The first American edition of the only story collection from beloved late writer Jenny Diski—darkly funny, subversive, sexy, and eccentric tales from one of the most original and intelligent voices of our time.
Diski’s wonderful story collection, The Vanishing Princess, holds riches for all. Longtime fans will celebrate the very fact of more Diski and thrill to familiar preoccupations in new settings and shapes. Those who know only the self-elegizing Diski will encounter the expansive parameters of her imagination and intellect. Those who read Diski for the first time are in for the delight of discovery ... The three fairy tales that anchor the book speak both to Diski’s timelessness and to her contemporary feminist perspicuity ... The book’s other stories begin in the cold reality of women’s daily lives...What makes these stories quintessentially Diski is the way they balance between the sometimes mundane, sometimes grim, sometimes arresting detail of those lives and the spiraling thoughts of the characters who inhabit them. In so doing, they not infrequently stretch the boundaries of realism .. In all her writing, Diski turned her sharply observant gaze on the stuff of the world — people, places, books, things, oncologist appointments — and then thought hard not only about that stuff, but about the thoughts generated by that stuff and the thoughts further generated by those thoughts. In The Vanishing Princess, her characters are to a degree her avatars, sometimes in their reenactments of scenes and themes detailed elsewhere in memoirs and essays, always in the trenchant thinking that makes their stories — and hers — memorable.
...takes up one aspect of feminine experience and inflates it into a beautiful and monstrous parable ... In retelling folk stories with new female perspectives, The Vanishing Princess’s closest ally is Angela Carter. Like Carter, Diski presents women who are living inside roles. She gives us the internal monologue of the gazed-upon woman ... If many stories in The Vanishing Princess are about tapping into the hidden desire at the heart of the self, others are about its destruction by an outrageous world ... For all the affirmation of female interiority in these stories, therefore, Diski also gives us a low hum of dread and perturbation. There’s a distant wryness to the narrative voice of The Vanishing Princess, one which uses fairytale cutouts to make everyday life seem both ridiculous and frightening. Madness and evil are as omnipresent as they are in fairytales, and they hide just out of our sight—only one thwarted desire, one misunderstanding away—in our own heads.
It’s a sharp, funny, clever selection. But for fans of her work it may feel like a disappointment, a bunch of crumbs when what you wanted is another cake ... There’s much to admire in this book—the energy of the prose, the playfulness with which Diski approaches her stories. In just under two hundred pages, she tries her hand at fairy tales, erotica, and scenes of domestic life. Such inventiveness is typical of Diski’s fiction. Her novels are incredibly varied in their form. But however daring and original, the novels lack the immediacy of Diski’s nonfiction. As a result, the stories in The Vanishing Princess may be something of a letdown ... Reading it, one can see Diski’s later words hovering around the edges. It’s easier to deal with stories that have a beginning and a middle and an end. But minds don’t work that way. Our experience of the past is not linear. It pokes through, it prods, it shapes how we view the world no matter how distant it may feel. What makes Diski’s work so brilliant is that she was able to present her life in all its untidiness.