The world, as painted by Primo Levi, is a hokey, calloused place. As stuffed full of surreal bureaucracy as it is twisted by mankind’s ineptitude; as prickly as it is accommodating; and as intriguing as it is cruelly frustrating.
Like a bowl full of strange fruit, the eight short stories in this collection are no exception, and by carefully eschewing dialogue, Levi gives the stories the ethereal timbre of a voiceless choir. From animals courting smalltalk at a party, through to modern gladiators, the deadly craze of Knall, and the curse of a perfect poem, the stories are hard and sharp, while offering surprising comfort to the morass of modern life.
So if you like your reading with some bite, or to draw blood, or with an aftertaste of the bizarre, then get yourself a copy of this collection, strap yourself down and get ready to watch the psychedelic paint dry.
Bleak and quietly disturbing, the short stories of Petrushevskaya portray a shadowy world that feeds equally on the social ails of the modern world, and the earthy magic of the old kingdom.
The stories in this collection–Through the Wall, The Father, The Cabbage-Patch Mother, Marilena’s Secret, and Anna and Maria–are fine examples of the modern faerie tale: part horror story, part moral hazard, and part something nameless.
As the cast of listeners, lovers, nurses, wizards, and dancers journey through realms of endless woods and monotone cities, you’re left with an inkling it’s only the thinnest veil of hope that keeps the darkness from swallowing us whole.
There’s no obvious way to review a collection of Robert Coover’s short stories, no conspicuous handle with which to hold the text, no praise likely to escape being labelled sycophancy, and no criticism that wouldn’t rightly be mocked as bitter jealously. Reviewing Coover is painful, and not because of any pretensions it gives one to write like him, but rather because of the pretensions it instills to read him without being intimidated.
Whether its the romantic irony of the collection’s eponymous story, the fetid titillation of “The Babysitter”, or the frivolous mundanity of “A Pedestrian Accident”, each story reads like you’re smacking yourself in the head with a flail; each leaves an admixture of blood and synovial fluid pouring from your ears; each feels sucking on the metallic teats of a shotgun’s barrels.
So if you’re happy to have your mind wrung out and twisted by a short collection of words, then I recommend you need look no further; if you prefer to keep your sense and thoughts well ordered, then why not go look for something off a best seller list.
The Sexes is a small collection of Dorothy Parker’s short stories about relationships, and is published as part of Penguin’s mini modern classics series.
The first story, the Sexes, is a masterclass in dialogue: taught, lucid, and oozing with an admixture of cultural, emotional and interpersonal tension. As a singular comment on the complex narrative that exists between the sexes, it is an aggressive shot across the bow against those that seek to deny the differences between the genders.
The Lovely Leave offers a fly-on-the-wall perspective of the intricacies that lie behind the facade of a loving relationship. An education for those yet to experience loving relationships, and a mirror for everyone else, it’s a pristine example of how to clothe reality in fiction.
Like all collections, not all stories are crafted equally, and the Little Hours is the runt of the litter, a meandering story with little purpose other than to showcase a litany of quotations and the sharp poise of Parker’s prose.
The final two stories, Glory in the Daytime and Lolita, bring the book to an ordered conclusion. Glory in the Daytime is a sharp vignette contrasting the human costs of fame against the droll existence of normalcy, and Lolita is a strange but elegant story of the smallness of attitude fostered by small town life.
The Sexes is an perfectly tempered collection of short stories that not only underlines the genius of Dorothy Parker, but also serves as a intricate lesson about the complexities of human emotion and sexual politics. And apart from being a taut read, it serves as a gentle reminder that–for those willing to look–the richness of life is there to marvel at just beyond the graceful vision of our eyes.
Tthe UK’s first national short story week will run from 22nd-28th November 2010, and aims to get more people reading and writing short stories up and down the country.
So come November make sure you join in the celebrations and help your associates revel in the, oft forgotten, but glorious wonders of the short form.