Dan Rhodes Quits

Dan Rhodes brief career as a writer is almost up. He published his first book Anthropology only a year ago. Don't Tell Me The Truth About Love followed this year. A third and final book is in the pipeline, but after that it's all over.

Initially it seems inexplicable: both his books got good reviews and sold well. He writes short comedies about love in cut down to the bone prose. Anthropology consists of 101 stories - each only 101 words long. They are by turns playful, macabre, mysogynist, feminist - but always sharp, original and funny. He read a couple of examples:

My girlfriend is so beautiful that she has never had cause to develop any kind of personality. People are always wildly glad to see her, even though she does little more than sit around and smoke. She's getting prettier, too. Last time she left the house she caused six car crashes, two coronaries, about thirty domestic disputes and an estimated six hundred unwanted and embarrassing erections. She seems to be quite indifferent to the havoc she causes. "I'm going to the shop for cigarettes," she'll say, yawning with that succulent, glossy mouth. "I suppose you'd better call some ambulances or something!'

I found my girlfriend smashing our two year-old's toes with a rock. I told her to stop. "What are you doing?" I cried, above the baby's agonized wails. "You wouldn't understand," she said, winding a bandage tightly around the crushed digits. "It's a woman thing. It'll help her get a boyfriend:' "But darling, don't you remember what the doctor told us? It's a boy baby?' "Really?" She looked surprised. "Oh well. Men look nice with small feet too. I expect he'll be gay, anyway. He's got that look about him. See?" I had to agree that she had a point.

Don't Tell Me The Truth, a collection of longer short stories, shows the same sharp humour. However it also reveals a tender side to his writing. Some of the pieces are imbued with a deep sadness.

Asked about his experiences of writing, the mystery of why he's stopping quickly becomes clear. He enjoyed writing before he was a writer. However since becoming a professional author, he has had to deal with the business side of writing. It has not been a pleasant experience. In particular he his keen to put as much distance as possible between him and his publishers, who he describes as "shape-shifting giant lizards". As soon as the third book - title not yet settled - is out, he plans to pack up and move to Vietnam. There he will teach English as a foreign language, which he describes as a modern day version of joining the foreign legion.

There is something quite tragic to it all. A talented young writer - if perhaps overly sensitive - has been crushed and beaten by an insensitive overly commercial publisher. Someone should have noticed and protected him. Hopefully in time though he will write again.

Daniel Winterstein, 21st August 2001