Naiya's Reviews > 10 Bits of My Brain

10 Bits of My Brain by Stuart Jaffe
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's review
Jul 02, 2011

really liked it
Read from July 02 to 03, 2011 — I own a copy

(3.5 stars)

Jaffe is a versatile writer whose stories span the expanse of genres and setting, without ever making the editor and reader in me cringe or groan. The offhand manner of narration edge stories like Henry's Son with their very own menace, while The Three Fingers Case, Jaffe takes the reader on a romp into a quick homicide mystery--the catch? The dragon detective thinks a human did it, and his human partner is sure a dragon's to blame. Over the course of the stories I saw witchery, voodoo, curses, and pirates (see book cover for a more complete list!).

The collection begins at the height of the holocaust in Nazi Germany, then moves to a tattoo parlor at the edge of the universe, then to a small park bench where a homeless man idles his days away.

All in all, I saw good writing, solid story structure, and a lively wit. So why only a three? Two elements kept the collection from hitting a five.

One was the lack of overarching theme or storyline in the overall collection. The stories spanned genres and meandered across an enormous array of situations and plots. In a sense, these really were ten distinct bits of the author's writing experience, born of different times and different inspirations.

Starting with the first story, Bone Magic, led me to have expectations that the collection was unable to fill. All are powerful stories, but ones which also yank me all over the place and refused to build on each other.

While I do agree that "Stuart's work defies pigeon-holing." (David B. Coe, introduction), as a reader, I would have appreciated more unity to the collection. Because they were so spread across the board, I would have a hard time recommending the collection to a friend whose tastes I know, though I wouldn't hesitate to encourage a fellow reader to try a discrete story.

The second reason is harder for me to define, and I would be interested in comparing notes with anyone else who has read the collection. For at least half of the stories, I sensed hidden depths and potential that had not been plumbed--the use of death as a plot device became, a few readings in, a story convenience, and the aloof position of the narrator (even when the story was in first person) created a barrier between me and the character. The stories have an engaging simplicity--but also an off-putting tendency towards a bird-eye view of the events.

In the end, though I feel the stories are well written, they have not wedged themselves into my mind or crawled under my skin. Still, they are pleasant, short trips, and I don't regret the read.

Read full review here.

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Quotes Naiya Liked

Stuart Jaffe
“She had an emptiness in her eyes like a ghost tired of haunting.”
Stuart Jaffe, 10 Bits of My Brain

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