‘The Terrible Rages of Lillian Strauss’ by Deborah Levy

Swallowing Geography dazzles, bites and snarls. A disorientating wandering between physical bodies and lands, Levy’s book can be read as fragments, short stories, or from beginning to end. In the collection, we meet cowboys, a tourist “a wanderer, bum, émigré, refugee, deportee” and the furious, gin-drinking Lillian Strauss. In the book “beginnings and ends curls into each other.” Language startles and unsettles. The story ‘The Terrible Rages of Lillian Strauss’ is a vivid, piercing depiction of daughterly love, an aging mother’s anger, and Lillian’s excellent habit of planting red-hot pokers in her garden, ready for them to bloom. If Swallowing Geography were a firework, it would be a Screaming Spider, fast-burning, noisy and hard-bursting, shooting out straight stars into the night sky like dozens of little spider’s legs. 

From Swallowing Geography, Jonathan Cape, 1993. Swallowing Geography was republished together with Beautiful Mutants in Early Levy, Penguin, 2014 and on its own as a Penguin Essentials, 2019

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