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Books: Funny Sad Girl

2 minute read

TODDLER ON THE RUN by Shena Mackay. 105 pages. Simon & Schusfer. $2.95.

Author Mackay, a 21-year-old British girl who shares a drab walk-up over a London launderette with her 23-year-old draftsman husband, an infant daughter, her mother, a dog and three sullen cats is the most precocious and prolific ornament in a new British literary clique that might be called the Sad Young Girls. Unlike the Angry Young Men, who exercised their spleens against a rotten and unjust world, the Sad Young Girls find the world deliciously sad—and despairing about it is a jolly good way to enjoy it. Author Mackay’s hero is a 23-year-old dwarf whose chief problem, as someone remarks, is that “it’s only his mind that’s warped, he’s got a lovely little body.” After a series of disjointed misadventures, he ends up drowned, a wisp of seaweed hanging from his sad little foot. What sets Author Mackay apart from her despairing friends, however, is that there is a giggle buried deep in the center of her sadness, and it bubbles up at odd moments—such as the moment when a husband grows so incensed at his wife for feeding him canned food that he throws her down and tries to open her head with an old-fashioned can opener. Sadly, the injured wife ends up in an insane asylum.

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