The Debutante and Other Stories – Leonora Carrington

We can create entire worlds in our imagination and this book also shows it can be fun and effortless. Carrington allows her imagination to run wild and not bother with the limits of reality. 

Another book I bought from Bookshop.org. Quite surprising this time as it is a collection of short stories. And I am not a big fan of short stories. But for years now I loved Leonora Carrington’s The Hearing Trumpet and I was really excited to get my hands on more of her writing.

As I mentioned it is a series of short stories and many of them are very short indeed, just a few pages here and there. I decided to read it in the evening before going to sleep, which is why it took me forever and a day to finish it. Over the years a honed my ability to fall asleep and am now nearing perfection. This means as soon as I end up in a position that is even mildly horizontal I’m out. Not very conducive to reading.

The collection includes over 20 stories, often translated from other languages. Carrington did not shy away from flexing her language abilities. She wrote in foreign languages even when she wasn’t fully fluent in them. Maybe as a way of unlocking her mind’s potential, I don’t know. 

The stories are what you may colloquially call completely nuts. The collection starts with The Debutante, as the title indicates. It is a gem of a short story, one that within 4 pages has you laughing and gasping in terror. The sheer absurdity of the idea of having a hyena go to a debutante party instead of a young girl is only the first indication of the daring mind we deal with here.

Other stories have shapeshifting horses, coats made of lining rodents, magic gardens, mysterious houses. After the fifth story, you start to become ready to accept nearly everything. You completely suspend your attachment to reality, because the only thing that matters in this world is the reality of Carrington’s mind. 

Yes, it is a joy and fun to read. But it is also flawed in a way that for me often plagues short story collections. They are never equally good, some are bounds to be worse than others, and then it feels like accidentally picking the chocolate you don’t like from a box full of chocolates. Another thing that bothered me was that after a few stories, we get so much into the world of Carrington’s mind that not only we’re not surprised by its twists and turns we start to expect them. The reading becomes this a bit tense experience where you’re waiting for the next thing she will spring on you. 
By no means is this a perfect book, and The Hearing Trumpet beats it hands down. But it is an interesting glimpse into a wild and raging imagination. One that does not shy away from improvising its own mythology and symbology, but without belaboring it.

Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska

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