‘Cranley Meadows’ by James Lasdun

In 2010, James Lasdun very kindly provided a fantastic cover quote for my first Nightjar Press story, and I read his new collection, It’s Beginning to Hurt. I still remember the impact of the two-page title story, but the one I’m including here is ‘Cranley Meadows’. Lev Rosenberg, a fifty-four-year-old physicist, has lost his college job and has been looking for work: “What will I do? Keep looking, I suppose.” He still frequents the college observatory. On “a chilly, glittering October night… Lev inched the telescope across the heavens”. He wants to show Saturn to his wife Bryony, who was once his student but whose interest in astronomy has waned. “You seem as if you have something you want to tell me,” he says. It’s a devastating story but it’s the gentle tone, Lev’s kindness and understanding, that makes it really heartbreaking.

First published in The Times Literary Supplement, 1999. Collected in It’s Beginning to Hurt, Jonathan Cape, 2009

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