"My girlfriend left me, and I started crying in my sleep. My nightly lament became so loud that my neighbors called the police. The press found out, and people came to stand outside my house to hear me call her name and moan. Television crews arrived, and soon a search was on to find the object of my misery. They tracked her to her new boyfriend's house. I watched the coverage. People were saying ...
"My girlfriend left me, and I started crying in my sleep. My nightly lament became so loud that my neighbors called the police. The press found out, and people came to stand outside my house to hear me call her name and moan. Television crews arrived, and soon a search was on to find the object of my misery. They tracked her to her new boyfriend's house. I watched the coverage. People were saying they had expected her to be much more beautiful than she was, and that I should pull myself together and stop crying over such an ordinary girl."
In 101 words each, the 101 witty, haunting stories of Anthropology chronicle the search for love in an age preoccupied with sex. Each story is a pure distillation of heartbreak, longing, delusion, and bliss. Each spins speedily, shockingly, to its unpredictable climax. And each is unlike anything you have read before.
Anthropology's macabre humor builds imperceptibly, story by story and girlfriend by girlfriend, until it reflects with surreal accuracy how we try to complete ourselves through—or at the expense of—another. Read it to laugh and forget your sorrows; read it to recognize and remember your delights; read it to discover a vivid, provocative new talent.
An ingenious project in prose construction, Rhodes's book of short stories is composed of 101 tales, each containing exactly 101 words. The short-shorts boast an economy of language common to prose poems, or even sonnets, and the subject matter is love. The speaker appears to have a new girlfriend in each story. The women have names like Mazzy, Xanthe, Treasure, Foxglove or more commonly, "My girlfriend," and the adventures of the various lovers are alternately funny, goofy, clever and surreal, with an occasional drop of pathos for the speaker's oft-thwarted heart. Angelique drives the speaker to stick pins in his face, Paris is literally catatonic after her bike is stolen, Tortoiseshell is in jail, Celestia may just be a bunch of chemicals, Amber goes to the grocery store naked. The best pieces, the ones that feature comic, misunderstood dialogue between lovers, resemble poet Hal Sirowitz's humorous Mother Said, while other pieces are overly Brautigan inspired. Many of these feature a story line of the girlfriend who is so beautiful that the speaker feels sorry for her ex-boyfriends, but is also petrified at the possibility of becoming one of them. In spite of some less than sparkling entries, most of these little nuggets are fun, quirky and occasionally poetically lovely. They gather steam, increasing in violence, heartbreak and intensity as the book progresses. Like the French poetry movement Oulipo--an experimental group whose projects included the writing of an entire novel without using the letter "e"--Rhodes seems to have created a new, ostensibly senseless form that yields some true delights. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Anthropology is a debut collection of 101 love stories, each 101 words long. Rhodes's method is to sketch a ready-made romantic drama and then push one of its elements past the point of absurdity. The form does not allow for in-depth character development, and at times we seem to be skimming through a dream journal or the transcript of a surreal therapy session. This is not really a weakness, since the sudden deaths, betrayals, and other atrocities are described with a warped, deadpan humor that ties the stories together surprisingly well. Although readers will laugh out loud at points, there is a sinister quality to this book, perhaps a guilty reaction from taking pleasure in the nameless narrator's suffering. Anthropology might make an interesting anniversary present for an ex-lover, but be sure to leave the room before he or she begins reading. Recommended for libraries with a younger, hip readership or for the collection of a writing program. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/00.]--Philip Santo, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Anthropology 101 is a beginning course on the study of Man. Anthropology consists of 101 extremely short short stories (101 words) that explore the interactions between men and women. The nameless, often-hapless male narrators describe with sometimes poignant, sometimes bizarre detail their relationships with such girlfriends as Tortoiseshell, Treasure, Paris, or Azure. These brief summaries are frequently the written equivalent of slapstick or pratfalls, but just as often, the surprising twists provoke new thinking about age-old quandaries. Personalities are quickly and surely drawn. Readers meet the "bland" girlfriend who surrounds herself with used yogurt cups, and an unemployed girl who could think of no hobbies other than smoking to put on her job application. Some situations are funny, some sad, and some even a little perverse, but taken as a whole, they give a sense of the endless variety possible in the basically universal story of boy meets girl, boy loves girl, and either wins or, more often, loses her. This collection is a literary curiosity developed with wit and skill, and is a wonderful basis for an assignment as well as a literate study of the human condition.-Susan H. Woodcock, Chantilly Regional Library, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
From The Critics
Anthropology is a collection of humorous, surreal, cleverly crafted short stories with a special twist. Each of the 101 stories by Dan Rhodes is precisely 101 words in length. Each funny, heartbreaking, sweet, and true tale is told economically while capturing the many complex emotions that encompass the notion of love. Here is love in all its aspects, fancies, facets, and guises. Anthropology is one of those anthologies that will be read again and again, clearly establishing Dan Rhodes as a skilled, innovative, and talented writer to be reckoned with and sought out in the future.
The Times (London)
Complex and playful–crushingly wicked moments make it perfectly bite-sized reading.
Britisher Rhodes appears to enter the contest for smallest book of the year, offering 101 pieces said each to be 101 words long. But he doesn't take the prize from the reigning Marty Asher, whose Boomer (p. 400) also had 101 tiny sections.
Dan Rhodes was born in 1972. He lives in Kent, England. This is his first book.
Good To Know
In our interview, Rhodes shared some fun facts about himself with us:
"When I was 22, I was fired from a sensible office job after nine days for my failure to adapt to an adult environment. I still have difficulty acting in a grown-up manner, and this gets me into all kinds of trouble."
"The pinnacle of my showbiz career came when a copy of my first book, Anthropology, was seen on Carrie's desk in an episode of Sex and the City. It's been downhill ever since."
"I was in the audience at the final concerts of both the Smiths and the Spice Girls."
B.A., University of Glamorgan, 1994; M.A., University of Glamorgan, 1998
Read an Excerpt
I loved an anthropologist. She went to Mongolia to study the gays. At first she kept their culture at arm's length, but eventually she decided that her fieldwork would benefit from assimilation. She worked hard to become as much like them as possible, and gradually she was accepted. After a while she ended our romance by letter. It breaks my heart to think of her herding those yaks in the freezing hills, the peak of her leather cap shielding her eyes from the driving wind, her wrist dangling away, and nothing but a handlebar mustache to keep her top lip warm.
My girlfriend died. We hadn't been together long, and I had felt indifferent toward her. She left me her ashes. "What should I do with them?" I asked her family.
"She wanted you to decide.' I really didn't care. "You two were so in love; we're leaving it up to you to choose her final resting place.' They were incredibly compassionate, and the pressure was enormous. I found myself in a helicopter, scattering her over the meadow where she had ridden her pony as a girl. Her family watched, weeping their final goodbyes as the little gray flecks fell to earth.
My girlfriend's pregnancy lasted over two years. "Maybe the doctor's right," I said. "Maybe a baby isn't going to come." She wouldn't listen. She carried on buying diapers, teething rings, woolly hats and mittens, and little bits and pieces for the nursery. One afternoon I came home to find her cradling a bundle in her arms.
"Look," she said. "It's arrived. It's a boy, and it's got your eyes."
"Well done," I said. "Congratulations."
"And congratulations to you too. After all, you don't become a father every day!'
"I suppose not. But really it's you that's done all the hard work."
My girlfriend is so beautiful that she has never had cause to develop any kind of personality. People are always wildly glad to see her, even though she does little more than sit around and smoke. She's getting prettier, too. Last time she left the house she caused six car crashes, two coronaries, about thirty domestic disputes and an estimated six hundred unwanted and embarrassing erections. She seems to be quite indifferent to the havoc she causes. "I'm going to the shop for cigarettes," she'll say, yawning with that succulent, glossy mouth. "I suppose you'd better call some ambulances or something!'
I found my girlfriend smashing our two year-old's toes with a rock. I told her to stop. "What are you doing?" I cried, above the baby's agonized wails.
"You wouldn't understand," she said, winding a bandage tightly around the crushed digits. "It's a woman thing. It'll help her get a boyfriend:'
"But darling, don't you remember what the doctor told us? It's a boy baby?'
"Really?" She looked surprised. "Oh well. Men look nice with small feet too. I expect he'll be gay, anyway. He's got that look about him. See?" I had to agree that she had a point.
My girlfriend used my going blind as an excuse to start dressing sloppily. In the days when I could see her, she had always looked immaculate in the latest cuts of the best designer labels. Now, her high heels have been replaced by sneakers, her silk stockings and short skirts by jeans, and her smart blouses and figure-hugging jackets by baggy sweaters. I haven't said anything yet, but its getting to the point where I'm embarrassed to be seen with her as she gently holds my hand and guides me along, making sure I don't trip or bump into anything.
My girlfriend is so lovely that I can't help feeling sorry for all her ex-boyfriends. I'm sure they must spend all their time thinking about her and wondering what she could be up to. So every month I send them a bulletin detailing all the pretty things she has said and done. Sometimes I enclose a discarded pair of tights, or the stub of an eyebrow pencil. I feel I should do everything I can to make up for them having lost a girl with such soft brown hair, and whose feet are so small you can hardly see them.