I'd been circling closer and closer to this book for a while. I'd never read any version of One Thousand and One Nights, and given my recent reading iI'd been circling closer and closer to this book for a while. I'd never read any version of One Thousand and One Nights, and given my recent reading interests, it seemed inevitable that I do so, but what translation? Then I heard somewhere that Al-Shaykh, one of my favorite authors, had done a recent interpretation (along with another woman, I believe) for the stage. I was of course excited, but I pretty much detest reading plays, so I hadn't gone looking for it. When I saw this translation at the library, I had to check it out immediately.
I had nearly no idea what to expect. Sinbad, Aladdin and his lamps, maybe. Not even The Wrath and The Dawn had really given me much idea of what to expect. At first, there was a lot about this text that I found jarring, largely in the framing story, with its murderous cuckolded kings, whose wives had dallied with strangely racially caricatured slaves. It took me a while to realize that the stories hadn't really been modernized, or sanitized, just translated, and joyously celebrated as the source of so many stories, so much tradition. And the stories seemed deliberately chosen to complicate any ideas of who is the fairer, weaker, more honest, or more lustful sex.
When the stories ended I was sad, not because I disagreed with the way Al-Shaykh somewhat ambiguously concluded them, but just that I wanted more stories, all of the stories, for the book to go on and on.
I couldn't help it. I compared every single story in this collection to the Moomintrolls. Sometimes multiple times per story. "Oh, this is just like tI couldn't help it. I compared every single story in this collection to the Moomintrolls. Sometimes multiple times per story. "Oh, this is just like the Moomintrolls!" "Hmmm, this is hardly anything like the Moomintrolls." It's a sickness, and it certainly distracted me quite a bit from these beautiful little stories. The upside was that reading these stories helped me to understand and articulate just why I love the Moomintrolls so dearly. Jansson has a talent for simplifying a story to its core, but no further. Others tend to either gloss over or wallow in the cruelties of childhood (and adult!) relationships. Jansson lets us revel in those savage moments, but always with such empathy, both for the one stung and the one hurling the abuse. I have always said that empathy and introspection were the strength of her characters, but reading "The Summer Child," which could so easily be transplanted into Moominvalley, was when I really could put into words my admiration for her way with cruelty. Tom's taunting of poor Elis was so like Little My torturing The Whomper from atop her wardrobe that I just couldn't help make Moomintroll comparisons for that story.)
I feel an intense need to take a trip to Finland. To spend a summer on an island. This book really is a series of open doors to another world and another way of life. I am so glad Jansson's work continues to gain international audience. ...more
I've had my eye out for nice editions of Austen's juvenalia for basically, ever, so this was one of the biggest no-brainers of my Little Black ClassicI've had my eye out for nice editions of Austen's juvenalia for basically, ever, so this was one of the biggest no-brainers of my Little Black Classic purchases. I didn't need to be told the context for these.
Before any of the novels, Austen wrote short stories to amuse her relatives and friends. So you can't expect full-on Austen brilliance, but flashes of what will shine through, and it's fun to see Austen with her gothic claws out with poisonings and imprisonments, and so on....more
I've been meaning to read this book for ages, I don't know why it's taken me so ridiculously long. But when I had a rare moment to actually step overI've been meaning to read this book for ages, I don't know why it's taken me so ridiculously long. But when I had a rare moment to actually step over into the adult fiction section in the library, in between talking Solomon down from putting every Go, Diego Go! DVD in the entire system on hold at once, this book jumped out at me.
I confess it took a bit for me to get into this collection. I prefer Alexie's poetry and longer stories, often finding his short stories a little dry. (Of course, I admit also to a long held prejudice against short stories themselves as a format.) Where Alexie won me over was with the story "War Dances," which somehow manages to be everything I associate with Alexie, and then again with "Fearful Symmetry," which is about so many things, but the part I especially loved was about the crazy Hollywood machine and how it treats screenwriters.
The very first story in the collection, "Breaking and Entering," didn't connect at first, but as time went on, I think I've thought about this story more than any other. About a man who accidentally kills a youth who he fins breaking into his home, it is just so relevant to everything that I think of it often. ...more
I was feeling the need for some female-centric sf, so I was perusing the sci-fi/fantasy section of my local library and ran across this collection ofI was feeling the need for some female-centric sf, so I was perusing the sci-fi/fantasy section of my local library and ran across this collection of stories by Tanith Lee. This looked to have a far lower sci-fi quotient than the wonderful collection Space is Just a Starry Night, but I was far more skeptical of everything else that caught my eye, so this is what I took home.
So, I was right, there was none of Lee's sci-fi that I love so well in this collection. And to be honest, some of the first stories sort of bored me. But then I was totally sucked in by "The Kingdoms of Air," which was the story of a questing knight, which ended up with an unexpected moral at the end.
But really, the occasional flash of brilliance here and there wasn't quite enough to overcome my lack of fondness for the short story format. I do still need more Tanith Lee in my life, but next time I'll be more picky and stick to her sci-fi.
Would be three stars, but I really, really liked "The Kingdoms of Air."...more
How to even begin to talk about these stories? Many have said they are brutal, and of course they are brutal. In these stories, war and violent confliHow to even begin to talk about these stories? Many have said they are brutal, and of course they are brutal. In these stories, war and violent conflict is background noise. It is usually not even worth mentioning who the current war or conflict is with, let alone which side was the aggressor and what their motivations. War is. Death is. Now how do you make sense of it?
Many of these stories are about storytelling. In the title story, a secret organization tells stories with publicly displayed corpses. (At times, this story seems an apt frame for the rest.) In "An Army Newspaper," an editor wins acclaim after publishing a dead soldier's stories as his own, only to be driven into paranoia and madness when the stories keep coming. In "The Song of the Goats," a radio show comes to record war stories -- contestants line up and compete, each bragging that theirs is the most heartbreaking.
I found the collection as a whole pretty bleak, as expected. Some stories ripped my heart out, while a few fell a little flat. Perhaps my favorite story is "A Thousand and One Knives." It is the story of a group of people who discover they all have mysterious power -- they can make knives disappear. Then they find someone who can make them reappear. It's such a strange little story, but it runs the gamut of horrible brutality, mystery, and moments of grace and hope. The last being elements definitely not present in all of the stories, however limited they may be even in this one.
Recommended to fans of dark fiction, to people who seek to understand what life is like where death has been made cheap. ...more
Those of you following along at home may recall that getting this book turned out to be a bit of a fiasco. I ordered it from So New Media after an intThose of you following along at home may recall that getting this book turned out to be a bit of a fiasco. I ordered it from So New Media after an interesting review in Bookslut, sometime in June. Weeks went by, and finally I emailed someone at the company asking about my book. Months went by, and no reply. I talked to my sister, who knows some of the people at the publishing company, as well as the author. She promised to ask around. I emailed the company again, and they basically told me that they were out of that book and I could either have my money back or get the next two selections instead. But of course, what I wanted was Girls! Girls! Girls!. (And really, who doesn't?) �Happily enough, when my sister mentioned the snafu to the author, Claire Zulkey, Claire felt so bad about it that she took it upon herself to send me a copy of the book herself (with a little note inside to me! i am the coolest!) So finally I have my book, and I should ask for the refund from the publisher and send the cash to Claire instead.
But oh yes, the book! It was indeed, worth the wait. It is a collection of ultra-micro-mini short stories, featuring some fabulous reversals of chick lit, canned magazine advice, and reality as we know it. The writing is a little rough around the edges at times, but if you can get through more than three of these stories without giggling, then: a) you're not alive. b) you're a robot. c) you've never thrown an issue of Seventeen/YM/Cosmopolitan across the room. d) your sense of humor was surgically removed during a brain tumor biopsy. e) you're not a girl. f) you've never talked to a girl. g) you're one of those boys who thinks women's legs are naturally hairless. h) you think the book The Rules is filled with really good ideas. i) this is your first time on this planet. j) you're lying to me about the whole not-giggling thing just to get a reaction....more
Have I ever been so in love with a book of short stories as this? The only one I can think of that would come close is Margaret Atwood's Good Bones, bHave I ever been so in love with a book of short stories as this? The only one I can think of that would come close is Margaret Atwood's Good Bones, but that was less a book of short stories than it was a collection of prose poems and reimagined faerie tales. No, this is it. And Emma Donoghue is a delightful genius. Her writing takes part of what I love best about Jane Austen, colours it with a decidedly feminist sensibility, and mixes in a fascination with obscure historical details, especially those regarding medicine or illness. In truth, I found the first story a little dry, but with each successive story I found myself more and more enamored. By the end I wanted to hug the book to myself, and if I had a bit of money, I have several friends I would love to send off copies of this book to immediately. (Mindy, you are at the top of this list. Go see if your library has this book immediately!)
I would also like to point out that I'm not even particularly fond of short stories. Okay, I loved the Mark Twain stories my father read to me as a child, the Stephen King short stories I was addicted to in high school, then Neil Gaiman's short stories in college, but these are the exception. Most collections of short stories I never finish, rather I limp through two or three, then put the book down somewhere, never to be picked up again. I think the format is much abused, by people who can't be bothered to sustain a plotline long enough to create a novel. But Donaghue's stories are little gems.
What can I say to make you go out and pick up this book? Perhaps that each story is based off of some snippet of historical truth, a note in a ledger, a footnote in a biography of someone else. Some true thing that glimmered and fascinated, but was isolated, and nothing more of that life was known. Donaghue fleshes out these twinklings into stories, into women that we should have known. Passionate women who loved, raged and fought. Women who chose different paths, and women whose paths were chosen for them. All illuminate their time, regardless of how close to truth their stories are. And even better, following each story is a note of the truth behind it, documenting what parts of the story were true, and often how the rest was imagined.
This is one of the finest books I have read in a while. I would add it to Michelle Tea's class of women's experience in literature (read the upcoming bookslut interview to find out what I'm talking about.)...more
This little book is one of my favorite finds ever in the used book section at Schulers. I was expecting to find no Alasdair Gray. I was just looking tThis little book is one of my favorite finds ever in the used book section at Schulers. I was expecting to find no Alasdair Gray. I was just looking to feel superior or deprived, I suppose, but instead I found two books! Now I know I've mentioned that the short story is not my favorite format, but I needed a short story collection for the book bingo challenge at work, and Alasdair Gray should certainly make it more interesting.
For the most part (excepting the last story), this is Gray separated from all his big speculative fiction concepts. There are no portals to other worlds here, no women reanimated from spare parts. Aside from that, they remain true to the themes of Gray's work -- tortured (but usually well-meaning) relationships between men and women, class and politics, art's place in the world...
It's a wonderful little book. Some of the stories are quite strange, yes, full of outsiders and holders of unpopular opinions. Although each story features someone at the end of their tether in some way, for the most part these are people struggling to make the best of whatever the situation they are in. Most of them find a kind of peace, even if it is a sad peace.
Finally, I love the object of the book itself. Its strange little illustrations and the non-standard blocking of the stories. You will not confuse this book for any other book. ...more
I wanted to give up this book so many times as I was reading it, and I almost did. It is so dark. SO DARK. And it took me a while to see past the manyI wanted to give up this book so many times as I was reading it, and I almost did. It is so dark. SO DARK. And it took me a while to see past the many disturbing elements before I really saw this book for what it was. It is a meditation on parenting and loss in apocalypse. The way the world grinds down parents and children, the way parents grind down children, the way children grind down their parents, when the "normal order" has been stripped away. When there is no longer any assurance of living to see your children have children, no longer any assurance of passing on your genes, the family business, your grandparents' furniture. When the world is misery and loss, what ties still bind parents to their children?
It is not a novella. It is a collection of short stories, one for each letter of the alphabet. Each a fresh apocalypse. Each haunted set of parents. Each doomed set of children. Each fresh hell....more
Okay, this is how this went down. I went to the library in search of some non-genre fiction. I wanted a break from sf as I was still under the shadowOkay, this is how this went down. I went to the library in search of some non-genre fiction. I wanted a break from sf as I was still under the shadow of The Highest Frontier. I was cruising the new fiction section, where everything looked BORING, except one title I was on the fence about but wanted to check goodreads reviews first when BAM! I ran into this. I loved the cover design, and the title, and then I saw Tanith Lee and it was over.
I haven't read so much by Tanith lee, but what I have read I liked, and clearly it was time to read more.
So I was excited picking it up, excited checking it out and taking it home, and then I examined it more closely and UGH! it is a collection of short stories. Let me not get into all my short story issues here, I will just say it's not my favorite format. So in very short order I went from fangirl flailing to "meh." It was with rather lackluster enthusiasm that I actually started reading.
Now, can I say? I repent! I repent! Dear universe, I repent! I was in love from the very first story all the way to the end. (Almost. More on that in a moment.) Some of the stories were so perfect I wanted to kiss them. Special favorites were "The Beautiful Biting Machine," "Moon Wolf," "You Are My Sunshine," and "Within the Ghost." Oh, and "With a Flaming Sword." I do love retellings of the Adam and Eve story. Pretty much every time.
Tanith Lee is one of those authors that makes me tag my books as sf for speculative fiction rather than just science fiction. For the most part, I have followed my father's opinion that science fiction is clearly the superior half (not just that, but the only worthwhile half) of the science fiction and fantasy section. But Lee has always blurred the lines between science fiction and fantasy. Sometimes with a little bit of horror. Yes, there is future tech and world colonization and AI, but sometimes there are vampires and werewolves and goddesses, too. But these fantasy elements are thoughtful and smart and integral to what each short story is exploring, and it's all so seamless with the science fiction that I kind of adored it.
The only story I didn't love was "By Crystal Light Beneath One Star." I kept turning the pages, thinking, "What, so she think's she's Philip K. Dick now?" It never came together for me.
Anyway, the stories may be short, but the ideas are still big. The power of beauty and attraction. The worth, meaning, and purpose of a life. The line/interactions between human and the divine.
I adore Dorothy Parker. And while in general I prefer her poetry to her short stories, the short stories are still very good. And this is a perfect shI adore Dorothy Parker. And while in general I prefer her poetry to her short stories, the short stories are still very good. And this is a perfect short and sweet introduction to her stories. ...more