I'm giving this five stars not because it was perfect — in any collection you're bound to skip a few — but because it's by far the best experience I'vI'm giving this five stars not because it was perfect — in any collection you're bound to skip a few — but because it's by far the best experience I've had with any kind of anthology or lit journal. It did exactly what you'd want a lit journal to do: it introduced me to some new writers, it gave me some new work by old faves, many of its experiments caught me off guard in a good way. Stand outs for me were Stephen O'Connor's story "Next to Nothing," the mind-bending, Sebald-ish essay "The Cubes," by Karen Hayes, and of course Walser's three "dramalets." But I could go on. A full table of contents here.
I was once intrigued with Can Xue, whose story "Venus" is included here, but ever since I read an interview with her she has become unbearable to me. I seem to remember her saying something like the only books worth reading are like the Canterbury Tales and the bible. Oh and that she doesn't edit. She's so interesting and wonderful she just has to write down whatever's in her head and it's as good as the Canterbury Tales and the bible.
But anyway, even with that, I'm a happy new Conjunctions subscriber....more
Golly. I can't believe how much I hated the title novella here. Surprising, I know. Usually, if it's a classic, having stood the test of time, I can fGolly. I can't believe how much I hated the title novella here. Surprising, I know. Usually, if it's a classic, having stood the test of time, I can find SOMETHING to enjoy about it... and eventually I guess I did find something, but CRAP! it was hard to find, because, through most of the book, I was thoroughly distracted with plans for building a time machine so I could go back and kick Mr. Mann in the nuts (BTW while I'm there I'd like to kick Freud in the nuts too). Mann constantly confuses bloated high diction for beautiful writing, and hoity-toity high-mindedness for art. Mainly, the problem is, he's dizzy on the Greeks. Like the highest thing a story can possibly do is evoke some sense of relation to the classics. Aschenbach, the main character, is set on a playing field with a number of thinly-veiled deities... and I swear: constantly referring to the sun as a chariot wheeling daily across the sky should be outlawed unless you actually wear a toga and burn lamb guts to Zeus. Otherwise, all this classic-ophilia, it doesn't add to the story at all; it only adds to your pompousness, Mr. Mann. This story could've been really funny and really tense (not to mention half as long), but it was so self-consciously wrapped up in being a greatly nobly symbolic poetic wonderwork it was just boring. And, honestly, how can a story about pedophilia be boring? I dunno, but Mr. Mann, you did it.
Okay now I did find some stuff, some adept symbolizing to admire here. The parallels between the faded glory of the main character, a *great* writer, and the once great sea republic of Venice; the ephemeral and disinterested qualities of Tadzio, god of youth... okay that stuff is good. You didn't get a Nobel for nothing I guess, so go ahead and pat yourself on the back (which you kind of do when you're lead character is a *great* influential writer who is obviously just you with a different name). And some of the imagery is fun, like the old codger who dresses too young and dyes his hair and wears carmine on his cheeks, like some kind of comical clown corpse, who Aschenbach eventually becomes — that was pretty strange in a good way. And the ending was, I admit, pretty awesome. But I'm still holding you guilty, Mr. Mann, for smashing all the life out of your story with a heavy load of contrived, "high"-minded bullcrap.
I gave it two stars, but realize that one of those stars is actually a black hole sucking up all the light radiated by the other star. That other star might as well not exist at all.
So... I wonder how the rest of the stories in this collection are?...more
There's nothing else like this. Levine's extremely careful, and emphatic style makes for some of the oddest, most interesting characters/worlds I've eThere's nothing else like this. Levine's extremely careful, and emphatic style makes for some of the oddest, most interesting characters/worlds I've ever read about. "Two Brothers", "The Son", "The Hump", and the title story are some of my favorite stories ever....more
The title story is one of my all time faves. The others are good too. She reminds me of Gogol and Chekhov whilst still remaining herself. Great senseThe title story is one of my all time faves. The others are good too. She reminds me of Gogol and Chekhov whilst still remaining herself. Great sense of humor. Great lambent, stream-of-consciousness style. Dreaminess, a plus....more
"Sea Oak" will forever be one of my top top top stories. I laughed so hard and felt so much. I met George Saunders once, and he didn't even mind that"Sea Oak" will forever be one of my top top top stories. I laughed so hard and felt so much. I met George Saunders once, and he didn't even mind that I'd photocopied this story for all my friends. Nice guy, that George....more