He pointed at the boy in the rear of the room and the youth unhesitatingly came forward. "My son has never had the experience and needs it badly," he...moreHe pointed at the boy in the rear of the room and the youth unhesitatingly came forward. "My son has never had the experience and needs it badly," he said simply. (19, "The Delayed Death Touch")
The origin of thugee is disputed. However, I believe with the majority of my antecedents that the Destructive Power in the world could not keep pace with the Creative Power which peopled prolifically. So the Destructive Power asked the Black Mother, the Goddess Kali, for help. Kali demonstrated a strangle with a cloth to her followers as the accepted mode of dispatching victims. The idea here as to kill without shedding blood since blood begets blood and creation springs from it. (46, "Strangle of the Thug")
Jose stated that his system was all his own. He had borrowed from no one. Then he made a slight amendment. From an unidentified Chinese source he obtained medicine which he took daily and religiously. The hardening of the fingertips he told me--and I had heard the same from countless Chinese--often brought on blindness. (56, "The Mexican Knife")
Technically, he pointed out, the pain induced is intense. The force penetrates deep inside the head to a central knot of facial nerves called the "gasserian ganglion." This knot is headquarters for the nerves of sensation that serve the eye, the upper jaw, and the lower jar. When the knot is disturbed by a blow it causes real havoc: you can't focus your eyes, your orientation sense goes awry, and often you lose consciousness. This last is something of a blessing for the pain that ensues is the same maddening, merciles pain of tic douloureux (facial neuralgia), called by many doctors the worst pain a human can experience. (82, "The MVD Special")
I thought of Finley Peter Dunne's classic statement: "You can refuse to love a man or to lend him money, but if he wants to fight you have got to oblige him." (84, "The Unexpected Tactic")(less)
Itaya's characters are wonderfully lifelike, given the oddly formal world in which they move--a world of grave and subtle courtships, fragile longings...moreItaya's characters are wonderfully lifelike, given the oddly formal world in which they move--a world of grave and subtle courtships, fragile longings, and whispered, apologetic mysticism. If they are all to some extent comic, like self-important, troubled children viewed by a wise and loving grandmother, they are comic because their universe is comic, that is, ever-threatening but secretly serene. (xxiv)
"I suspect that you are perhaps a renowned robber. The way of stealing and the way of music may have something in common. You seem not to realize it yourself, but from my observation you are better suited to be a musician than to be a robber. Listen. Wouldn't you like to become my disciple?" (8, "The Robber and the Flute")
"Your story is an extraordinary one," he said. "You may rely on me. I will do everything I can. To attempt an adventure into the world where no light reaches may also mean my own salvation." (108, "Chikubu Island") (less)
"Do you know, my dear fellow," continued Derville, after a long pause, "that there are three men in our social system who cannot respect or value the...more"Do you know, my dear fellow," continued Derville, after a long pause, "that there are three men in our social system who cannot respect or value the world, -- the priest, the physician, and the lawyer. They wear black gowns, perhaps because they mourn for all virtues, all illusions. The most unhappy among them is the lawyer. When a man seeks a priest he is forced to it by repentance, by remorse, by beliefs which make him interesting, which ennoble him and comfort the soul of his mediator, whose duty is not without a certain sort of joy; the priest purifies, heals, reconciles. But we lawyers! we see forever the same evil feelings, never corrected; our offices are sink-holes which nothing can cleanse." -"Colonel Chabert"
Stylistically instructive. Substantially unfulfilling, excepting "The Dog of the Marriage" and "In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried." Like Adam...moreStylistically instructive. Substantially unfulfilling, excepting "The Dog of the Marriage" and "In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried." Like Adam Johnson and other well-researched modern eclectics, there's a lack of moral vision, an encompassing system or direction in the writer's worldview. (I don't believe in post-postmodern values. It doesn't have to be absurd or un-invested to be new. Old values like family can be fresh values.) These are variations on the same superficial emotions with new flashy details, a trendy irresolution and excitement for the unusual, a kind of media-droned grotesque, though yet to be uniformly considered cliche.
I'm not sure this commercially quick and witty form can leave indelible impressions, not unless they can be contained and transfigured in the reader's mind long after, like a poem, like Hemingway's "baby shoes for sale. never used."(less)
. (Prologue) Waiting Endless Repetition People from the Future Multiple-Dimension Decisions Mechanical & Body Time...moreMy table of contents, for reference:
. (Prologue) Waiting Endless Repetition People from the Future Multiple-Dimension Decisions Mechanical & Body Time Age & Distance from Earth Absolute Time Cause > Effect, Effect > Cause Nothing Much . (Interlude) Reason for His Studies Moments Before the End Stuck in Time Time Cycles = Universal Order Frozen Time No Time But Snapshots Short-term Memory Seers & Fate Slow Time, Fast Lives . (Interlude) Its Toll Backwards Time One Day Time is a Sense Immortality Qualitative Time No Future A Tangible Dimension Discontinuous Time . (Interlude) Fishing Worship to the Great Clock Local Phenomena Determinism Infinite Sympathy of Copies Mutable Memories Nightingales . (Epilogue) Typist
"If time and the passage of events are the same, then time moves barely at all. If time and events are not the same, then it is only people who barely move. If a person holds no ambitions in this world, he suffers unknowingly. If a person holds ambitions, he suffers knowingly, but very slowly."
Literary: Not sure the interludes or even presence of Einstein beyond the title & dates were necessary. Seems to be a technique of unity to ground the otherwise whimsical nature of each short piece. Especially since this is in a postmodern prose style; the realism approach is thrown out entirely.
General: A brilliant exercise. The melodrama is forgivable. This book is an excellent toolkit for any story using magical realism or characters meditating on their solitude/relativity/infinity.
marvelously, smartly written. each story is witty, true, and in the moment. "Bark" and "Knowing French" are astounding.
and yet. if this is representat...moremarvelously, smartly written. each story is witty, true, and in the moment. "Bark" and "Knowing French" are astounding.
and yet. if this is representative of the style and accepted peak of our contemporary short fiction, there is much lacking. it is all form with just enough content. it is _amusement_, moreover.
woe if our generation has so blurred the lines of poetry and prose that aesthetic poeticisms will excuse the absence of substance in prose writing. the hybrid of forms today fails at both the vision of poetry and the meaning of prose. it just becomes an emptiness of repeating tangibles; and we can't even call it process b/c we can hardly imagine what important thing the author is working his way through.
it seems more and more to me that today's sharp, fast-paced, well-informed literature is much impoverished by a negligence of the larger picture.(less)
"To me it seems that it was only then that I became female. I know that the matter was decided long before I was born and was plain to everybody else...more"To me it seems that it was only then that I became female. I know that the matter was decided long before I was born and was plain to everybody else since he beginning of my life, but I believe that it was only at the moment when I decided to come back, when I gave up the fight against my mother (which must have been a fight for something like her total surrender) and when I chose survival over victory (death would have been victory), that I took on my female nature."
every story here is high quality and marked by a good writer. but there are unfathomable oddities to the style that would be too easy to cast off as incompetence or merely overlooked. maybe they create new permissions for other writers to improve upon them. they include:
- using the present tense narrative without actually grounding the story in that present moment. the present tense might be in the past or future of the primary narrative. sometimes it's surreal; sometimes it disrupts the chronology of time
- using no transitions between scenes which mark a significant time change. the reader has to deduce this halfway through
- not introducing characters or their relationship; they just appear
- going into exquisite detail for irrelevant scenes which are not central and which do not return for a final payoff
- making a huge chronological time break w/o any sense of conclusion or newness being bridged
the narrative device of "My Mother's Dream" is original, richly imagined, and effective. "Cortes Island" is the winner of this collection; it's the best example of straight storytelling and has that mark of integrity that it MUST have been completely true down to that small random central detail.(less)