Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The odd experiment or two

kw: story reviews, continued review, anthologies

Continuing prior reviews of stories in The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories for 2010. Among these stories are a few literary experiments, which is at least noteworthy in itself.
  • Oh, Death by James Lasdun: A young man's struggles to make a living, amid forces he cannot comprehend, and his untimely death. The archetype of a puma's presence indicates a torch passed from the protagonist to the narrator.
  • Fresco, Byzantine by Natalie Bakopoulos: The milieu is the island prisons where members of the Greek opposition were kept. Artists and other political prisoners make what life they can, and a hidden fresco epitomizes their defiance. Actually quite a good story.
  • The End of My Life in New York by Peter Cameron: After an experiment in "open partnership" (the modern analogue to "open marriage"), the character ends the story as clueless as he began it.
  • Obit by Ted Sanders: An experiment in parallel-track writing. Everybody dies sometime, and by the end of this, you wonder if you've also died.
  • The Lover by Damon Galgut: A very odd story of compulsive travel told in a mix of first and third person (sometimes within the same sentence), and with a range of time perspectives. If there is a message, it is to take opportunities as they arise. Evocative phrase: "…the story of traveling a long way while standing still." Yet the piece is of traveling hard to go nowhere.
  • An East Egg Update by George Bradley: Another experiment, consisting of ten sentences, each a long paragraph of 300-800 words. The author has succeeded in producing a piece to which the Gunning Fog Index cannot be usefully applied. The subject is the mystery of the adult world to a pre-schooler whose mother has just learned she is soon to die of cancer.
These stories are at least interesting, if not (with one exception) enjoyable.

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