In stories as intriguing as their title-"Pink Cigarettes," "Electric Blue Damsels,""Other People's Bathrobes"-Mackay demonstrates her uncanny ability to expose the menace of everyday life with humor and haunting accuracy. Harnessing Mackay's darkly comic vision, an astonshing originality, and vibrant prose, these remarkable short works provide "novel-worthy dimensions in a few pages" (The New York Times Book Review). "American readers new to Mackay's stories," said Publishers Weekly, "have something really special waiting for them."
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Shena Mackay was born in Edinburgh in 1944. She left school at the age of 16 after winning a poetry competition in the Daily Mirror. Her first book, published in 1964 but written when she was still a teenager, consists of two novellas, Dust Falls on Eugene Schlumburger and Toddler on the Run. Her first novel, Music Upstairs (1965), is set in London in the early 1960s.
There was a break in her writing between the novel An Advent Calendar published in 1971 and the collection of short stories Babies in Rhinestones and Other Stories, published in 1983. The novel A Bowl of Cherries (1984) was published by Harvester Press, a small independent publisher in Brighton, on the recommendation of the novelist Iris Murdoch.
More recent novels include the black comedy Redhill Rococo (1986), winner of the Fawcett Society Book Prize; Dunedin (1992), which won a Scottish Arts Council Book Award; and the acclaimed The Orchard on Fire (1995), which is set in the early 1950s and tells the story of a young girl, April, living in a small village in Kent, who attracts the increasing attentions of Mr Greenidge, an older man. It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1996. The Artist's Widow (1998) is a satirical portrait of the contemporary London art world. Heligoland (2003), is the story of one woman's search for Utopia.
Collected Short Stories (1994), includes short stories from her three previous collections, Babies in Rhinestones and Other Stories (1983), Dreams of Dead Women's Handbags (1987) and The Laughing Academy (1993). The World's Smallest Unicorn and Other Stories was published in 1999.
Shena Mackay lives in London. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and also Honorary Visiting Professor to the MA in Writing at Middlesex University. Her latest novel is The Atmospheric Railway (2006).
Dreams of Dead Women's Handbags, a collection of 31 stories written over the past 20 years, includes further evidence of Ms. Mackay's startling precocity, but it also displays the more recent, elegant work of a developed writer who has continued to fine-tune her distinctive voice over an unusually broad range.... Her descriptive precision and imagination are matched by a talent to surprise. And while the characters about whom she writes may be ordinary in their pathetic or grandiose or greedy ways, the author's genuinely sympathetic interest in these lives provides novel-worthy dimensions in a few pages. -- The New York Times Book Review, Katharine Weber
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