid back, where angry pointed shoulder-blades

    rose and fell as she gesticulated and discoursed. All he saw

    of her was her active back: her face and front were bestowed

    upon others.

     Even she, though, had nothing on a girl he could see at

    the other side of the room, far away and perched on top of

    a book-case, whence she was holding court, and whence she

    smiled serenely above the heads of others and above the sea

    of smoke. Her slight elevation gave her a look of detached

    beauty, and her face had a cool superiority, as of one who

    inhabits a finer air. She too was surrounded, naturally, by

    hordes of friends and admirers, who were plying her with

    chat and cigarettes, and constantly refilling her glass. And

    she too, like the pale girl, had long hair, though hers, as far

    as he could distinguish, was not pale, but of a dark and fiery

    red. He decided that he would cross the room and distinguish

    a little more closely.

     This decision was sooner made than executed. It was remarkably

    hard to cross the room: instead of parting to let

    him pass, people seemed to cluster closer together at his approach,

    so that he had to force them asunder with his bare

    hands. They did not seem to object to this rough usage, but

    continued to ignore him altogether, and managed to talk uninterruptedly

    as though he simply were not there, as though

    he were not standing on the foot of one and sticking his elbow

    into another’s chest at all. He steered his course by taking

    the face of the red-haired girl as his beacon, shining dimly

    for him above the raging social waters, and finally, a little battered,

    he reached her vicinity. When he got there, he found

    that his luck was in: by squeezing himself into a small gap

    between the book-case and a table, he could get very close

    to her indeed, though he was of course directly behind her,

    with no view of her face at all, and with his head on a level

    with her waist. Still, he was near, and that was something; so

    near that he could have stroked with ease her long descending

    hair. Not that there would have been any future in such a

    gesture. In an atmosphere like that she would not even have

    noticed. In fact, now he had got there, it struck him that

    there was not much future in anything, that this was really as

    far as he was likely to get. He had given up hope that somebody

    would come along with those oft-scorned but now desired

    words, ‘Hello, Humphrey old chap, let me introduce

    you to a few people.’ This lot were clearly far too avantgarde

    for a bourgeois convention like introduction. He wondered

    how they had all got to know each other in the first

    place. What was one supposed to do? Surely one couldn’t go

    up to someone and say, ‘Hello, I’m Humphrey, who are you?’

    It seemed, apart from anything else, a positive invitation to


     The red-haired girl seemed to be called Justina. The

    name suited her, he thought: there was something finely dramatic

    and vital about it, and yet at the same time something

    superior. As well as remarkable hair and a remarkable face,

    she was the lucky (and conscious) possessor of a remarkable

    voice, which she was not at all afraid of using. From where he

    was standing, directly behind her, he could hear every word

    she uttered, so deep and clear and vibrant were her tones.

    She seemed to be fond of brave abstract assertions like,

     ‘Well, in my opinion, the abstract is a total bore, anyway.

    I like things that happen, I don’t like talk, I think that action is

    the only true test, myself.’

     He was so entranced that he was content to listen to this

    kind of thing for a few minutes, but then he began to get a

    little restless, for, like Justina, he preferred action to talk,

    especially when the talk in question wasn’t directed to him.

    He began to think of imaginary witty replies, things that he

    might have said had he not been such a non-participant. He

    even thought at one point that he might say one of them,

    loudly, just to see if Justina and her admirers would turn

    round, but by the time he had summoned up the courage

    the remark was no longer appropriate, and he had to start

    thinking up a new one. Then he wondered what would happen

    if he really took action, and pushed her offthe bookcase.

    That would make them notice his existence, at least.

    She might even like it. Or perhaps he might just grab her

    from behind and shout gaily ‘Hello, let me introduce myself,

    I’m Humphrey.’ And then again, he thought, perhaps not.

     Sadly, for the twentieth time that evening, he reached

    for a consolatory cigarette and put it in his mouth, the miserable

    last of a miserable pack. And he didn’t seem likely

    to get offered any more, either. When I’ve finished this, he

    said to himself, I’ll go home. Then, reaching for a match,

    he found he had lost his box: for some reason the eternal

    introduction of ‘Have you got a light’ never even crossed his

    mind, occupied as it was on far more desperate levels, and

    he reached to the table behind him for one of those candles

    in bottles that served as illumination and decoration to the

    whole dreary scene. He lit his cigarette and stood ther...

Available Resources

Related Categories

  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547550411

  • ISBN-10: 0547550413

  • Pages: 256

  • Price: $9.99

  • Publication Date: 05/18/2011

  • Carton Quantity: 1

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