MJ Nicholls's Reviews > The Human Country: New and Collected Stories

The Human Country by Harry Mathews
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May 07, 12

bookshelves: dalkey-archive, merkins, short-stories, oulipians
Read on May 07, 2012

The other reviews here sum up my opinion on these stories—a few pearls mixed with opaque, impenetrable rocks written largely for Michael Silverblatt. ‘Country Cooking’ is a notable standout: a perfect spoof of haute cuisine recipes. ‘Clocking the World on Cue’ is an insanely clever piece of Oulipo showboating where each sentence clocks up the mathematical values of any roman numeral letters in sentences (i.e. m, x, i) so that each adds up to 2001. Mathews’s writing is extremely stylish and linguistically impossible—he makes no concessions for the reader unprepared to participate in his games. Sadly, if he doesn’t throw the reader a bone, she won’t be that interested in playing. I had this problem with his novels too. The stories in the section ‘Calibrations of Latitude’ were among my favourite. The ‘American Experiences’ I found for the most part too advanced. My last Mathews book? Probably.
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