What’s A Telephone Call all about?:
A woman over-obsesses about a telephone call she is waiting for from a man she is seeing to the point where she seems to lose her senses.
What did I think?:
A Telephone Call is the first story in this collection of short stories written by women and edited by Victoria Hislop. Prior to the story beginning we are given a short and snappy biography about the author which I really appreciated as a reader. Dorothy Parker was born in 1893 in New Jersey, America and was best known as a critic, satirist, poet and of course, short story writer. In general, I thought this was a brilliant little tale which was perfectly organised and original in style.
It is written from the point of view of an unnamed female narrator who is awaiting a telephone call from a man who is, so far, two hours late in calling. Now I think probably every female has probably been in this situation (perhaps to a milder extent) as we eagerly anticipate a phone call in the first flushes of love. For this particular woman it becomes an almost dangerous obsession where she runs the risk of serious psychological damage as she goes through a variety of emotions including despair, anger and hope as she tries to convince herself there is a valid reason why he has not phoned when he said he would.
The reader is swept into our narrator’s inner monologue which is actually a conversation with God where she pleads with him to make her lover call and continually questions her own emotions. This leads to a disastrous conflict as the turmoil in her mind threatens to make her crazy, instigates obsessive compulsive behaviours such as believing the phone will ring if she counts to five hundred first and provokes outbursts like the following:
“Why can’t that telephone ring? Why can’t it, why can’t it? Couldn’t you ring? Ah, please, couldn’t you? You damned, ugly, shiny thing. It would hurt you to ring, wouldn’t it? Oh, that would hurt you. Damn you, I’ll pull your filthy roots out of the wall, I’ll smash your smug black face in little bits. Damn you to hell.”
This is a perfect example of the twisting and turning of our characters emotions which leads ultimately to anger until the cycle begins again. The poor woman appears to be in a Catch 22 situation where she feels that she cannot ring her lover herself as it is not what society expects of her or is what men want/find attractive but is in danger of going mad if she does not phone. At one point, she even wishes her lover dead as perhaps that would be a better outcome than admitting to herself that he does not love her like she loves him. By the end of the story, she seems to find herself in an endless loop as she once again begins to count to five hundred by which time she is sure that the phone will have rung.
I was immediately drawn into this fantastically conceived story although at times it made uncomfortable reading. It seemed like a very private insight into one woman’s thoughts and beliefs and I felt like a trespasser or voyeur reading about her intense discomfort. I would have loved to know if the telephone had eventually rung but in my own warped imagination I feel that sadly it would have not. I think the author is also making a powerful statement about women’s place in the world and, possibly, the difference in our emotional states when compared with men. I’ll definitely be checking out some more of this author’s work, many thanks to Victoria Hislop for bringing her fiction to my attention!
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: Dougbert Shackleton’s Rules For Antarctic Tailgating by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove