The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios
The narrator and his friend, Paul, an AIDS patient, spend Paul's last few months constructing an elaborate story about an Italian family in Helsinki and their lives throughout the Twentieth Century--elaborate, but ultimately unfinished.
"The Time I Heard the Private Donald J. Rankin String Concerto with One Discordant Violin, by the American Composer John Morton"
The narrator, visiting a friend in D.C., attends a concert of Vietnam War veterans in a ruine ...more
I was browsing the new fiction section at the library and saw a book of short fiction by Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi. I was a little leary when I found they were stories he had written before Pi. The thought crossed my mind that maybe he was just cashing in on his popularity by putting out some old stuff that wasn't that good. I was wrong, though. The stories were very well written and I'm glad I took the chance and checked the book out.
The title story was ...more
The other two stories, "The Time I Heard The Private Donald J. Rankin String Conce ...more
In “The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios”, a novella of about 85 pages, the main character describes how he touches the life of his friend (Paul) dying of AIDS. Together they write stories based on historical facts from each year of the 20th century. I wanted to know more about the story within the story, the story that they wrote together, but that wasn’t what it was about. It was about the tragedy of the young man’s early death. It is fitting ...more
Then I was blown away by the writing in "The Time I Heard the Private Donald J. Rankin String Concerto with One Discordant Violin, by the American Composer John Morton." Jaw dropping description of a musical experience, really, just incredible imagery as always. I love the way Martel writes - I can't think of any other writers who can capture a moment/experience/person/thing as vividly as he can. The actual stor ...more
Four stories. The first emotionally driven; the second examining the relationship between making art (music) and bonding between people... followed by a discussion with the conductor about art and how it fits in with a regular working life. This was my favourite of the four.
My second favourite was the third one, which appealed to my sense of the absurd, macabre and quirkiness. How dark but how funny, how morbid and yet life affirming: the absurd idea of cata...more
The best of the bunch was the title story: "The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios" which is a brilliant tale of suffering and ...more
That said, I really enjoyed this compilation.
There are four short stories in this volume. I found three of the four to be very worthwhile. I struggled through the fourth one - titled "Manners of Dying" - which is simply many versions of a letter written by a p ...more
Well, my interest wasn't satisfied. There are four short stories in this book, of which the Roccamatio one is 82 pages.
On the back cover of the book it says: "In 'The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios', two young friends discover the transformative power of the imagination as they join togeher to craft a story about a Fi ...more
This is a collection of 4 shortish stories. When you write a book like Life of Pi and then go back and publish some of your early books they just will not measure up. Having said that, I enjoyed reading this collection of stories. You can see that this is a young man writing as the author reminds in the stories. It is full of youth's earnestness and seriousness and certainty and doubt (oxymoronic as that is).
The first story ( ...more
"The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios"
"Facts" is about a young straight man with AIDS and his friend, and the ways in which the two attempt to occupy themselves during the extended hospital stay at t ...more
Well, there is not any of Helsinki in these pages but that was still the best story. TFBTHR is the only one where the format worked in favor of the plot and the conveyed emotions; see three of the stories use a certain structure ...more
My least favorite was the 2nd story, ...The Private Donald J. Rankin String Concerto...., and I'm not sure why I didn't enjoy it as much. Too much crammed into the little story? I think I just didn't like the composer and h ...more
Well, I must say this was quite an odd read. The first half was really good, the story about his AIDS sick friend and the musician. And then the second half: letters about an execution and then the last story telling about something which I hardly understood.
Like I said the first two stories are highly enjoyable and emotional. It’s about how people cope with the terrible dise ...more
The title story, "The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios," is actually my least favorite. While the premise is fascina ...more
The first story, which takes the name of the collec ...more
"...Helsinki..." might be my least favorite of these four offerings, though I enjoyed the writing "game" that the main characters were engaged in.
"...String Concerto..." was the most "typical" piece of fiction, but it struck me as the sort of work that I might write myself. I really liked everything about it.
The story started off slow but picked up momentum as the story focused on a boy who is trapped on a small boat adrift at sea with a big tiger for many months. (Tough for that scenario not to be interesting.) Both survive, and without a doubt Martel's power of imagination is revealed through twists and unexpected turns of the ...more
"Manners of Dying" consists of variations on a single motif, the description of a convicted criminal's last hours before his execution. Each one is written in the form of a letter to the prisoner's mother from the warden of a correctional institution.
The details that are catalogued include the man's last meal, whether he ate it, how much time he spent with the chaplain, what attitude he displayed in expec ...more
Absolutely fantastic. This is the second of Martel's books I've read and I now want to read everything he's written - although I don't think there's a lot more published at the moment.
This is a collection of short stories that kicked off his writing career and as far as I can tell, very autobiographical. Really great. The first one, about a friend dying of AIDS is absolutely heart-breaking. It's such an awful disease - both for the guy dying but also for his friends and ...more
Yann Martel was born in Spain in 1963 of peripatetic Canadian parents. He grew up in Alaska, British Columbia, Costa Rica, France, Ontario and Mexico, and has continued travelling as an adult, spending time in Iran, Turkey and India. Martel refers to his travels as, “seeing the same play on a whole lot of...more