Days of Awe by A.M. Homes
A.M. Homes is one of my favourite authors, and I am hungry for any new writing from her. Homes is a brilliant analyst of life in the anxious times of late capitalism, where personal relationships and the nuclear family have become irrevocably fractured, and everyday encounters are disrupted by self-obsession and punctuated by the distractions of technology. Her characters are neurotic. They are often cold or rude. They frequently do things they shouldn’t. Lots of them are in therapy (or need it). Some seem broken beyond repair. But Homes doesn’t let them get away with any of that, and mercilessly exposes their absurdity, and these stories are so much fun.
I enjoyed every story in this collection, but a few have stayed with me. ‘The National Cage Bird Show’ is an unlikely tale of PTSD set in a budgerigar-enthusiast chat room: only Homes could dream this up and make it work. In ‘A Prize for Every Player’ she has a family undertake a monstrous competitive shopping game in order to complete their weekly shop, and includes the attainment of something that should never be available at the store. It ends with a biting commentary on the populist turn of global politics: this is vintage Homes. In the title story, ‘Days of Awe’, two writers reacquaint themselves at a conference on genocide; it’s full of bad behaviour, ill-considered transgressions, and is topped off with a few gentle (and hilarious) barbs at the conference circuit. Read ‘She Got Away’ and you’ll understand why I laughed out loud at the answering machine messages left by the disgruntled therapist, and again at the description of a celebration of a ‘life in foams’. If you’ve never read Homes before, you must rectify that oversight immediately. This collection is a great place to start.