The Birdcage Archives

Saturday 27 August 2011

The German Book Prize 2011

Hello Gentle Reader

The Booker Prize for the UK and The Commonwealth Countries is/was/has, not been the only one to announce a long list for the award. The German Book Pirze long list has also been announced. I shall include the authors names, and the english translation (loosely translated that is) of all the authors below, and hopefully if research proves helpful maybe even a brief over view of what the novel is about.

Volker Harry Altwasser - "Last Fisherman."


Volker oxbow lakes> Fishermen's Last 'is a homage to life on the seas, a farewell to a man's world, which has fallen into its rituals and traditions out of time. Besides furious descriptions of whaling and whale handling of the ship and sweeping maneuvers on the untamed sea unfolds a tender story that is permeated by a deep melancholy and wistfulness. A large ocean-going epic that tells of the sea, and always from the literature of the sea.

(, )

Jan Brandt - "Against The World."

"A village in East Friesland cows graze in the meadows, now and then rips the noise of a low-flying the silence. Behind the trimmed Tujenhecken the new district, the flowers bloom, shine in the freshly waxed cars driveways.
In this world is the mid-seventies Daniel Kuper, born scion of a dynasty druggists. A lanky, reserved boy with too much imagination and too little
Opportunities. But soon strange things happen: In the middle of summer it comes to heavy snowfall, a crop circle is created, a student stands on the railway tracks, swastikas appear on the walls. For all of this is Daniel Kuper held responsible. And the more he tries to refute the allegations, the stronger he becomes entangled in them. Daniel Kuper starts a fight against the village and its inhabitants. They are the ones against which he rebelled, and they are the ones against whom he lost at the end.
"Is" against the world, a large German novel about the turn in West Germany, about pop culture in the province and friendships never go to the end."

(, )

Michael Buselmeier - Wunsiedel

"In the summer of 1964, the young narrator Schoppe Moritz in the Upper Franconian town of Wunsiedel has spent ten painful weeks - his commitment to the held there annually Luisenburg Festival ran into a fiasco. 44 years later, is the former "Verfinsterungsort" Schoppe for different dar.

Although the narrator initially has trouble finding his way, but he likes it right away in the würzigen air of the Fichtelgebirge, he is taking romantic walks in the Frankish past research, for the graves of his hosts, his old director, and is unexpectedly before the grave of Rudolf Hess. Also, the main town unlucky seen before, the Naturbühne the Luisenburg looking at it, but the once-beloved theater has become completely foreign to him, the tattered theater rock be final. In walking and watching is the chance of a fresh start."

( )

Alex Capus - "Leo and Louise,"

"Two young people fall in love, but war brings them apart: this is the story of Leon and Louise. It begins with their meeting in the First World War in France on the Atlantic coast, but then it disconnects an air raid with violence. They keep each other up for dead, Leon, marries Louise goes her own way - until they meet again by chance in 1928 in the Paris Métro. Alex Capus told with marvelous ease and great intensity of love in a century of war, about this couple that holds on against all conventions of his love and leads a headstrong, sometimes outrageously funny double life. The story of a great love, lived with the whole world."

( )

Wilhelm Genazino - "If We Were Animals."

"Life in the modern world too much to ask: daily presence at the workplace, including commitment and a friendly face, the use of transport and visiting supermarkets. And then even the private life. Inevitably, the moment comes in which a man does not know what to do - and before you know it, it is women rather than an even three. Ah, but if we were animals and could miss the daily demands easy! Wilhelm told Genazino ironic, witty and wicked from a man who can endure the day only when he breaks through the ordinary rules."

( )

Navid Kermani - "Your Name."

"On 8 June 2006 Navid Kermani begins his new book, and it is one of the most unusual novels of our time. Here one writes about everything there is to know about his life and the lives of all: the present and the past of his family, the memory of deceased friends and the rousing reading Jean Paul's and Hölderlin. The story of his grandfather, who went to Germany from the Middle East is at the heart of the novel. Again and again, urging the novelist of the decisive moment in between: the writing. "Your name" is a novel that takes the most private in the same view as the story in which we live - a book that will change our image of the present term."

( )

Esther Kinsky - "Banatsko."

"Banatsko 'is a celebration of a landscape, the northern Banat.
Never was this no man's land between Hungary, Serbia
Romania and considered with such a loving gaze, his melancholic poetry thus brought to fruition in
This new novel by Esther Kinsky."

( )

Angelika Klüssendorf - "The Girl."

"The touching story of self-assertion. Angelika Klüssendorf tells of a young strong girl, who works out of everything that surrounds it and holds down: the tyrannical mother, the authoritarian teacher, the bureaucratic state apparatus. In the beginning, everything seems to already be over: The father drinks and appears only sporadically, the mother leaves out their anger on the children's classmates shun the girl, the younger brother wraps off completely. And yet there is a force that carries the girl. The pictures from "Brehm's Animal Life," which they admired, the dream of a small house with garden in the country, Grimm's fairy tales. Again and again people who mean something to her and she stopped. One thing she has learned: One must take what you need. Even if she is caught shoplifting several times and finally put into the home, they can also be adjusted to the new situation there. And the children's home is in a surprising way to a retreat where childhood can be the first time live. With its clear, concise, precise prose, laconic and very dry humor Angelika Klüssendorf put the reader into a world that permits no childhood. Breathlessly follow an adolescent who has nothing on which to rely, but does not lose the will to live - not a pitiable victim, but a strong, cryptic character. A literary masterpiece!"

( )

Doris Knecht - Gruber's

"In Doris Knecht's debut novel is the careerists Gruber goes to the collar. The manager, mid-thirties, has his life between the top job, airport lounges, apartment and bed design stories are nicely furnished. He fancies himself as a cynical knowingness that brings his mistress, sometimes even to tears, so they learn what distinguishes the reality of TV soaps. That he was confused but even with a cool, sexy superheroes, but that he then experienced a bit smaller and dimmer than the reality that needs to Gruber, is discovered as a tumor in his abdomen. Gruber celebrate by drinking, and beating themselves. Gruber makes self-awareness and chemotherapy. Gruber and falls in love. Finally, he is whole again. But he is at the end a better person. Maybe just a little more open, loving and willing to compromise. Maybe. Snappy and point range drives Doris preceded servant their highly neurotic and often comic heroes, to the arms of a clever Berlin DJane - which sees Gruber anything not even Gruber can even see in themselves, and which is also in love, Richard, ... A complex novel full of wit and rage. And a hero, in which everyone recognizes - even if not he wants."

( )

Peter Kurzeck - "Eve."

"Like "No Spring" (1987) performs "eve" straight into the life of the narrator in Staufenberg the postwar period, and you can enjoy this well-thousand-page book just for the fullness of his precise miniatures. From the early fifties until the late seventies into it changed the face of Stauffenberg. The consequences are visible today in almost every other western German village, the roads paved, old trees are felled, the pond filled up, cleans up the corridor. The novel tells how the villagers, armed with DIY materials, "beautify" their homes, fill their new refrigerators, as they open the doors to the living room introduction of television. Highways, ring roads, supermarkets are being built, colorful leaflets clogging the mailboxes."

( )

Ludwig Laher - "Procedure."

"Jelena, a Kosovo Serb, is in her home repeatedly been victims of unimaginable violence. Is not based on the state but by uninhibited members of the majority population. Severely traumatized, the young woman hopes after two suicide attempts at a new beginning in Austria. But there it gets into the mills of an inhuman asylum law, which does not do justice to its name.
For months now dominates the public debate on asylum and ensures that each individual case by the media apprehended for violent controversy. Ludwig Laher transfers this red-hot topic on a literary level.
He tells the exact researched history Jelena than red thread of a disturbing novel, which focuses on the judiciary itself, is the world of the paragraphs and their application, a reflection of our Constitution in a double sense: complex, exciting discreet distance, enlightening and far from complex, issues to be addressed through the simple answers to."

( )

Sibylle Lewitscharoff - "Blumenberg."

"Large, yellow, left: with enchanting is granted one night a lion in the study of the distinguished philosopher Blumenberg. The limbs stretched out comfortably on the Bucharateppich, his eyes still on the landlord. The device, with some effort, not upset, not even when the lion herabtrottet the next day in his lecture the aisle, back and forth mainly by Raubkatzenart. The banks are fully occupied, but none of the audience seems to see him. A refined Studentenulk? Or is it more likely an award from the highest level - for the last few philosophers who knows how to appreciate these lions?

The appearance of the animal into effect in several lives, not only in the lives of mountain flowers. Without realizing it, gets a handful of students in its spell, among them the thin filament Optatus Gerhard Baur, an ardent Blumenbergianer, and the delicate, high-propelled Isa, who falls under full sail in the wrong.

Blumenberg is only incidentally a tribute to a great philosopher, above all, it is a novel full of irresistible wit, a novel about a highly sympathetic Weltbenenner, which met the unnamable in the shape of a lion's affable."

( )

Thomas Melle - "Most Sick."

"Two young men standing at the forefront of an over-consumption and performance world - keep up and to the acceleration recorded their lives, overgrown: the idealistic Magnus ropes writes for the clients page of an oil company, feels as a loser and hates his work with the fury of a sleeper. Thorsten Kühnemund, managers and Macho suffers secretly on successful life filled with glossy print and alpha animal neuroses, he stunned himself with alcohol, fast sex and clubbing Moloch crashes in the city. Known from school, the two friends are reluctant to. Just then one of the facades. Magnus feels attracted to Tony's girlfriend Laura, and all three swirl into Unfounded. Thus, a search begins for some truth of feeling, thinking and doing - a search in the noise, pain and madness, and in his own soul ..."

( )

Klaus Modick - "Sunset."

"Feuchtwanger, Bertolt Brecht and the Californian exile - the novel is an unusual friendship, world famous and wealthy, but shadowed by the suspicious batches of the McCarthy era, Lion Feuchtwanger in 1956 still lives in exile in California - the last of the great German emigrants. As he reached on an August morning, the news of the sudden death of Bertolt Brecht, he is deeply shaken. He had discovered Brecht's genius, had encouraged him, had been closely connected to him. In silent communion with his dead friend calls Feuchtwanger the stages of this growing friendship, their beginning in the Munich Soviet Republic, the literary triumphs of the twenties, the flight and life in exile. From his memories crystallize at the same time, the drive springs out of his own literary work: the mourning of the deceased as an infant daughter, his guilt and his ambition, the traumas of his childhood - and eventually the love and mortality. At the end of the day when the sun sinks in the Pacific Ocean, is the old Feuchtwanger aware of its strengths and weaknesses bright and took stock of their lives."

( )

Astrid Rosenfeld - "Adams Legacy."

"Adam Cohen is eighteen years old in 1938. Edward Cohen will grow by the year 2000. Two generations separate them but it brings a story. The power of family ties and the strength of this debut says affinities, and the fact that it only requires a meeting to change our lives forever."

( )

Eugen Ruge - "In Times of Diminishing Light."

"From the years of exile to turn into 89 years and goes beyond, this turbulent story of a German family. It runs from Mexico to Siberia to East Berlin through the peaks and through the depths of the 20th Century. This creates a wide panorama, Germany, a large novel, the story brings to life as a family history: great human by his maturity, his accuracy, his sense of humor. Three generations are the focus: the grandparents, still convinced Communists to return home in the early 50s the young GDR in order to play their part in building the new Republic. Her son, a young man emigrated to Moscow and later exiled to Siberia, takes the journey from the other end: He returns with his Russian wife in a petty bourgeois republic, in its changeability wants to believe he continues. The grandson, however, is the adopted home of their parents and grandparents to increasingly tight - until he, of all people on the ninetieth birthday of the patriarch, is in the West. The appeal of political utopia seems to darken from generation to generation: It is a time of diminishing light."

( )

Judith Schalansky - "The neck of the Giraffe."

"Three days in the life of a biology teacher – the last of her kind, a relic of the former GDR. This dry-humoured story is set in one of the most absurd places in the world: a school.

Adaptation is everything. Inge Lohmark is well aware of that; after all, she has been teaching biology for more than thirty years. Nothing will change the fact that her school is going to be closed in four years – in the dwindling town in the Eastern German countryside, there are fewer and fewer children. Lohmark’s husband, who was a cattle inseminator during the GDR era, is now breeding ostriches. Their daughter Claudia emigrated to the USA years ago and has no intention of having children. Everyone resists the course of nature that Inge Lohmark teaches every day in her classes. When she finds herself having feelings for a girl in the 9th grade that go beyond the love-hate relationship between students and teachers, her biologically determined world view becomes shaky. In increasingly outlandish ways, she tries to save what can no longer be saved."

( )

Jens Steiner - "Rabbits Life."

'"And somewhere got a rabbit's mother and her two boys once again in a gully, pulled from beneath the heavy lid over the hole. ... Somewhere, they would again lift a lid and into the light rise unpack. And and and start over. Again and again. "Lili leads an unsettled life, hires herself as a waitress, moved with their two children through Switzerland. She dreams of kitch good education, a family life, while the next one by dancing in dark cellars, their children their own devices. The little touches Werner incessantly through hotel hallways and spies on the guests. He dreams of being like his older sister. Emma is quiet, often simply sits at the window and scratches on her arms. In St. Moritz appeared one day at a man whose name is found all three very well known. Lili and take flight once more, until - finally even to their lives through a tragic event is falling apart."'

( )

Marlene Streeruwitz - "The Pain-Maker."

"People are kidnapped, disappeared, imprisoned or tortured. Amy works for a private security service, they can only imagine the corruption and violence which is emerging as an abyss behind the secret operations. When she decides to get out, she finally falls into the clutches of an obscure but brutal organization.
Amy's lostness corresponds to the rings of the perception of reality. What do they do? Who is she herself? And above all: What happened on the day on which they can not remember?
Marlene Streeruwitz designs in her masterful novel an eerie and unforgettable scenario and asks for the location of the individual in an increasingly privatized public."

( )

Antje Rávic Strubel - "Days in The Fall of Night."

"Antje Strubel Rávic tells of an unusual and irresistible love, and from the long shadow of a lost political system.

An island in the Baltic Sea. The young Erik falls in love with the seemingly unfathomable bird researcher Inez. But the two are observed. Without realizing it, they have long been embroiled in a political intrigue. The island is protected to the unprotected site. A novel that tells of a great love of the memories, legends and lies of our presence, but also the happiness that lies in the transitory."

( )


There you have it Gentle Reader, the twenty authors nominated for the German Book Prize, and who have made it on the Long List. It'll be intersting to see who will be placed on the Short List, and who will be the final winner. There appears to be many intersting novels here. It is just an unforunate reality that I may not be able to read them someday, but here is hoping the best writer wins. I alos apologize for the poor translations of titles, and even of the book summary's and overviews -- I used google translate.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read
*And Remember: Downloading Books Illegally is Thievery and Wrong.*

M. Mary

Friday 26 August 2011

The Booker Prize 2011 Long List

Hello Gentle Reader

If you have been living under a rock much like it feels that I have been this past while, you would have already known that The Booker Prize Long List of two thousand and eleven, is already out. This list as usual is many different books, by many different authors. On this list is the author Alan Hollinghurst, the winner of the two thousand and four Booker Prize, has once again found himself on the Long List for the Booker Prize in two thousand and eleven. Other then that, skimming through the list, there does not appear to be any other previous winners.

The Booker Prize Long List:

"Derby Day," by D.J. Taylor
"Snow Drops," by A.D. Miller
"The Last Hundred Days," by Patrick McGuinness
"The Stranger's Child," by Allan Hollinghurst
"The Sense of an Ending," by Julian Barnes
"On Canaan’s Side," by Sebastian Barry
"Jamrach’s Menagerie," by Carol Birch
"The Sisters Brothers," by Patrick deWitt
"Half Blood Blues," by Esi Edugyan
"A Cupboard Full of Coats," by Yvvette Edwards
"Pigeon English," by Stephen Kelman
"Far to Go," by Alison Pick
"The Testament of Jessie Lamb," Jane Rogers

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read
*And Remember: Downloading Books Illegally is Thievery and Wrong.*

M. Mary

The Short Story Review (No. V)

“The Philanthropist and The Happy Cat,” by Saki (H.H. Munro) – From: “The Complete Saki,” by Saki (H.H. Munro) – Section “Beats and Super-Beats,”

As the poverty and the working class, the atrocious ridiculous time of the Victorian era, and the rise of socialism during this time, was for Charles Dickens; the leisurely martini sipping, high class, and rather languid era of the golden afternoon of jolly old England before the tragedies of World War I came around and afterwards came the rise of modernist literature of Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Marcel Proust, and at the time of his life and death the underappreciated and now appreciated author D.H. Lawrence. Saki however came before modernism, and his satirical and sometimes grotesquely bizarre stories, show a different side of the early twentieth century that the modernist authors had portrayed in their own fiction. Saki’s work portrays an at ease life – well an pseudo-at ease life; because planning a party and the guests, and all other odds and ends of the upper class, does take time, and it does take a considerable lot of work. Yet Saki presents a much different view, then that of Charles Dickens, and that of Virginia Woolf. Saki presents a much different world view indeed. A much more relaxed England.

This particular story amused because of Saki’s way of writing. I think the term “fairy godmother business,” as a way of discussing the matter of philanthropy was rather interesting. In fact somewhat comical, way of discussing the entire matter of philanthropy itself. A form of self-esteem booster. A way of feeling good about one’s self, by doing some form of charity work, and improving someone else’s life. However for poor Jocantha Bessbury, her attempts and philanthropy on the nice young man she had seen called Bertie – who has very nicely brushed hair, and knows which tie to match what he is wearing, and probably works as a clerk at some warehouse. However all of her attempts at grabbing the man’s attention had provided to be futile.

You see Gentle Reader there are always certain unwritten rules no matter where we go. Certain etiquette, a form of behaviour; no matter where we go there is something there that must be done in order to maintain this sense of order – if not, by all human laws and nature there would be anarchy! What would happen if people did not dress up in their best casual yet nice clothes, when they went to clubs? What would happen, indeed? Such anarchy would run rampet in the clubs, in the grocery stores (no swearing – at least not too loud), it would be just chaos. Just utter chaos – at least which is what the human side of us all tells us. It all tells us without these unwritten laws, these unwritten ways of manners, are what are appropriate, that there would be chaos. Such is also the rules of this tea house, which Jocantha our philanthropist goes to. You see one does not just randomly start conversation with a person that they do not know. One must make some form of arrangement in order to start the conversation. Such as can the one person barrow some sugar; or some cream, and so on and so forth. These are the rules – even if the tea house is a bit of a frugal tea house, but they must be obeyed – especially by the people of a more “high society.”

The ending though perhaps is my favourite. The contentness of the cat who has just ate a drowsy sparrow, and now resting himself in his corner, content with himself, and what he has done. Compared to the attempt of philanthropy by Jocantha.


“Autumn Rain,” by Yasunari Kawabata (The Nobel Laureate of Literature of nineteen-sixty eight) – From “Palm-of-The-Hand Stories,” by Yasunari Kawabata

Autumn is my favourite time of year. The cold air. The earlier nights and dusk. The look of things. In summer everything is a haze, a buzzing enjoyment of activity, and the sun really clouds everything around the scenery. In winter everything is still. Nothing appears to move. Everything is in a perpetual state of being frozen in frost or ice. Though the snowflakes fall or blizzard outside, everything still has the feeling of being stuck. Never changing, never ending, just stuck. Spring everything is in a thick site of mud, and life blooming, and bugs starting to come out. Winter freezing away. It’s certainly my least favourite season. But then there is autumn. The crisp feeling of everything starting to be frozen in that same state that winter brings, but the light of summer still penetrates that unwelcoming feeling of winters claws of being trapped in a snow globe – never moving, never changing, just the same scene, same day. The changing colours. The rustling of the leaves, as they scurry down the street. The bonfires, the pumpkins, and Halloween of course – which has become rather commercialized, and parents now worrying about their children, and the sick perverts of people. But Autumn still remains my favourite season.

The opening lines and scenes of this story. The descriptive power, and beauty of it all, are what make it so much more worthwhile for me. When I first read this story, back in winter, during a rather dreadful time of life when, a family member had passed away – I read it in a daze, in a chair, by a lamp, which looked kind of like an old oil lamp with some slight variations. Certainly an antique I am sure, but it had a modern twist to it. It looked old, but was actually newer – a mixture of classical oil lamps with the current abundance of electricity and light bulbs. The whole switch in how to turn the entire lamp on was probably my favourite part of the whole lamp – next to the beautifully well painted flowers on the translucent glass white glass of the lamp; the switch of the lamp, was like any other knob. You know those short little sticks, with the round head, with the little ribs or crevices, marked in them. They feel like the rumble strips on the road, only your finger and thumb is the car. Anyhow, one cold night, I sat there in the chair; the house sound asleep, only the wind rustling outside, blowing up snow like a giant sneeze blowing dust away; or a person spreading ashes; I read this story. I admit it was the title that first grabbed my attention of this story. Away I had gone and flipped to this story, and once I read the following passage(s) there was a realization that I was not going to turn back.

“Deep in my soul I saw a vision of fire falling on mountains red with autumn leaves.
Actually, it was in a valley that I saw it. The valley was deep. The mountains stood high on each side of the riverbank. I could not see the sky above unless I looked straight up. The sky was still blue, but it was tinged with dusk.

The same tinge lay on the white stones of the valley. Did the silence of the autumn colours all around me fill my body, making me feel the dusk early? The valley river flowed a deep indigo; when my eyes marvelled that the autumn leaves did not reflect in the deep colour of the river, I noticed fire falling into the water.

It did not seem as if the fire rain or fire dust were falling; it merely glittered above the water. But surely it was falling; the little bits of fire fell into the indigo water and vanished. I could not see the fire as it fell in front of the mountains because of the red leaves on the mountain trees. So I looked up to check the sky above the mountains and saw small bits of fire falling at a surprising rate. Perhaps because the bits of fire were moving, the narrow strip of sky looked more like a river flowing between the banks formed by the mountain ridges.

Night fell, and this was the vision I had as I dozed off inside an express train bound for Kyoto.”

It should be noted – which I was going to say “I guess it should be noted,” but the word “guess,” is such a despicable world. It is not a concrete word, and though if anything I do appreciate neutrality and greyness; when it comes to language, there is a need, and a desire for concrete use of words, there is no need for words like “guess,” or “apparently,” et cetera (unless of course circumstances arise; then in which case the words maybe appropriate) it either is or it is not. Anyhow, I started reading “Palm-of-The Hand Stories,” before I read any of Kawabata’s novels. For the reason that Yasunari Kawabata himself had stated that he thought the entire concept or essence of his art could be found in these short stories, rather than his novels. Which to a degree is true. However both of Yasunari Kawabata’s novels and his stories both have their own strong points. In Yasunari Kawabata’s “Palm-of-The Hand Stories,” the reader can see just how great his condensation skills are, and how they can work to his advantage. His lyrical abilities shine though, and his impressionistic scenes, and making large life events, into smaller moments.


“Free Radicals,” by Alice Munro – From “Too Much Happiness,” by Alice Munro

This certainly will be one of my favourite stories by Alice Munro, if one asks me. There is something in each of these dark little jewels of these stories. Everything starts out normal enough. Everything is just going fine to be honest, for the most part – well that is debatable in this story; nothing is ever going fine when ones husband or wife or partner or beloved dies. Anyhow – each story sets off normal so far. There is something in this story for instance in which it starts off. Yes the husband has died. But everything that goes on after his death is all but normal. The ever disgusting “sympathy,” that people shower you with – you hate it when you get it, but you feel so unloved without it – at least that is what I have been told; I despise it either way. I absolutely despise people telling me “oh so sorry that happened,” just the word “sorry that happened,” or “sorry for your loss,” is just so disgusting. It is so false. Just that sickening though of “so sorry,” makes me vomit just a little bit in my mouth.

There is a real sense of dark humour in this story as well. Much different then Alice Munro’s first story in this collection “Dimensions,” which didn’t have much humour to it. It had more of a matter of fact way of speaking of the entire events that had folded around the main character. The husband and his murder. The therapy sessions. Almost as if the main character is just wandering through the events of the present in such a absent minded manner or so cold and distant that she no longer feels or cares – though she does, because in the waiting room of the therapists office, those Christian’s or Jehovah Witnesses – either way some religious group; had given her a religious pamphlet. Though she didn’t say anything. Her hands were shaking. She certainly could feel emotion. I think one of the main contrasts about the main character in “Dimensions,” and the main character in “Free Radicals,” is how they are dealing with the present circumstances. “Dimensions,” moves through everything with a cold, and unemotional look to the world, and the past. While the main character of “Free Radicals,” looks at everything with a smirk, and very interesting sense of humour.

“As soon as she got on with the arrangements, of course, all but the tried and true had fallen away. The cheapest box, into the ground immediately, no ceremony of any kind. The undertaker had suggested that this might be against the law, but she and Rich had had had their facts straight. They’d got their information almost a year before, when the diagnosis of her cancer became final.
“How was I to know he’d steal my thunder?” she’d said.”

Though of course, the main character admits that she would only be able to talk about this with her closest of friends. Once again one would have to face it, those people who always say “I’m so sorry,” (for whatever reason) would certainly not be able to stomach such a squeamish remark from the widow, whose cancer is in remission.

“People had not expected a traditional service, but they had looked forward to some kind of contemporary affair. Celebrating the life. Playing his favorite music, holding hands together, telling stories that praised Rich while touching humorously on his quirks and forgivable faults.
The sort of thing that Rich had said made him puke.”
Rich obviously belongs in my family then – they have all said the same thing. Well that is the contemporary affair part anyway. Where they say that they do not want a funeral. Just cremate them, and then have a nice private family ceremony where everyone gets together. So more or less, they still want the crying, playing their favorite music and talking about forgivable and favorite faults.

However the story has it contemporary affairs as well. The main character of “Free Radicals,” is not the first wife of her husband Rich. In fact she is his second wife – Bett is his first wife who now lives in Arizona. She used to work at the registry office at the university at which Rich taught Medieval Literature. To love and to hold until death do us part did not work for the first marriage. But worked for the second wife for sure.

Things get really strange for our main character. One morning it got hot out and decided to air the house out but a young man is standing on the front porch. Who says he is there to check the fuse box. Which for the reader sounds odd – but then again we are not entirely sure if it is true or not. But things get even stranger for our new guests. He says he is diabetic, and asks if she can make him something to eat. She agrees, though for the reader it still appears odd. A diabetic should no to keep themselves, fed, when they are hungry and all that. But our main character doesn’t appear to mind. But the behavior becomes odder. Breaking a plate. Cutting himself, and then ordering her around.

Eventually he himself tells her a little story. A story that prompts her to tell her own story which he believes is true, but in her case ends up to be quite false. In the end all turns out well. At least for her that is. Though nothing really changes. Her husband is still dead. Her cancer is still in remission. Nothing really changed. Everything stayed practically the same.


“The Harvest,” by Amy Hempel – From “The Collected Stories,” by Amy Hempel – Section: “At The Gates of The Animal Kingdom.”

This story by Amy Hempel is a great one. I first actually came across it, while reading the introduction of her volume of all her collection of her stories title “The Collected Stories,” which was written by Rick Moody – an author that Amy Hempel has influenced. In fact my first superficial connection with Rick Moody was a movie directed by Ang Lee (the director the horribly slow paced and rather boring cowboy gay romance drama love story “Brokeback Mountain.”) titled “The Ice Storm,” which was a neat and rather interesting movie. Though I suspect the book would even be better. Movies tend to focus only on very superficial moments; they can never really grab the entire detail that the word of a book can. That also speaking an author can do a whole lot more, with a book then a direction can with a movie. Speaking of “The Ice Storm,” by Rick Moody, if memory serves correct – and it does not always serve correct the novel “The Ice Storm,” was Rick Moody’s break into the literary scene. Though it has often been said he has not been able to top that novel.

In his introduction, Rick Moody makes it most important, to make a note of Amy Hempel’s well crafted sentences. This is something that any reviewer will discuss, about Amy Hempel’s sentences, even I have. For her sentences, work to her advantage. They, work like the headlines of a news paper story or article, making sure to grab the attention with bold words and action words (“Man Killed,” blah, blah; or “streaker chases woman in park!” and so on.) the stories make sure to grab the attention of all the readers or any reader. But the sentences, now that I have read enough of Amy Hempel’s work, are minor to her other more important great abilities that she has shown over the course of the stories that I have read and reviewed, and the ones that I have read on my own and not reviewed (and maybe not review, to enjoy my own pleasures). One my favourite part about reading an Amy Hempel story is for her power and control over atmosphere, and tone.

There is something in each one of the stories that has a classical tragedy feel to it. Yet there is still a great sense of the present; with eerie circumstances to it all. Just simple references like wishing to mix coke and rye drinks, and drinking them on the beach. Yet the circumstances to all these problems, are absolutely normal. The situations are all themselves, something that is acquired during life. Anyone who has lived into adulthood, or continues to live well into their prime of life and slow decay of life, knows the interesting and sometimes small subtle challenges we all face daily. Sometimes these challenges are from the past. Each one of Amy Hempel’s stories (so far) have a narrator – first person; and each one appears to be a loner who is salvaging what is left of their life. In the story “The Harvest,” the narrator (a female) has a car accident – but be warned this is not the traditional or simple story of the accident and what happened afterwards. In fact it’s a story, being told, by the narrator who reflects on the story itself, where the exaggerations of the fiction have come, and the real truth behind the story merge, and become the actual story. Try not to let this take away any merit the story has. The entire self-reflective style of the story is quite wonderful, not a gimmick or some post-modernism twist or attempt at cleverness; it works in the story. For even though the story is self-reflective, and is telling what appears to be two stories in some way or another it feels like it is telling three stories. The story with the exaggerations; the story and how it really happened, and then the story about how stories come and shape and form, and how truth and fiction, become a stretch of the same basis, but one is a bit more entertaining than the other.

Such is the way the story goes at times. The narrator was in a car accident, and had severely damaged her leg. The damage required just over three hundred stitches; but the narrator tells the story of about four hundred stitches. One day, the narrator went to the beach, and removed the bandage, and waded into the surf. A little boy had asked her if a shark had done that to her leg. The narrator confirms that, that summer there were many sightings of great white sharks around that around the coast. But the narrator also lies about what had happened to her leg, and says yes that a shark had done it. Now for some odd reason or another, keep wondering about that passage, I can’t help but wonder why the narrator would say that. Is it so the little boy would not be afraid of swimming because of the sharks? Is the narrator really that altruistic? Is there a feeling of shame in the fact that the damage was done by a car accident – oh what a correction by a man who hit the motorcycle that the narrator and her date were going on (the narrator did admit that she lied because of the fact that the syllables of motorbike just were not going to work in the story, and therefore car was more appropriate.) but then again, there is no real reason for having shame, of damage done by someone else. That would just be irrational behaviour; then again there is a lot of irrational behaviour for this narrator as well. However the psychiatrist did point out that, it was a common sensation or feeling.

“I watched this on television, and because it was my doctor, and because hospital patients are self-absorbed, and because I was drugged, I thought the surgeon was talking about me. I thought that he was saying, “Well, she’s dead. I’m announcing it to her in bed.”

But as the psychiatrist had explained to our narrator that, the entire feeling of thinking of being dead and not realizing they are alive is really quite normal in her circumstances.

In all Amy Hempel’s fragment storytelling. Well manicured and formed sentences, all help the tone and atmosphere of her eerie stories, about life, after unfortunate circumstances. About picking up the bits and pieces of a destroyed life, and moving on from there. Maybe that is why Amy Hempel’s first collection was titled “Reasons to Live,” and I do remember reading or seeing or hearing somewhere (who can ever remember) that she is quite interested in how people keep living when such accidents or circumstances, and keep living and moving on.


“I Despise Your Life,” by Patricia Highsmith – From “The Selected Stories for Patricia Highsmith,” – Section “The Black House.”

In Patricia Highsmith’s short story “I Despise Your Life,” from her later collection of short stories titled “The Black House,” we see a more mature author at work. This short story was much better done then some previous stories that have been read and reviewed by this author. There is still some common Highsmith tools at work in this story, but it came off as less illusionary or less of someone’s dark murderous fantasy or hallucination like prose, it came off as a bit more darkly realistic. It explores the relationship between the free loading, twenty year old Ralph and his wealthy father Steve. Ralph has this dream. A dream that all young people have; but this dream is usually quite unattainable or rather is rather unrealistic. Hobbies are fine. Writing is a hobby for myself. Reading is also a hobby. With the internet, I have been able to share my hobby of reading and writing, with others. Ralph’s little hobby of playing in a band, is a bit – one could say; or rather I would say; out of hand. Ralph and his friends are not the most responsible people. They have this concept or this dream of playing in a band – well they are part of a band. But there only dream is to play in a band, make records and life like the bands and all the other musicians they idolize and listen to. There appears to be no other real attempt at making this dream come true. The band and Ralph’s interests besides music and dreaming of being a band, and making it in the “big time,” is what appears to me is drinking, sleeping around, and doing drugs. Though they do practice, their instruments, and band playing and all that fun stuff, but other than that, there is no real attempt at realizing their dream. None of them – besides two if memory serves correct; has a real job; and the one only teaches piano, and the other teaches guitar. The others of this fine little group, more or less from what Patricia Highsmith hinted at – or otherwise bluntly stated more or less, just ask for hand outs or help from their parents.

At the beginning of the story we are introduced to exactly what kind of character Ralph is. The snobbish, spoiled rich boy. The world owes him for his own services. The world owes him for the fact that his band has not been succeeding. His father owes him everything. Everyone owes him something. Rather than Ralph taking the responsibility of the other way around, and find himself an actual paying job. As far as his father is concerned – though it is not outright admitted; you can dream whatever you want, you can wish whatever you want, but first and foremost you have to pay your dues to society, just like everyone else.

The meeting with his father at the beginning of the story goes sour – as one could expect. Ralph’s father Steve simply states that he cannot keep supporting his son, and tells him to grow up and start acting like an adult. All of this drives Ralph mad. His father is wealthy. As his son Ralph feels injustice towards his father. His father who is well off, should help pay for his rent. His father who is wealthy should pay for everything. However that is not how the world works, and Steve (Ralph’s father) would rather his son learn the value of a dollar, at least now of all ages, before it gets far to worst. Ralph however refuses to listen to his father’s reasoning, and leaves.

All of this reminds me of Doris Lessing’s Nobel Laureate in Literature of two thousand and seven, characters. These characters who feel they are entitled to everything and anything. Yet despise their middle class upbringing and their parents – but have no problem asking for a hand out here and there, from the very people they despise. Much like Doris Lessing’s characters in “The Good Terrorist,” the characters of Patricia Highsmith’s short story “I Despise Your Life,” are nothing short of self-indulgent, irresponsible, band playing, drug abusing young people who have yet to grow up; and one would doubt if they ever would. These are all the common similarities that Doris Lessing’s characters and Patricia Highsmith’s characters, but in the details they end there. Patricia Highsmith’s characters have no interest in politics and make no attempt at even caring about politics. But other than that, both sets of characters are self-indulgent, lazy dreamers, who only dream of becoming a big band, and playing in the big leagues with other musicians, but once again there is no attempt at making any real dream come true.

After the encounter with his father Steve, Ralph goes back to life – where the reader is introduced to the disgusting creatures that he lives with. The other miscreants who neither care, or make any attempts at being contributing members of society. It is here a plan to have a rent party where people pay to come into “the dump,” (Ralph and co’s apartment) and that the people who come and pay the fee will, help them pay for their rent. It is at this time, that Ralph has the odd idea of inviting his father to this party. A stupid idea really. Who invites their father to a party where who knows what might happen. Around a bunch of young hip people. Surely a bad idea. And of course it was.

Steve ends up leaving, and Ralph – in a daze of confusion, Ralph slits his own wrists. From their he is taken to a hospital, bandaged up, and is given a five hundred dollar bill – which comes off as more of a death sentence. Once again it all goes around in a circle. Ralph must ask for another hand out from his father. it all went in a circle. Everything went in a circle. Much like life goes around in circles.

This story by Patricia Highsmith was enjoyable. It was a nice change from the usual Patricia Highsmith with the irrational and almost reaction of murder. It was a different change of pace, to see Patricia Highsmith, write about the relationship of father and son. It is a much more human side of Patricia Highsmith’s writing, its different approach to the same trade and stock but a much more different way of looking at it, and a different outcome and a much more softer side, with a bit more bitter outlook but also shows Patricia Highsmith at her more refined years, as a writer.


“Grey Area,” By Will Self – From “Grey Area,” by Will Self

Before the short stories by Patricia Highsmith and Will Self are replaced by other writers, it had appeared most appropriate to read “Grey Area,” the titled story of this short story collection.

Will Self has an overreaching and rather extensive imagination. However this sometimes makes these postmodern short stories dethatched, disconnected, and otherwise rather difficult to enjoy. At least for me that is. There is no real sense of trying to make the unbelievable or the impossible even the most remotely believable or possible. Though Will Self’s imagination is certainly his greatest strength and asset but also his worst weakness and largest fault. His imagination and ability to use that imagination in odd and surreal ways, often at times, make his stories rather difficult to enjoy or follow. For some people they may be able to enjoy Will Self’s work, his novels and short stories, but his postmodern absurdity and surrealism, does not always appear to be on the right track. It always becomes a bit too much – as if Will Self’s work, in the absurd does not really have much of a point of reference in the real world, or a realistic image at times, to really grab on to, as a reader and able to hold onto like a life preserver, in this strange postmodern grey world. Unlike Samuel Beckett’s meaningless and almost nihilistic work, where nothing happens, and yet everything happens all at once. Where everything is absurd, but is more or less, realistic in senses, but is more in tuned towards characters behaviours – such as one who sucks on a carrot; or another who has sucking stones; and another who ties himself to a rocking chair and fly’s back and forth (or something like that – have yet to read “Murphy.”) Where as Will Self’s work is more attuned to the outside world. The exterior world, around the people, and the individuals, the postmodern world that they either helped create and where not even aware of how they even participated in such an event; and now how they survive in a world of flashing advertisements, corporate situations and environments, a general sense of sterility. The sense of a loss of the natural world, and a sense of one losing their own humanity.

As one reader on a website (“goodreads,” if memory serves correct) had pointed out, Will Self has a great way of coming up with idea’s. However with these short stories that I have read, there does not appear to be any story line.

“A beautiful collection of Nathaniel West-ish tales which manage to combine the quirky stylistic devices which we know and love from The Quantity Theory of Insanity ... with a chilling moral diagnosis of all that is wrong with our society,” Financial Times.

The above quote from the Financial Times is an accurate description to a degree. I would not call this collection at all beautiful and stylistically speaking, there was not much varying degree’s between stories, and since I have not read a novel by Will Self, I certainly cannot say that I could vouch for the fact that the stories and his novels share any stylistic similarity.


“Rudyard Kipling wrote about colonial India, Joseph Conrad wrote about central Africa, and Isaac Asimov wrote about deep space. Will Self writes about Purley, Croydon, and other outposts of lower-to-middle-middle-class London. He imposes his skewed vision upon the ordinary, with a resulting surrealism all the more extraordinary for its origins.”

When reading such reviews and such descriptions (a link for the above article will be posted later) it’s hard not to see what the buzz is about the author, and yet there is nothing Will Self could do to live up to this praise, in this particular case. These stories felt more out of place, and just a waste of time, then it would be to try and breathe air while sinking to the bottom of the ocean. It is truly a particular pity. However Will Self has his readership – I cannot be included amongst them, but it was nice to give him a try.

Thursday 18 August 2011

The Short Story Review Introduction (No. V)

Hello Gentle Reader

I am afraid, that this introduction will be going up a bit earlier then I had expected it to, but I think I’ll have the last story read and reviewed shortly, so it will be up. I just needed to place something up for this Thursday and obviously the only actual reading done so far, has been of the short stories, of late. Part of the reason for that is, because I have had not, bought any new books of late. So the only thing that has been read of late has been short stories, by the authors that were selected for “The Short Story Review.”

I remember a while, ago, I read a story by Amy Hempel titled “San Francisco.” At the time of reading it, I was not entirely sure that I had got the story, but now it is obvious what Amy Hempel is trying to do in her writing style. She’s expressing scenes or scenarios and actions in an entirely different way rather than being completely upfront with them as well. Dear Gentle Reader, Amy Hempel (for an example) does not describe the situation of the door being open in the same way another author might. Rather than say “he opened the door.” Amy Hempel describes the action of opening the door in an entirely different way. Amy Hempel’s way of writing now has a much more different form of appreciation. Instead of writing in the traditional way; writing about the specific action that has taken place, Amy Hempel describes the action in a different way. A much more compelling way also; even more poetic. This is why Amy Hempel is such a great and interesting author. Her short stories are relatively short, and often at times have the feeling of fragments, with bits and pieces left out, which are always nice though – because Amy Hempel leaves enough information for the reader to grasp what is going on, and enough clues to put together the past of the present. Once a reader can grasp this new way of writing – which is rather quite an exciting and splendid way of writing; not to mention, a lovely style to get used to as well, which makes the writing, that more enjoyable.

There was almost a brief mention (if memory serves correct) that I had wished to change up some of the short story collections. Quite frankly the works of Will Self and Patricia Highsmith. Though both are good writers, they have both grown rather tiresome, so I have looked into some others authors, and their short story collections. Though the list of where I had it, has once again disappeared, like most of my lists do time to time.

Any How Gentle Reader, come by in a short while, and read “The Short Story Review (No.V),”

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read
*And Remember: Downloading Books Illegally is Thievery and Wrong.*

M. Mary


Here is the list of Short Story Collections being looked at:

"Leaf Storm: and Other Stories," by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Columbia) (Nobel Laureate in Literature 1982)
"Strange Pilgrims: and Other Stories," By Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Columbia) (Nobel Laureate in Literature 1982)
"No One Writes to the Colonel: and Other Stories," by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Columbia) (Nobel Laureate in Literature 1982)
"Marcovaldo: or The Seasons in the City," Italo Calvino (Italy)
"In Strange Gardens and Other Stories," by Peter Stamm (Switzerland)
"Waves: Stories," by Bei Dao (China)
"Buying a Fishing Poll For My Grandfather," Gao Xingjian (China) (Nobel Laureate in Literature 2000)
"New Directions Bibelot 4," by Victor Pelvin (Russia)
"Life Times: 1952-2007," by Nadine Gordimer (South Africa) (Nobel Laureate in Literature 1991)
"33 Moments of Happiness: St. Petersburg Stories," by Ingo Schulze (German)
"Collected Stories: William Trevor," by William Trevor (Ireland)
"New Yorker Stories," by Ann Beattie (America) -- be warned you have an American author Amy Hempel
"A Few Short Notes on Tropical Butterflies: Stories," John Murray (America)
"Hollywood Nocturnes," by James Ellroy (Amerca) (The Demon Dog of America)

Monday 8 August 2011

Mondays With Mr. K (VIII)

Mondays With Mr. K (VIII)

Mr. K was a noted man of stories. In August, from his window, he could clearly see, the lightning and the thunder, through the splattered droplet prisms. How the sky would light up. The soaked cats – always one, two, and a third but never an unfortunate fourth; laid in a warm corner, distant from each other, but close enough to help each other out if necessary. “Always suspicious creature’s cats are,” he would say. “The trust no one, and yet expect to be allowed in places, like my home. They expect to have their corner to themselves, warm, and cozy and to leave when they have finished their business, or until they have no use anymore with me. That is the way cats are. That is the way they operate. They expect whatever they want, but have no idea of what gratitude is. Such a pity really that such creatures, have only one foot in the area of trusting each other, and another behind their back willing to double cross each other if necessary. Well their behaviour I suppose is like that of people as well. Oh well a bit of gratitude would be kind from them. Though I suppose they do think that because they clean the place of any mice – which I have never seen; they earn their keep. Though I suppose I’ll admit to myself, that I do enjoy their company. Sometimes I tell them stories.

“Have I ever told you the story of the a marriage that I witnessed years ago? Well you see, years ago, a young bride and groom were going to get married – alright you are right the proper way to say that is: they were getting married. Now you see on their wedding day a storm was brewing. The wife wanted to have the wedding outside, and she insisted on having it outside. Though she changed the reception to be inside. A small price to pay though. Anyhow, I was walking along, the path of this wedding, avoiding any major areas of guests, because I was not invited and merely wanted to go for a walk through the surrounding forest. Anyhow while I was out walking, there was a small bench, overlooking a pond or a slough . . . anyhow; I presume this man who was sitting on the bench was the groom. He appeared to be in great distress, or just stress. When I sat down on the bench – because I was both tired and my feet hurt; and a little bit curious; the groom began to tell me he wasn’t sure he was ready to marry yet. He didn’t feel right in what he was doing. Rather that he was doing what was pressured by his family and his soon to be wife. Simple honesty is the best I told him. Simply say that you do not wish to marry her, and tell her and everyone else your reasons why. Anyhow after resting I headed off. I made it to the next town before, the storm hit, but by then news had spread of a terrible accident that had happened at the wedding. Apparently when the storm hit everyone moved inside for the reception. The groom though ran outside to help with moving things inside – as men are expected to apparently, while standing underneath a tree, grabbing a chair that was caught by the wind, and lightning had apparently struck the tree, and crushed the groom. Needless to say that marriage, which never happened, ended with a tragedy. At least the groom got what he wanted. To a degree. Though it does go to show a few things. Be honest with your feelings, and never have a wedding outside. Why did I tell you this?” Mr. K shrugged his shoulders – “I was reminded of it by this storm.”

Sunday 7 August 2011

Cat's Eye

Hello Gentle Reader

Have you ever played marbles as a child? No? Neither have I. However back in my day we played different kinds of games: Knucklebones, pick-up-sticks, spoons, knock, knock, ginger; and other such games. Childhood is full of them. However now day’s children play video games, no longer able to enjoy these fun – and somewhat naughty activities. Marbles however is a game that I have never played before. It never did appear all that popular around the place that I had grown up in, in my wee years of childhood. Those years – or rather almost my first two decades, of life were spent in a small town – a place that marbles were not very common to play at. Perhaps Marbles is a city child’s game. Though there was one tie I remember that while I was at my great grandparents home – back on their homestead (yes literally their homestead) which was later renamed by the family as simply “the farm,” – but such details are not important for this story; that my great grandmother told me and my sister that at the top of the stairs, there was a chest of toys. Now of course my sister and I went up stairs, and decided to look through the chest of toys that my great grandmother was talking about. I can still remember my fascination with the kaleidoscope which means (observer of beautiful forms) – I could not comprehend; then again I doubt I particularly cared; how the beautiful shapes and colours could possibly be made in such a tiny tube. Of course my sister wanted to see what I had, and quickly she had it in her hands, and up to her eye looking at the splendid colour. There were many other toys in this chest as well. Dolls, bears, knick’s and knacks – and then there was a bag. A strange little felt bag with draw strings, with these little spheres, of different colours and patterns. My sister and I were not entirely sure, what these were, and assumed, they were toys – because they were in the toy chest; but then we also though they were rather pretty to be toys. We placed these spheres (later we learned they were marbles) back in the particular bag, and placed them back in the toy chest.

There are many different kinds of marbles my Dear Gentle Reader. Most of these I have just learned about myself. There is the “Oxblood,” “Onionskin,” “Bumblebee,” “Ade,” “Turtle,” but the one marble that holds the most particular interest and appeal to the main character of the novel “Cat’s Eye,” by Margaret Atwood: Elaine Risley; is the title of the book itself the cat’s eye marble.

The novel itself was preceded by “The Handmaids Tale,” one of Margaret Atwood’s most controversial novels – frequently challenged, and often called pornographic and called anti-Christian. The novel structure in some ways or another is reminiscing of one of Margaret Atwood’s award winning novels which won the Booker Prize of the year two thousand “The Blind Assassin.” However it should be noted, now that “Cat’s Eye,” is not really written in the same form as the “Blind Assassin.” There is no real metafiction form, or false documentation. However there is extensive use of flashbacks. There is time distortion if one wishes to call it that. All readers and reviewers and critics, will say that the book itself is a great testament on the complete idea of how people deal with and experience time. Most of which quote the following passage of the novel:

“’ Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space. If you can bend space you can bend time also... I began then to think of time as having a shape, something you could see, like a series of liquid transparencies, one laid on top of another. You don't look back along time but down through it, like water. Sometimes this comes to the surface, sometimes that, sometimes nothing.”’

However most of this can be explained with Elaine’s brother, who is somewhat, of a mathematical eccentric – he’s also the one that introduces marbles towards Elaine. Speaking of Elaine’s brother, Elaine’s entire family is not what others would say is a “typical,” family of the era. Elaine’s father is an entomologist, and the family usually spends most of their time and days in the Canadian bush – something that other children would see as a bit odd. They would see it as a bit odd. Their father leaves, for work in the morning and comes back at the end of the day. Their mothers hang out at home, does her housework, starts making supper and makes sure everyone is well fed. Then the father comes home. But Elaine’s family life is so very different. So very different indeed. It’s spent outside, and away from the rest of human contact and society. Her father doesn’t go home at the end of the day, her mother doesn’t clean house, her brother is a mathematical quack, who knows all about high mathematical calculations, and physics. Her mother doesn’t clean house. But she does take care of everyone. But things finally change, when her father gets a job at the university. They move into a house, and Elaine joins society once again. There she meets three friends: first there was Carol and Grace, but later on another one joins their group. A girl by the name of Cordelia. It is at this moment, when Elaine meets the first two girls, that she realizes that her unconventional background has not equipped her for the proper code of conduct of femininity. But everything changes when Cordelia joins the group. Everything becomes a twisted game of power and submissions. Elaine becomes to get bullied by her “best friends,” and accepts the punishment.

There is something about the next bit of work of this novel – the changing points, the interesting parts – or rather the beginning interesting parts of the novel. Reading this book at times or another, there is a feeling of childhood friendships gone awry, or those awkward teenage years. One can still feel the sting of those nasty words bullies say. Something as we get older – much, much older; to forget. The betrayal of friendships and sometimes even being part of the betrayal as it happens, and now in later years, looking back and shaking one’s head and wondering why that had happened, why one had gone right ahead, and decided to play along rather standing on the actually right side. Standing by ones friends, the ones that would or supposed to stand by you if you were in the same situation. Question would be of course, would they themselves, make the same mistake as you yourself had.

The bullying and the games, and the vicious pranks, and excluding attacks get crueller and crueller. They play a game (if memory serves correct) titled “funeral,” and place Elaine in a hole in the ground, covering the top of the hole with planks of wood, and leave her down there in the ground, in the dark. Walking away chillingly without a second thought. But things change significantly when the girls decided to take the cruelty to the worst level yet. The ravine is a place that all the girls are told to stay away from. There are “bad men,” down there, they are told or something like that. Drunks and drug users are most likely hiding down there. Not to mention whatever else just happens to lurk down there. For some odd reason or another, this part of the novel appeared to be the most vivid, of the entire novel. I could picture the cold of the dark ravine. The grey creamy winter sky overhead, with snowflakes floating down, and already changing in colour, as the sun begins to set. It is here that Elaine’s story begins to change. Somehow or another it begins to change. Half frozen now, she sees the Virgin Mary standing on the bridge, where her friends once stood and now she is left all alone, with her hallucination. But the Virgin Mary guides her to safety.

It is at this moment that it all changes. Elaine realising that she allowed herself to be the victim in the cruel games and pranks of her so called “friends,” she quickly finds new friends and moves on with life. It is at this moment, that things start to die down for a bit. But they are quickly picked up once again.

We learn of her affair with her art teacher, Josef – who if one were to ask me is a pretentious and patronizing hack of a man, who just simply tries to disguise himself as an artist. She then takes up love for the avant-garde artist Jon. What follows his marriage, a child, a suicide attempt, and divorce.

It is all quite interesting really. But the most interesting part of this novel is childhood. The childhood trauma, the evil that “little girls,” are to each other. My mother always told my sister as she got older: “girls are bitches.” It is quite true from my own observations on my sister had experienced with her friends during those awkward transition years when she was moving on in life, she had experienced this two faced, ordeal that girls posses. The phone calls. The nasty rumours. The threats of being jumped and beaten up. But much like Elaine, she made it through. Does she remember them though? Perhaps, she does. Perhaps she looks back those moments, and those “girls,” and laughs at them, and shakes her head, at the stupidity of those girls. But much like Elaine has – did my sister switch places with her tormentor and become the one with the power?

Throughout the novel though, the reader gets to see Elaine become a cat’s eye herself. Cold as the marble, with the slit of paint or colour or whatever it is in, its polished glass surface, feeling nothing. Not one thing. But as the novel points out, one way or another she is going to have to face her past one way or another. She can’t be cold as a shiny little piece of marble forever.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read
*And Remember: Downloading Books Illegally is Thievery and Wrong.*

M. Mary