This was a wonderful, albeit slight, collection of short stories by Mark Valentine, who I have come to enjoy through his other short story collection...moreThis was a wonderful, albeit slight, collection of short stories by Mark Valentine, who I have come to enjoy through his other short story collection published by both Ex Occidente and Tartarus Press. We have four stories in this collection, but all of them take you to another world, filled with mystery and hinting at the numinous.
In all of these stories, Mark paints a beautiful and detailed landscape, focusing on places that take you to the edges of the "empire"… such as a city overseeing the Bosphorous (Istanbul), or an unidentified exotic locale designated for the rebirth of the new latin movement, or the ever changing political landscape of Xust.
These stories all focus on the interwar period, where much upheaval and change has affected these locations. All of our characters are on their own unique and quirky quests… usually for some knowledge. What they learn and experience in these stories is simply magical. And in this very vein, I found the last story, "Atelier in Iasi" to be delightfully unique in its closing moments.
Highly recommended for those that don't need the fantastical or strange thrown about in a vulgar fashion. These stories are driven by beautiful descriptions, interesting characters, and beautiful but strange locales… all with the undercurrent of a understated unveiling of the mysterious and mystical.(less)
So this is my first Bulgakov, and I read it partly because I realized that I had a serious void in my reading of Russian authors, but also in preparat...moreSo this is my first Bulgakov, and I read it partly because I realized that I had a serious void in my reading of Russian authors, but also in preparation for the recently published Bulgakov homage (Ex Occidente Press), MASTER IN CAFE MORPHINE: A HOMAGE TO MIKHAIL BULGAKOV. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12...
I fully enjoyed M&M and walked away with a similar sense of mirth and laughter as I have in the past with much of Gogol's satires. Similarly to Gogol, Bulgakov spins a masterful tale of the bizarre and weird, ultimately regaling the reader of a strange set of events, recounting when the Devil came down to Moscow. And similarly to Gogol, M&M is a satire/parable at its very core. What I have enjoyed much about this piece and Bulgakov's approach to satire is that many of the elements that develop the parable are not over done and were quite subtle and easily missed (for readers without a sense of Russian History... particularly Stalinist Russia). Bulgakov is able to get his barbs in without sounding preachy.
However, for those without an appreciation for Russian History (and more specifically the difficult circumstances that Bulgakov faced when trying to express his art for a highly censored society), I think future readers would simply enjoy a well written yarn that evokes hilarity through well drawn out imagery and absurd dialogue, and witty historical and literary refferences. Likewise, Bulgakov narrates this piece in a somewhat conversationalist prose style that left me feeling like I was listening to a series of inside jokes (having a cursory knowledge of Russian History may aid the reader in actually getting some of the jokes).
Likewise, I really thought that Bulgakov did a wonderful job weaving two parallel stories (a story of Jesus' crucifixion through the eyes of Pilate and the current story of the events of the Devil and his minions coming to Moscow to wreak havoc and buffoonery on the citizens of the city).
My only minor quibble with the story is that it was a shade bit long and I felt that some of the scenes that Bulgakov included in this novel amounted to "piling on". I think a couple scenes highlighting the many tricks and jokes being played on the ordinary citizens could have been trimmed down. While I enjoyed some of these scenes, I think Bulgakov included some superfluous elements that simply did not add to the story or move the narrative along. Other than this minor issue... I fully enjoyed this one and would recommend it to anyone that enjoys outstanding literature, infused with wittiness and hilarity. (less)
This obscure writer of highly enjoyable tales, firmly ensconced in the magical realism genre, came recommended to me by a friend.
Rubiao infuses most...moreThis obscure writer of highly enjoyable tales, firmly ensconced in the magical realism genre, came recommended to me by a friend.
Rubiao infuses most of his short tales with an assumed fantastic element, most overtly in the first story, "The Dragons". Rubiao's use of the fantastic takes on a bit of a farcical touch in this one as he meditates on a society's rediculous reaction upon trying to assimilate foreign dragons into their society. Naturally, this kind of tale certainly lends itself to interpretation, but when read, it should be clear to the reader of its allusions to foreign cultures trying to assimilate into mainstream society.
Other tales were a bit more diffuse in their "meaning" ("The Glass Flower" comes to mind), which is fine because those tales took on such a pleasing aesthetic.
One other story to note, which was one of my more favorite in its conveyance of a Kafka-esque absurdity, was "The City". In this ridiculous tale, we have poor Cariba who has been arrested on the suspicion for asking questions. He is ultimately detained indefinitely because he is, apparently, the only soul in the entire village of... actually I don't think we ever find out what village he is in, but he happens to be the only individual that asks "suspicious" questions.
Such an odd story... and one that characterizes many of Rubiao's wonderful stories in this collection... the fantastic, absurd, strange, etc.
You can probably find a cheapy hard cover of this collection on ABE books. Well worth it!!(less)
Wow... much less a collection of Schulz's memories and more a wonderous exploration into chaos versus order, the banal versus the fantastic.
The prose...moreWow... much less a collection of Schulz's memories and more a wonderous exploration into chaos versus order, the banal versus the fantastic.
The prose was simply beautiful and flowed across the literary canvas like quicksilver. In fact, I would point out that the lyrical and fluid nature of Schulz' prose perfectly accented the core of this meditation... chaos.
I really loved the juxtapositions provided by Schulz, particularly the characters of Jacob (Schulz' father) and Adela (house keeper). Jacob took on the role of chaos bringer and Adela served as guardian of the banal. The passage describing Jacob's facination with birds really drew me in with the metaphors, similies, and artful descriptions. In addition to the beauty of Schulz' chaos, he was able to infuse a particular brand of humor that simply tickled my brain throughout the entire narative.
One other memorable passage entitled "Night of the Great Season" seemed to be something right out of Mussorsky's "Night on Bald Mountain." Oddly wonderous yet bound in the simple mundane setting of a fabric shop. These are the kinds of contrasts that Schulz uses to weave his magic.
This is my first Banville. Book of Evidence was a very aesthetically pleasing read. The prose was really strong an really carried the story. The story...moreThis is my first Banville. Book of Evidence was a very aesthetically pleasing read. The prose was really strong an really carried the story. The story on the other hand, was essentially a mundane murderer-gets-caught-and-spills-his-guts-to-the-reader type of story, except for one thing... you have no idea if any of what you are reading is actually true. Freddie Montgomery is a liar and simply a despicable human being. While, I do credit Banville with an effective (and innovative) use of the unreliable narrator plot device, I can think of a few other stories that I remember this plot device being put to much better use (Malfi's "The Passenger" comes to mind).
Freddie is not alienated nor uncaring like Camus' Mersault, but simply a bastard of bastards. The problem I had with the story was that I simply couldn't connect with a character that I had so much contempt and animosity towards. Furthermore, while this story is certainly a robust character exploration via Freddie's recollection of bad deeds and experiences, I felt that there really wasn't a greater truth to distill from his memories and half truths. Unlike a Raskolinkov type of character, there was no rendemption to be found here.
Banville treats the reader to an exploration in self-pity and self deception and there was zero nobility in Freddie accepting what he got in the end... he simply got his just deserts. (less)