A former lover becomes an uninvited houseguest in Ted and Marjory’s quiet abode, adversely affecting investigations into the history of the semicolon. A prosecutor must compulsively narrate his neighbour into ignominy. A market analyst’s visit to a stripper goes awry, leading to a compulsory leave from work and an intervention from loved ones. An English lit undergraduate finds himself besieged by increasingly urgent voyeuristic desires, and soon finds himself pressed to the glass, firm in his belief that the only way to exorcise his demon is to identify its essential objectives and achieve them. Meanwhile, poor Tim Pine must face his coprophobia in a most public and lamentable office misadventure.
Sentimental Exorcisms is a collection of tragicomic satire, latter-day Victorian collisions of Nabokov and Proust. The men in these long short stories have grand designs and petty fears, or modest designs and grand fears. Desires, scapegoats, idylls and obtrusive egos: the golden calves they can’t quite bear to kill. With their ramparts crumbling around them, each mounts an exuberant defence in a vacuum of self-absorption.