The Vanishing Princess: Stories by Jenny Diski [in Booklist]
Although Jenny Diski is renowned across the pond, her defiant treatise against her terminal cancer, In Gratitude, published just before her 2016 death is, ironically, what earned her substantial stateside acclaim. Now available posthumously to U.S. readers is her spectacular 1995 collection of bizarre-to-rueful-to-stunning stories, bookended by two princesses living (and reading) in towers: the titular “vanishing” princess, who learns about food, time, and mirrors; and the “Old Princess,” whose long life is spent waiting.
Another royal becomes “Queen–meaning Mrs. King,” as Diski alchemizes Rumpelstiltskin’s tale into “Shit and Gold,” a wicked feminist reclamation. A single story, “Strictempo,” gets plainly autobiographical as it portrays a 15-year-old expelled from boarding school and returned to negligent parents. A writer has an afternoon tryst with a stranger after discussing the “leaper” who’s disrupted rush-hour subway traffic.
A woman manifests her lifelong goal of the perfect, all-day bath. A housewife enjoys a “filthy” affair, even as “life went on as normal.” A toddler’s mother goes on a Caribbean vacation only to realize her husband is a dull disappointment. A teenager’s mother matter-of-factly talks blow jobs and doing drugs with her 13-year-old.
Memorable girls and women – damaged, truculent, curious, stalwart – occupy Diski’s pages, claiming space, agency, and well-deserved attention.