The Birdcage Archives

Saturday 31 March 2012

As The Days Get Longer

Hello Gentle Reader

It has recently come to my attention that at the age of sixty eight, Antonio Tabucchi died on March twenty-fifth of two thousand and twelve, from cancer. He was a author of two worlds. He is a professor who specialized in Portuguese literature, and Portugal itself became a second home for the author, to which he wrote some novels in Portuguese. However in the end Antonio Tabucchi was a author who comes from Italy, and is noted for his political rage and biting criticism of the former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. Yet the author himself, in my opinion is modest (on the very verge or edge of shyness) with his gratitude of praise, but keeping himself grounded, by always seeing that he is not as good as writer as the masters, that he himself had found inspiration in, and had enjoyed. Currently his short story collection “Little Misunderstandings of No Importance,” is one of the short story collections being reviewed on “The Short Story Review,” here on this blog. I remember from the collection of short stories from this amazing author that he himself was sad for all the stories he will not yet read. I too must admit that I feel a sense of pain, in the fact that I will not be able to read all the future planned projects that the author himself, had planned. May this great author rest in peace. May his works of literature live on, and his criticism of politics and politicians, inspire many to come.

On another quick side note, I am experiencing some technical difficulties, via my own computer, and the coming blogs for the next few weeks or so, may not come on as planned or on as routine schedule. Please bare with me, as I try to figure out the cause of the problem, and get it rectified.

Yet for now, there is a deep set of mourning at the loss of Antonio Tabucchi. I looked forward to seeing the author himself one day win the Nobel Prize for Literature, as he has always been a serious contender.

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


Friday 30 March 2012

Runaway Horses

Hello Gentle Reader

It is a difficult assessment. The word belief is not a word that I particularly like to use. The word itself, has always been defined as, that cowardly word, that people try to make as some metaphysical concept to it. The word itself, for me however was a word that in its meaning symbolized the fact and the concept that a person when they said they believed in something, that it usually meant that they were giving up their own free will. Therefore they were also giving up their rationality and therefore were also giving up their reasonability as a human being to think for themselves, and therefore be responsible for their own thoughts. The word “believe,” always spoke of some ignorant and dogmatic concept that someone would never listen to reason. When using the word “believe,” it was just something that one gave up their own ideas and opinions, and therefore gave up their responsibility as an individual to think for themselves. However, as a human being and an admitted hypocrite, I have used the word; believe on numerous occasions through the days of my life. However my opinion of the word believe is still something that I continue to hold on to.

Horrible atrocities and actions have been committed, by people who believe in something to the point of fanaticism. The act of terrorism itself can be summed up as the fact of believing in a ideology so full heartedly to the point that the radical actions and fundamental thought itself becomes so strong, that those people would do anything in the action itself. Therefore the act of terrorism, that had been committed, will scare people so bad, that they will meet the demands of the terrorists. Yet the ideological fantasy of such a belief isolates them really from a more grounded world view. They do not begin to see that their fanatical actions themselves are not at all as ideological pure as they themselves thought. Their actions themselves are as nihilistic and destructive as the force they themselves fight against. The fundamentalist and radical thought that they so whole heartedly believe in, alienates and isolates them from their fellow human beings. After believe in the thought so much and so heartedly, and being lead to believe that what they are about to do is, for the greater good, their last and only option is to do terminate their existence. The act of ‘picturesque,’ death – this suicidal, action of such a nihilistic approach leads them to believe that they are becoming martyrs and that their self sacrifice by their own hands will lead to their disillusioned martyrdom, which will shake the concepts of the world and will purge the supposed evil that they see. However in my opinion when placing this act of self-destruction as a concept of some twisted sense of martyrdom, in the comparison to this novel’s main character Isao, it becomes clear in the end that his self-sacrifice is something more of a selfish action then an action for the greater good.

Often while reading this novel, and its treatment of death, as some sense as the greatest poetic concept of purity, it felt like it was the ground work and the plan for the author’s own, attempted coup and death at his own hands in ritual suicide.

“The concept of purity, then could alter to the contrary with arbitrary swiftness. And so purity was the stuff of poetry.”

Lines like the above passage from the book are very common in this novel by Yukio Mishima. The concept of purity and of death, and an honourable warrior’s death is something that is continually discussed. It becomes rather dour and repetitive after a while, and is not something that I particularly wish to want to have read continually. However, if one get through the constant feeling of moaning and the feeling of melodramatic, actions of Isao who acts like a Nietzschean concept of a “superman,” the novel can be an interesting discussion of the fanaticism of Japan in the nineteen-thirties.

The May fifteen Incident (May 15 Incident) that one will often read about in this novel, at times greatly leads to the concept of how this novel was also written about – or rather how the novel was formed. Yukio Mishima believed whole heartedly, that after the end of World War II Japan’s traditional society and its traditional identity was destroyed by the nuclear bomb, and the rapid consumerism that was taken hold of the country in such a decadent fashion, and the western thoughts surrounding it, was so vile and cancerous that he himself, saw it as the destruction of Japan and the Japanese Society.

Isao Iinuma is the fictional embodiment of these beliefs of Yukio Mishima. Raised at the “Academy of Patriotism,” and an athletic prodigy from the appearance, Isao Iinuma becomes the force of this novel of right wing fantastim and patriotic devotion. While Honda – from the previous novel “Spring Snow,” remains a voice of reason. Nineteen years ago, Honda had witnessed the death of his dearly departed friend Kiyoaki Matsugae the crystal cold emotionless aristocrat. Now nineteen years in the future the young law student Honda, is a junior judge and has come to believe that he sees the reincarnation of his dear friend Kiyoaki in the form of Isao Iinuma who is the son of Shigeyuki Iinuma the former tutor of Kiyoaki Matsugae, who has no turned into a right wing personality and has raised his son with a strict education.

It is a fascinating story to have witnessed the development and changes of the characters. Honda now in middle age. Iinuma no longer a servant, to Kiyoaki, and now how Prince Toin has also grown. At times I thought there certainly could not have been a worst character then Kiyoaki when I was reading “Spring Snow,” but the destructive action and desire to commit suicide, of Isao Iinuma, was just as worst as the emotionless unsentimental glacier character of Kiyoaki. Which is why Honda has become a character far more easier to enjoy. He does not have the Nietzschean concept of a “superman,” of Isao Iinuma; nor does he have the emotionless unsentimental warmth of Kiyoaki. He has a more rational mind and head to him. However his devotion to save Isao Iinuma’s life, comes to have more grounded purpose in its action – because of his inability to save Kiyoaki’s; rather than the action that Isao Iinuma wishes to take, to die as an honorable soldier, and use an act of terrorism, to wake up the nation against its decadent behavior and realize its traditional roots.

The May fifteen Incident (May 15 Incident) was an incident that happened in May of nineteen-thirty two. The then Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi was shot by eleven young naval officers. However an interesting twist, the original assassination plan was also to kill Charlie Chaplin – who at the time of the incident was visiting the country of Japan, and also at the time was watching a sumo wrestling match. However along with the assassination of the prime minister, the house of the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, and the residence and office of the Rikken Seiyukai, was also attacked. Hand grenades were also thrown into the Mitsubishi Bank Headquarters, as well as several transformer substations.

The plan of Isao mimic’s greatly the May fifteenth Incident. The plan is to eliminate the Zaibatsu of the pre-war Imperial Japan – in modern day terms the Zaibatsu, were the one percent capitalists, who the more traditional leagues of Japan, thought were corrupting the society with their decadent behavior. It is in this concept that Isao Iinuma, shares the same concept of Yukio Mishima, in the fact that the decadence of Japan was caused by certain people who brought too much western influence into the country and needed to have been destroyed and terminated. As with the May fifteen Incident – the youth and the actions deemed to be in the proper sense of ideological purity and the stuff of youthful arrogance and worldly ignorance, were left with minor sentences. However in the case of Isao his death obsession and desire of the perfect warriors death and martyrdom leave him with only once selfish decision to make – and there being no other choice he would make it.

The themes of political devotion, the nihilistic actions of the falsehood and the futility of Isao, as well as the beginning compare and contrast of Shinto and Buddhism, and obsession and radical thoughts of fanatical devotions are all explored in this novel. The era of the Nineteen-Thirties of the economic depression of the country. The farmers, starving, and the poor trying to work hard, as well as the political violence of the time, are enacted in Mishima’s poetic and beautifully cold prose that are resemble the facade of a crystal, but leave one with the feeling of looking at a very cold glacier.

A beautiful yet very cold portrait of this era of Japan. The beginning feelings and sentiments of World War II are right around the corner. It’s a strange novel written by one of the greatest Japanese writers of the twentieth century (after Yasunari Kawabata of course) and its themes of martyrdom and political radical ideologies, and the time of economic depression and down fall, are adequately written about.

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


Thursday 22 March 2012

The Short Story Review No. XI

“A Smile Outside the Night Stall,” by Yasunari Kawabata Nobel Laureate in Literature of nineteen-sixty eight – From “Palm-of-the-Hand Stories,”

This is certainly a short story review of transitions. This will be last short story to be review, by Yasunari Kawabata Nobel Laureate in Literature of nineteen-sixty eight. It has been an enjoyable ride with this author. His short fiction is as compelling and deep as his longer works. The slightest movements, of the muted stories, speak volumes of the characters emotions and their secrets. I’ll remember the awkwardness of the two children of “The Rainy Station,” and the (assumed) tuberculosis sufferer in “Glass.” The defiant face of a young girl whose image stuck with the man from “The Young Lady of Suruga.” The beautiful description of autumn in the mountain. The description of the fiery leaves falling down gently and wistfully, on to a indigo river surely is one of my favourite stories of “Palm-of-the-Hand Stories,” and that story “Autumn Rain,” shows Yasunari Kawabata’s depth in the short fiction form, and his ability to miniaturize the smallest of moments and most important moments, that can be expressed into the great depths of a novel. But instead of doing that, Yasunari Kawabata, speaks through the short story form with the greatness of the novel. Some authors would need pages and pages to express the depth and the emotion of some of these fleeting moments, which Yasunari Kawabata captures so beautifully in his psychological analysis, but he himself knows that in his art of making the greatest work the smallest, is truly in essence the power of the written form.

Yet, I’ve reviewed enough stories, and find myself growing tired of them. After a while, the stories start to bleed into each other, and soon enough they start to become more and more, and more, like the other ones. Yurkio starts to become another characters name – and before I know it, I get both of them mixed up. The riding clothes of one story, soon finds itself, in a lavatory across from a funeral home. It has just become time to place this book its best of terms at the end of its rented space here on the “Short Story Review.”

“A Smile Outside the Night Stall,” is a nice way to end this review of this particular collection of short stories. As a child I’d love fireworks. What a special treat they were. I still don’t mind going to a firework show. Just last year alone, I had gone and seen global fest, and it proved to be a spectacular show, of the fireworks of different countries, doing such a unique and brilliant show of colour, music, and of course to everyone else’s delight I am sure as well, the explosion and loud noise. Yet it is the way those beautiful fireworks, that lit up the sky that made it so spectacular. Every colour, every specific shell, was carefully chosen to give off an intended effect. Spirals, and stars and pinwheels. Last year alone I saw the great beautiful use of what they call a waterfall. It looks like at first just a cord or a string attached to two poles – kind of like a laundry line in many ways; and then when ignited beautiful white sparks shimmer and shine down. Like a beautiful array of shoot stairs, all gently falling down to earth, and disintegrating to dust. There where windmills. It was just a site to see. Then at the end of the show with the smoke lying across the slough or the “pond,” as they called it – was covered in smoke. Just the thought of some lights or some fireworks sparkling in the shroud of the smoke from the explosion would certainly would be a nice way to end the show.

Every Canada as well, fireworks are placed throughout the country. As is the fourth of July in the states – where you also eat a hot dog. The way the man and the firecracker girl in this story act though reminds me of a time, when I was younger, watching fireworks – and I saw a young woman and a young man huddled on a blanket not far from us. I can’t remember where we were that Canada day – in my mind it looks a lot like a camp ground – but I can’t quite put the place, it doesn’t matter; yet I remember that young couple kissing. Not a full out erotic switching of one’s salvia, but just a quick peck as they sat there half laying down half sitting up on the blanket on that hill, looking at the fireworks. A big burst of red and green ignited their faces, as they made their quick little peck. But just the playful way those two acted as they kissed, reminded me of the firecracker girl and the young man with the clog.

It has been a pleasure to review this collection of short stories, by the first Japanese Nobel Prize winning author. His Japan is not like the modern day Japan of crowded subways, perverted men who greedily watch Japanese school girls – it is not a place of air pollution warnings, or cram exams or the desire and need to study so hard that they puke up blood! It is not also a place that is overtly taken over by the western idea’s either. But it is a strong nation. A nation that is both in many ways a place of serene beauty. Not yet taken over of materialism, and yet very native to its own past, and still gently opening up to the western world. With that premise Yasunari Kawabata in these stories – probes the minds of the Japanese people – just like has done so in his longer works; and he shows what makes the people of Japan so unique and their culture so power and delicate, yet also so very much so universal to the rest of the world in the human experience as a whole.

“A Riddle,” by Antonio Tabucchi – From “Little Misunderstandings of No Importance,”

When discussing the story “A Riddle,” in his brief introduction, Antonio Tabucchi discusses the fact that the story itself, has unfortunately come out as a version that betrays the original concept or version that he wanted to write. It is the longest short story to date that I have had the pleasure of reading by Antonio Tabucchi. The fact that the author himself, feels rather disappointed in the way the story turns out, as if ashamed that the original version itself, has somewhere down the line been compromised, is becoming (in my opinion and observation) of a personality trait of the author. Continually he shoves aside his own talents at writing, and sees them as the work of a hack, or not as grand as the masters he himself admires. Constantly he apologizes in all modesty that borderlines shyness. However quite the opposite is true. Antonio Tabucchi has written one amazing story, with “A Riddle.” Whether or not the author himself has any interest in cars and the repair of cars, he certainly has the details and mechanics of how it all works to be expertly placed in this story creating a very defined sense of reality, that it actually works that way. Such details are important. If one decides to write about kitchen work or how to cook (in a fictional sense) or just place it as a scene in a novel or a story; they should acquaint themselves with the smallest and slightest of details in order to place a sense of authenticity on the story.

To concern the story itself, it is a story that is recounting the tale of a man and his love affair with a woman who calls herself the Countess of Terrail and her name is Miriam, and the fact that she needs someone to drive her to Biarretz because someone is trying to kill her. Most writers or amateur writers, or writers who write popular fiction or fiction that focus solely on some very defined rules of writing – one of the most common rules that separate these authors from authors that I myself, would consider literary masters or masters of the literary writing form, versus simply writing something; is that action is very important, to the very development of the story and the characters that it is the sole focus. However it should be noted, that action in a story is very important. To write simply about a single leaf falling from a tree in poetic use of words and symbolic meaning, it becomes very sluggish and would eventually lose the reader’s attention. People crave action. Action in a story is what gives it momentum. However to focus simply on the action and use it as the development of character and the story or novel as a whole, really jeopardizes the story, as it falls simply to predictably and cliché. In this case however, Antonio Tabucchi writes about, more than just the fact that someone is trying to kill Miriam Countess of Terrail, but also focuses on Proust (his driver) luxury cars, the beauty of the French countryside as well. The story itself is a puzzle of course, about the final fate of Miriam, but it does not focus specifically on the chase and then the ambiguity of what will then happen to her.

This is what makes the stories of Antonio Tabucchi work layered, complex and intriguing to read – and in my case, why I enjoy it so much. The way it works though appears almost, by magic how the events unfold. Which at times causes one to wonder, is life just full of these ambiguities and coincidences that make up the human experience? In the stories of Antonio Tabucchi one can certainly say yes. For if his characters were living people, they would testify that life is anything but made up on the building blocks of coincidences, which lead to the human experience as whole.

The Bugatti Royale and the elephant, that sat on tap of the radiator cap, and the relationship between Marcel Proust and his driver/mechanic/and secretary Alfred Agostinelli who would become the model for the character Albertine in Marcel Proust’s major work of the twentieth century – all of these items (and people) become symbols in this short story. The relationship between the narrator and Miriam, at times feels (and felt like) it was based off of the relationship between Marcel Proust and his driver Alfred Agostinelli.

Full of symbolism as well. The car itself is described as taking on a feminine figure. When given the car to repair, the elephant – the iconic elephant that sat on each of the cars, made by Rembrandt Bugatti an Italian sculptor, whose bronze statues of exotic animals – panthers, lions, elephants are amongst his most popular work; is missing. But is replaced with a wooden one – though it is still not the same. However it can be speculated that the wooden elephant is a symbol of an lover, unable to completely satisfy the other mutual partner. Many other aspects of the story itself could be deconstructed, and lead to the speculation of it being a symbol of some sort.

In the end, it was a beautiful story, about luxury cars, a discussion of Marcel Proust, and the love of lovers, and the beauty of the French countryside. It was just a nice journey. Antonio Tabucchi truly presents that age and era of time that has since long since past – yet it is certainly described with such wistful nostalgia and wonder. Now all one can do to get close to that kind of era is the Barrett Jackson auction or a car show. Yet once upon a time, the world of luxury cars and wistful love was, just like it was described here. It certainly struck a chord with me personally.

“Nabo,” by Gabriel García Márquez the Nobel Laureate in Literature of nineteen-eighty two – From “Leaf Storm: and Other Stories.”

It certainly is, a short story review of partings and changes. This is the first collection of short stories read by the Nobel Laureate in Literature of nineteen-eighty two. Next month he will back with a new collection of short stories “Strange Pilgrims,” but the collection of “Leaf Storm,” is now coming to an end with its final story “Nabo,”.

All (to most) of the stories by Gabriel Garcia Márquez work is by far always layered, and uses a sense of magic and mystery to often convey the exotic locations of South America, and often uses the idiosyncrasies of South American culture: sombreros, siestas, a devotion to the religious prudent catholic faith, and traditional folklore, are all used and presented in the fiction of Gabriel García Márquez. “Leaf Storm,” my first longer form of fiction that I have read by Gabriel Garcia Márquez shows his effect of layering his work.

Told from multiple perspectives, in a short time frame, about a outsider and stranger – a doctor; is told from the perspectives of the ageing colonel, his daughter Isabel and the grandson and son of the former and later, characters. Each one muses on the doctor, and the past occurrence of the events, that have lead to the dramatic beginning of the story and why the general consensus of the town of Macondo, is to let the social outcast doctor die in the house on the corner in which he himself has become a prisoner too.

Much of the stories rally around the same concept. Allowing for a distortion of time, and often allowing one to see how the characters move to and fro throughout the flow of the time of the story. “Nabo,” is one of those stories. The main character “Nabo,” was kicked in the head by a horse. Yet when he was supposed to die, he doesn’t. Instead he sleeps. Sleeps for days and then weeks, then the weeks become months, and month after month become year after year.

However he is dead, and much like the doctor in “Leaf Storm,” he becomes a prisoner in the barn in which he died in by the savage skittish creature, which had so willingly kicked him in the head. However the people keep feeding him. Three times a day he eats the food they bring – and consequently makes the angels wait.

This wasn’t my favourite story of this collection. To be honest, all the stories of this collection are rather dense, and compact, and require a lot of attention and concentration, and on a Saturday afternoon, heading into the evening, I don’t think I really had it in me, and probably was why it led me to really think, that maybe it wasn’t the best story.

The compact and multi layering of each story would probably work best in larger, formats – even longer stories; and would feel so dense and in need of concentration. However in the end it was a neat little modern fable. Something that all of the stories have had in the end. A neat modern fable of South America.

“Ice Lake,” by Peter Stamm – From “In Strange Gardens: and Other Stories,”

This is the first story I have read by Peter Stamm. It’s written in minimalist prose, which brings to mind, a river or a small creek running uninterrupted. Yet the mood of each story can be placed more on a down pour or monotonous rainy day – or snowy empty winter dusk. The characters in this story of “Ice Lake,” are emotionally stunted and immature. However, it’s an interesting tale, of unexplored relationships, the youthful mistakes we all make and their consequences. It’s an interesting story of a summer evening, and a swim in the warmth of a lake, and how it turned to tragedy.

I’m not sure what to make of this first story, which I have read by Peter Stamm. This story felt a little bit too short, which didn’t allow for a great depth in the characterization. The emotion is not clearly seen in this story. Even the actions of the characters, which are guided by the emotion of the characters, obviously don’t appear to be all that infused with the emotion of the characters.

Just like when the main character decided not to change into his bathing suit, because Stefanie herself, did not have one. Obviously beneath the murky depths of their unclear emotion, there are moments, when like the main character kicks up a bit of mud from the bottom of the lack that a chill of the clear cooler waters can be felt – so can the clearer more underlying emotions of the characters.

However still because of the length of the story there is no real sense of clarity of the emotions of the characters. Melancholy or the stifling feeling of lack of emotion, their actions appear crude, and nonsensical. When Urs commits suicide, or accidentally dies – I cannot say I felt a great sense of sadness or character involvement in it. Then again, the criticism of the fact of the matter would be that if I did, it would have been sentimental and overtly sensational.

In many ways Peter Stamm, is avoiding sentimentality all together with this story – which is a good move, but in the process he has created wooden characters, whose actions are just as wooden and have no real reason behind them. If Peter Stamm, would have given some prior information about the relationship between the main character/narrator, and Stefanie, as well as the relationship between Stefanie and Urs, their actions would appear to have more reason behind them, and there would be a better understanding between the relationships of the characters.

I certainly however do give my props off to Peter Stamm, for creating a very interesting atmosphere. The tales are melancholic but not to the point where you could care less if they lived or died. However Peter Stamm, created the opposite effect with this story, because rather than caring if they lived or died one is trying to understand who these enigmatic characters are. They are not cardboard cut outs; they are just difficult to understand characters. Shadows of themselves. The author did not provide enough light on the character, or on their relationship with one another.

Yet even though the emotion is muted, it certainly does give each of us who have lived, a life, that sense of those youthful days. When mistakes happen. To which we all make mistakes. How those warm summer evenings of bonfires, and pleasure and a bit of drinking turn to take a sometimes different turn. It’s a story reminiscent of the sweet days of youth, and the tragedies of youth, and mistakes that arise in those long since faded days.

“The Pinball King,” by Ersi Sotiropoulos – From “Landscape with the Dog: and Other Stories,”

Recently in a conversation with a friend of mine, we somehow got onto the conversation of plot in a story or in writing at least, the importance or at times the lack thereof plot. Yes plot is, important. In school, the teacher always told us when writing a story or when dissecting story, there were three parts to it. There was the opening, the rising action or conflict and the descent of the conflict or action which therefore lead to the last part of the story, the conclusion. Well of course, that is a very nice, and dandy, but it’s not a universal truth. If my experience in reading has shown anything it has shown that rules are not universal. There are consequences when breaking some of the rules for sure – for example, if one steals a loaf of bread, they may get a long lecture or talking to or a fine; and as my mother used to tell me, in some countries, you would lose your hand. However breaking the rules of writing fiction is a lot different. One does not go to jail. They do not get their hand chopped off. No electric chair. No outrageous fine. In fact breaking the rules of writing fiction can be a breath of fresh air.

One does not necessarily need plot or character. Authors through the years have proven that. In fact many authors have done away with the conventions of the novel or the short story form to take it to new and unexplored territories. Authors like James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and Samuel Beckett, did such things. Even contemporary authors also continue in that vein. The now deceased Harold Pinter in his plays, had minimal plot and story and yet explored much. Yasunari Kawabata both in his novels and his stories focused greatly on the characters minds, and their experiences.

“The Pinball King,” by the Greek author Ersi Sotiropoulos has done away with the plot of the short story, which works quite well with the short story, but may be more of a mess with a novel. With a novel, plot is the underlying glue that keeps the novel all together. It keeps the characters constrained, it keeps the action in check, it also keeps a sense of organization in place. While with a short story, it’s short and constrained already. Plot can be done away with all together. With a short story, the author can actually focus on character experience. Movements are more sporadic. The characters, are less directed, and move less and just aimlessly float or wander. Their experience is like the human experience – purposeless. Yet somehow there is that tugs and pulls and it keeps one going through the story.

In the case of Ersi Sotiropoulos the driving force of her prose is imagery. The images of the otherwise naked prose are the story needs to keep it propelling forward, and keep it compelling t to the reader. The images speak much of the characters. Much like the rat in “The Pinball King,” who is spotted on the stairway, to which becomes the metaphor of the brother and sister of the story – and there otherwise explored and ambiguous, not to mention complicated relationship. Yet there are no answers. No neat conclusions. In many ways, no real beginning. No middle. No ending either. In the end all one has are just wonderings, and images. This leads the readers to come to find out their own take or interpretation of the story – if by chance there was any at all.

On the surface, “The Pinball King,” the story focuses on two pairs of brother and sister. There is the Italian brother and sister Ugo and Erica. Then there are the Greek brother and sister – the sister being the narrator of the story. It starts with the pair heading out to the archeological hot spot and tourist attraction of Delphi. Yet they miss their turn. What ends is them meeting up with a hunchbacked, rotten teeth goat herder, who takes them to his home. There the wife feeds them, and the husband (the goatherder) drinks with them. Yet as it goes, the company heads off once again. Back to a motel, where they stay again. It feels like mountains are said in this story. Yet without the clear definition of the story, one is left to wonder what the mountains that are said really mean. What is the complicated relationship between the brother and sister really mean or have to do with the story as a whole – and then comes the real question: what was the meaning of the story at all? But in the end, for me it proved to be a compelling read.

Yet in the end one can certainly see that in a short story, there does not need to be a real sense of plot. Not a real defined sense of plot. While in a novel a slight plot – a sense of action going on even in the background can be the most important thing, which keeps the reader interested and keeps them moving. As one of my many English teachers told me – “You can write a novel, with the most beautiful language of a leaf falling from a tree. But no one would read it. People crave action. Action moves the story.” This might be why this story works. There is no action parse but there are images. These quick vignettes and images, quickly substitute in my opinion, replace the action of a story. The replace the feeling of action that might be needed – it causes the illusion of action, and in some ways keeps the story moving forward. This allows for the reader to become engaged in the story more so then they would if the reader where just reading lengthy (even though beautiful) descriptions of otherwise pointless and plot(less) story. The compelling images, naked prose, and character experience are what moves this story.

“(Autumn) The Lunchbox,” by Italo Calvino – From “Marcovaldo or The Seasons in The City,”

It looks to be spring here now. First time, it feels like that spring has come – and most of the snow has melted away, in March. With every spring and every summer, to every autumn and winter it always feels like the sensation of the new season is overdue. That as it comes to visit, as the earth slowly spins on its axis, it’s a welcome change. Right now outside it looks like early spring has arrived. The snow has but all melted, yet there is still bits of ice covering the ice in a few spots, usually protected from the sun. The grass is brown, and crunches underneath ones foot. The trees are still bare, having yet to bud. Outside looks more like autumn, then spring. Yet one can certainly tell it is spring because of the mud that has seeped from the cold frozen ground.

However if you are, a butterfly right now particularly and specifically Mormon fritillaries, the early warm weather, and the melting snow of the Colorado Rockies is killing off the flowers, and the food source of this butterfly. All because of global warming. This is of course just another case of the devastating effects of global warming, if of course it exists. Motorcycle enthusiasts or people who own a motorcycle in general, are out riding around enjoying the freedom they gain from a nice Sunday drive on a motorbike. Of course as others have stated, there might be a few more accidents, involving motorbikes lately because people aren’t looking out for them, so early in the year. In other words early spring equals early deaths for motorcyclists.

In Italo Calvino’s collection of stories “Marcovaldo or The Seasons in The City,” the main character Marcovaldo, has only a few interests at heart, it would appear. Those interests primarily being nature and at times the exploitation of nature for his own selfish whims, how to make money and food. The later being the one of most interest in this story. Have you parents ever said “eat your vegetables or tomatoes or horse meat (or some other hated food), because there are starving children in Africa (or China I got that one too),”? Admittedly such a comments would be seen as rude, political insensitive, and politically incorrect in contemporary western civilization, however if you were lucky enough to live back in the days of riding in the back of a pickup truck and no one screamed how dangerous it was, or that your parents swore in front of you, and suburbia was still in its infancy stages – life appeared rather normal.

The same could be said to Marcovaldo who loves the sausage his wife seems to have bought him and his family, yet hates the turnips. The shifty vegetable that he finds in his lunchbox every time he unscrews it, and finds to his delightful disappointment that there waiting for him in his lunch box is cold sausage and cold turnips from the supper of the night before.

Of course one time he finds to his delight a child, who wants to sausage and turnips rather, then the food he himself is given – which he calls “brains,” – often a childish way of speaking of their food. The community hall for instance, had many such places during Halloween where young children can go through a maze blindfolded and feel bodily organs like eyeballs, and brains, and intestines – which happen to be food like meat balls, and spaghetti and other odds and ends. So the fact that this child calls his own meal brains is not something unusual as it is his own way of just simply, proving to himself that the food that sits in front of him is disgusting and it is inhumane treatment to ask him to eat the food. Yet spotting Marcovaldo who also shares the same views of his sausage and turnips they decide to trade.

However fate always has a ironic and sardonic way of smiling down on Marcovaldo with a cruel grin, this trade will end bad for him as it always does, and once again Marcovaldo is left with the bittersweet, realization that it could be worst – he could be a starving child in Africa or China and that he should enjoy sausage and turnips.

Wednesday 21 March 2012

A Slight Problem

Hello Gentle Reader

If you have looked at the last blog "The Short Story Review No. XI Introduction," you will notice that some words, are grey and are highlighted. At the bottom of that post I had mentioned to simply ignore them. These "text-enhance," words or adds more or less, that have been highlighted without my approval by the "funmoods," website or company or whatever it is. Either way I highly recommend not clicking on them, because they are foreign, and not useful in the least bit. Please ignore them. When I use googlechrome, as well, the "text-enhance," are not there.

Please again if you still see them ignore them as best you can. I apologize for the inconvenience(s) this may be to any of you.

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. XI Introduction

Hello Gentle Reader

Last month I actually had an introduction written, but the with the new layout with, it did not get posted, and when I realized my human error, I thought it would be too late to actually post it, and therefore it was not posted with the corresponding Review itself. However life is all about making mistakes and learning from those mistakes, and not making those same mistakes again. Repeating the same action continuously and expecting results to vary is, the definition of stupidity.

With the rise of Kobo, Kindle, and e-readers in general, everyone is either on one side or the other. Many speak out in favour of them. Most of these readers, general middle class readers, who read a lot of Daniele Steel, Nicolas Sparks, Nora Roberts, and other authors that can put out a novel every six months. However younger people also have these devices, because it’s one of those in fashion desires in a technological age. Personally in my opinion if I wanted to read off of a computer screen, I would go to my computer and read off of it. Either way it does not change the fact that the device is out there, and in order for print material to be placed in competition with it, I think prices should be lowered. There just is no justification, to charge one thirty dollars for a hardcover book.

The author of “English Monster,” the first in what is suspected as a series – had found on a forum that someone was hoping to get a link to a pirated version of his book “English Monster,” to which Mister Lloyd Shepherd had confronted the person in a rather diplomatic fashion. However through the course of their discussion, with the one who wanted to have the pirated copy of the digitalized book, it left the author rather confused. But he did notice was the kind of “information is free,” “publishing houses are greedy,” pseudo-anarchist arguments, but after continual discussion started to learn that the author just kind of like was what everyone else was saying: “I want it, and I want it for free.” Which the author points out puts himself and other authors in a mess, or a difficult position, because they work hard on what they do, and if they are getting no finical support or some exchange for what they are producing they cannot go on and write. Which of course then means there are no more books – which in my opinion this “I want it, and I want it for free,” business, is just as greedy as the publishing houses. Yet the author himself was not content with the answers, that the specific person after his book was given. So he posted a new thread, and asked others what was the reason for this “free ride,” or “free loading,” attitude, that they thought that they deserved.

Many have said that it was nice to carry on vacation – not a lot of books to carry around (but what does that have to do with illegal downloading?) another was it was free sampling, and was great for publicity; others would go and say that all information deserves to be free. But maybe the real question is, if all information should be free, on whose dime should it be free? However the author found himself that many of the people resented being called freeloads. They claimed to have bought as many books as before, and that the forum and website simply allowed sharing and discussion. Kind of like when people lend books out to friends, and family.

Where do I stand on the matter? It’s hard to say. To sample and to discuss is one thing. But to give out stuff for free, that people push their hardest into, is not right. That’s like slavery and if people are not paid for their work, they cannot continue with their work. Some authors who are well established like Paulo Coelho, Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Nora Roberts, Danielle Steel, Nicolas Sparks, and others, then of course they can afford it, but to up and coming authors they might as well put the pen away and not even bother with it.

However it’s just the beginning of a problem or the first step into coming into a understanding of how to deal with it, and the best course of action to take.

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

P.S. Gentle Reader for some reason uknown to myself the words "Sample," Free," and "Support," are underlined and highlighted in grey. Please ignore these words, if clicked on they will take you to an ad.

Thursday 15 March 2012

Sugar Street

Hello Gentle Reader

Nothing in this world is safe from the passage of time. It can be something extraordinary beautiful though as well. The tree one plants when they are just a young child. Through the ages, it grows bigger and bigger. It becomes something, of a majestic beauty. I remember, when I was younger, helping my parents plant a lilac bush. Of course it meant nothing to me, back then. But as both I and the lilac bush had grown, there was a sense of attachment to both the lilac bush. However years upon years later, the lilac bush died. Such is the passage of time. It is a cruel part of nature, which begrudgingly does its duty; or sadistically carries out its duty, without question or complaints at all, and perhaps finds its enjoyment in its duty to nature. Though perhaps this is all personification. Personification is nothing, more than just giving personality and human characteristics otherwise inanimate objects or parts of nature. It’s more or less a poet’s trait of the trade. Yet it is a good way to personify an enemy or a foe, with metaphorical traits, in order to find something wrong with it, and allow for a sense of anger to be released at.

Ageing is part of life. It is something no one has control over. Everything ages. Animals, plants (though we do not necessarily see it), humans the world itself. It all ages. No one can stop the prospect of ageing itself. Though human beings have found ways to cosmetically cover up the signs or at least the results of ageing with the cunning use of Botox and other surgical procedures. Yet ageing is something that causes great fear in people. Not just the superficial fear of narcissism and vanity but rather the fear, of something far greater then ageing itself.

As one ages, they become a mere ghost of what they once were. How many times have I looked through the old photo albums, and thought to myself, how horrible life and ageing has treated me. At times the grey around the temples, that begin to slowly spread through my hair like silver dignified crown of wisdom and dignity that comes with age – yet once it slowly began to take its place throughout my hair, and goatee that came with old age, it no longer gave one that sense of dignity or superiority or even made one look all that much more wiser. It became a malaise and malady of time itself. Realization through looking through the old photographs, one can see that surely I have become nothing more than just an old ghost of myself. Being younger and looking through the photographs of my grandparents, I used to wonder who the handsome people where in the photographs and the pretty ladies. Now realization was that they were my grandparents. What kind of curse had befallen them was all my younger self could ask. Yet now as I too have aged, there is no curse. No curse at all. It is just part of life.

Yet ageing and the realization that we all die – who knows when the first thought of death itself comes to existence in the mind of people in their earlier days, is recounted in a philosophical aspect by the film director Darren Aronofsky when discussing his film “The Fountain,” he remarked on both the fear of death and how it makes one human and the biblical aspect of the Tree of Life and Tree of Knowledge and how they pertain to the human experience of both life and death and the fear of death itself and how it pertains to life. Without the fear of death or death itself or the knowledge of death human beings would not be human beings at all, but rather on par with God. In many aspects the realization of death makes us human. It is scary in many ways. The unknown of what is after – if anything; is really rather horrifying.
“It was sad to watch a family age. It was hard to see his father, who had been so forceful and mighty, grow weak. His mother was wasting away and disappearing into old age. He was having to witness Aisha's disintegration and downfall. The atmosphere of the house was charged with misery and death.”

Is what the soul searching Kamal proclaims in this book. Throughout the trilogy the reader, watches a family from the year nineteen ninteen (1919) and the start of the Egyptian Revolution against its colonial parents of England, to the year ninteen-forty four (1944) with the ending of “Sugar Street,” and the start of World War II. Throughout this three volume (trilogy) of a simple ordinary Egyptian family, who are struck by the very conflicts of life itself, and are wrapped up in the political engagements of their time.

When we first met this family they were obviously a little odd to me, because of my western concept of family. Yet, throughout it all, one comes to find some emotional bonds with this fictional Egyptian family. Aisha the dreamy beautiful one. One comes to find, themselves sharing in those dreams of hers. There was Khadija whose critical and sarcastic personality mad her appear gruffer, and a bit thick skinned and much harder to deal with then her beautiful sister Aisha; yet throughout it all, as a reader one finds themselves, finding her own emotional soft underbelly. There was Fahmy the tragic idealist who wanted the best of his family, and of life itself. His tragic love for his neighbour’s daughter; and he himself picked up the cause of the Egyptian revolution. Yasin, hedonistic and making larger mistakes then he himself almost can handle at times; shows one how to have a good time with life, and find the enjoyment of company of friends and liquor. Kamal the soul searching, and very confused youngest one of all family, is the one who finds himself, in the most peculiar situations, unsure where he stands with himself, and life itself, and Egyptian society as a whole. His philosophical musings cause him great pains, and stunt his enjoyment of life itself and ostracizes him at times from his family who cannot begin to comprehend his pain and inability to try and grasp their earthly pleasures and simplicities of married life, and companionship of family. Amina a dutiful house wife, who loves her family and her husband – the master of the household himself, as much as she loves and fears God the almighty himself. Her gentle compassion and delicate nature of a song bird make her sympathetic and empathetic character, which one comes to recognize and enjoy with – to the point where one almost feels like she welcomes them in to the coffee hour, to sit and enjoy the conversation. Al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad the patriarch and tyrant of this household, after times can cause great fear in the heart and soul of a person like an earthquakes trembling can cause great horrors into the daily routine of life itself. He is both a giant of authority and a friend that one comes to find is not as scary and horrifying as he lets others believe he is. Even in the ending book, one can certainly find a sense of companion with such a great man himself, who inspired fear in his family and yet, towards the end has inspired compassion and companionship in them as well.

Yet now with “Sugar Street,” Naguib Mahfouz has opened his family chronicle of Egyptian society and Cairo, to a newer generation. However Aisha experienced a grief that only her mother could understand and yet the shock and anger of the death of her children Uthma and Muhammed in the previous novel, and her husband subsequent passing as well. All of that has left Aisha a former shadow of herself. Her grief taking more of a place on her face and body that her once beautiful, body had once been something behold and inspired awe and shock in others. The only ones that stay the same, are Yasin and Khadija, perhaps Khadija has even changed a bit. Her tongue now lashing and whipping, with criticism. Her two sons al-Muni'm and Ahmad take the brunt of her beatings. Yasin’s son Ridwan is the most peculiar of all the characters or the grandchildren of the book. He is his favourite of his grandfather and the son of Yasin, but his taste for earthly pleasures is more abstinent to non-existent at all. Na'ima’s (the last child of Aisha’s) role in this novel is a brief, before she too meets her untimely demise.

Throughout this novel, the transition of the first novel to its end through this three volume trilogy has been a rather uncomfortable ride. The hope, the beauty and the sense of peace, and just an ordinary family wrapped up in extraordinary events, has taken its final ride. From the beginning we find a family leaving in their languor of peace and normalcy. However everything changes when the Egyptian revolution begins. Without a hint of knowledge of the on coming events, the family is forced to take up their arms, with their fellow countrymen. Yet in this time, they are also overcome with a strike to their household, and the beginning of the end follows.

The second novel, opens up with the family dynamics changing considerably. Both Aisha and Khadija live away from home. The once famous coffee hour is now in shambles. Yasin also over an intense argument with Amina. Kamal finds himself finding both love and heartbreak through his admiration, for a friend’s sister. This leads to heart break and the friendship falls through. Then once again grief is to befall through the family. All this however, goes through Egypt’s continuing political issues. In the end, throughout his novels Naguib Mahfouz writes of a strange and alien country that does its best to fight against the governing power, and yet cannot help but quarrel amongst itself. Muslim Brethren and Communists, walk among the streets. Everyone demands independence, but none are sure what it is.

The Arab Spring, that had happened these past years or so, has been something that follows in the vein of what Naguib Mahfouz has written about in these three novels. Egypt was the start, and even now the violence and the protest continues. Videos are shown all over, the news, and internet, of the problems that are coming from the Middle East, and North Africa. Just the other day while briefly skimming over the news I saw, a video of a Egyptian woman being beaten and dragged in the streets. Her short torn revealing her entire upper torso but her breasts covered with a bra. The outrage that many callers had expressed on the news summed up my own anger. Yet I still changed the channel. However, as I had remarked in my journal while reading this, and the current events that continue to unfold in Egypt and other countries, made me remarks, that through the past (almost) century has all but continued. Egypt has received its independence from the English Empire, but it still is at war with itself and its own government.

With this novel – the shortest of the entire trilogy; Naguib Mahfouz does not abruptly end the novel or the family. He rounds it off, as they will continue to live and move through their lives, as they always have. One has become an Islamic Fundamental, another has become a communist. Kamal still soul searches. Yasin continues his earthly pleasures. In the end Naguib Mahfouz ends the trilogy, and allows for the dice to fall as they may – as the saying goes.

It is not the best of the novels – the first one “Palace Walk,” was – but it still is nice to find out the end fate of all the characters. The less detail in this novel, allows it to move at a much quicker pace, but the rich characters that Naguib Mahfouz had created. Perhaps if “The Cairo Trilogy,” had been expanded a bit or even if “Sugar Street,” had been expanded then perhaps, the characters and their individual dramas and adventures would eventually become more apparent rather than the brief skim over their lives. In the end though it feels good though to get the entire trilogy done. Yet I wonder, what Naguib Mahfouz would think of the current Egyptian and Middle Eastern and North African’s call for democracy equality and freedom. What would he make of it I wonder? Unfortunately though I’ll most likely never know. However, I am sure his heart would fill with pride, and his mind would hope that the country moved to the intended goal that had been its motivation for so long.

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

Thursday 8 March 2012


Hello Gentle Reader

When one looks up at the night sky, they see those twinkling lights. Far off and distant, those twinkling lights are stars. Looking up, from so far below, one cannot help but feel so insignificant by lying down and looking all the way up. Past the shadowy tops of the trees. Overhead the chimney, puffing out smoke. Above the other roofs and the houses, there lays the stars. In an ominous primordial stew of nothing – a great void of nihilistic, aimless objects. That is space. Yet there is something, quite beautiful in thought of space. Who could forget the moon landing? When the first animal and first man were sent to space? All of those occurrences, were the first time that mankind was finally starting to realize its potential. The knowledge of the V2 Missile of Nazi Germany must have been quite frightening, to learn that it was the first object (manmade) to official make it into space. Certainly the human races, desire, and absolute goal of understanding what is unknown – be it space, or the very depths of the ocean; there is a demand, and a desire – a desire I am sure fuelled by fear, to get out there. To get out there, and demand to be out there, and discover what is out there.

Yet there is still something romantic about the vastness and the human races, inability to comprehend the entire scope of what is out there – or even the entire universe itself. What about this concept of a ‘multi-verse,’ this to me is rather boring. It just is for whatever reason. I do not find any concept of a ‘multi-verse,’ all that intriguing or interesting. In fact if anything at all, I’d be more interested in the concept of if space is up or down, or what shape is the universe?

Yet for a while, there I had a desire or a real craving for science fiction. While at work, I would occasionally pop into the science fiction section and for a brief few minutes. I’d look through the titles. Nothing of course sounded even slightly interesting. There were of course H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and Hugo Gernsback – who all three are often popularly called “The Father of Science Fiction,” – though in my opinion – seeing as I live from a post-colonial English speaking country, with a constitutional monarchy – H.G. Wells is often referred to as a the “Father of Science Fiction.” Though all three of the authors had pioneered the science fiction genre in their novels, and short stories.

There were other novels as well. “Robopocalypse,” by Daniel H. Wilson, which had an interesting cover, but it just didn’t really fly up my alley. There were others there as well. China Mieville’s new novel “Embassytown,” and some other mass market paperbound novels, that looked both unappealing and were more or less likely to be unappealing in any way or form for me. Then I found Iain M Banks, and his novel “Matter.” I know who Iain Banks was – author of “The Wasp Factory,” “Song of Stone,” “Dead Air,” “The Bridge,” among other interesting novels that were literary but also flirting with genre conventions as well. So I decided to give on one of his science fiction novels a chance. The front cover of the novel says it’s a “Culture Novel.” So before we continue on with a review of the novel “Matter,” it is time for some background information.

The best way to summarize what the “Culture,” is it’s an interstellar society, which follows the political ideologies of anarchism, socialism, and is also utopian. Picture a giant place of space (at least this is how I pictured it) with different planets, and what not, and all those different life forms, that identify itself, as part of the “Culture.” The “Culture,” itself is limitless, and has eliminated any concept of possession. So all the limitless, wealth, technology and anything and everything else, is free. The entire “Culture,” is Egalitarian – meaning its society is all equal. It does not use any military force unless necessary and usually to protect others.

That is the “Culture,” in a nut shell.

The entire novel of “Matter,” on the surface is a tale of three siblings, two sons and a daughter, from a “Shellworld,” (from my understanding a ‘artificial,’ world, made up shells or levels) that is not part of the “Culture,” and is rather low-technological. In fact steam powered technology has just come into existence on the planet. Yet even though this planet – or rather more specifically this level of the planet Sarl, is aware of the other more advanced civilizations that watch over them, and exist. However, these civilizations like Sarl, hare prevented from having any contact with the other more developed civilizations like the “Culture.” Which explains why steam-powered technology just came into existence? Which makes more sense; because why a civilization aware of other would more advanced and more mature civilizations not have the same technology. But because these civilizations can only be aware of each other, and not actually interact with each other, each one must mature and grown on their own. However with anything, there are exceptions. One of the three siblings (the daughter Djan Seriy Anaplian) was sent to live in the “Culture.” However by the time the novel actually starts, Anaplian has joined a branch of the “Culture,” titled “Special Circumstances,” which in my opinion is a lot like a spy agency or an intelligence service. More or less “Special Circumstances,” deals with the concept of the “Culture,” meddling or influencing and making other civilizations and other things its business.

The novel starts however with the death of the King of Sarl, and the report that one of the princes (Anaplian is the princess – daughter of the king) Ferbin, has also been killed. Ferbin however did not meet an untimely end, and is still at large. The youngest sibling Oramen, is too young to inherit the throne, and so the kingdom is left in the hands and leadership of a Regent.

The entire novel may or may not be summarized now as this – Ferbin is a live, whose life is marked, and is being hunted. He goes in search of help. Anaplian travels home, and Oramen learns the dangers of an intriguing court, and the game he himself is playing by soon being a king.

That of course once again is the plot on a very superficial level. To be quite honest, a five hundred and ninety-three page, novel should go past such a superficial level of a plot – which it does.

However, this book for me was not a considerable enjoyable one. First and foremost I am not a veteran science fiction reader. The names, the civilizations and species, they all seem so odd to me. Every culture and every civilization bears in mind some very basic concepts. All those concepts and all those faults, always lead back to what the authors know best. The only civilization they know best, the only sentient being they know – human. All the species (sentient ones) always seem a bit too human. Now of course, science fiction can easily be summed up, as quite frankly a metaphor for the human condition, using different civilizations or the future, modeled on the present situation of the world. Which is true, the worlds present situation can easily be put into the future. Stem-cell research, can be seen in some science fiction novel, as the gateway to getting rid of disease, and almost annihilating the concept of death. The building up of nuclear weapons, and suddenly the emanate consequences of the destruction of the world – by a nuclear holocaust, leads the survivors (or those that can afford it) to head out to space and colonize a planet or planets that can sustain life – only to do it all over again. They can become parables, to the extent of certain behaviours and outlooks not changed, and how they can become, more serious problems in the future. A totalitarian government soon takes over a country or a state, at the meddling of another country or foreign power – all in the name of good or whatever. The increase of globalization, has lead to the increase of information and transport of goods, but has intertwined the governments, and economies and causing the world to be on very shaky ground when handling resources from unstable countries. That is the strengths of science fiction – if done correctly.

Iain Banks does do well with the globalization and the interfering with the affairs of others, with his novel “Matter,” and the human traits of power and the need for power, and overzealous ambition, and the need for war – and warmongering in some cases. However certain parts do bother me. The artificially intelligent spacecrafts for example that have some odd names – or more like sentences for names; like “we do it my way,” or whatever. I didn’t quite grasp the concept of that. It just seemed odd to me. Why not name the ship a normal name or something like that. I assume the names of these ships, were intended to be funny, however I personally find them tedious and annoying. The other aspect is the triteness, of certain areas. The Oct’s weird way of speaking that was incomprehensible and just felt like it was there to take up space on a page. Then there was the insect creatures (I think they were insect creatures) that used pheromones to talk as well, again it felt annoying to me.

Then there came the aspect of sex changes. Why would something go from being a man to a woman to back to a man, to then going to being something of a ball or whatever it was or is? That made even less sense to me. I realize that some people are transgender, and that they are the wrong gender, which is one thing, however without any real psychological depth into the changing of one’s structure, of any kind just felt odd to me. Then again I do realize that some people do change parts of their bodies. They get tattoos; they pierce their ears, or eyebrows, lips tongues, or whatever. But to this extent it just felt superficial and rather hedonistic (even though that such aesthetic body modifications are rather hedonistic and superficial) without any psychological output though it just felt out of place, or rather unnecessary.

Though there were clever little plots. The way Holse presents arguments to his ‘master,’ Ferbin, were rather interesting to read. The glossary at the back (after discovering it) was a great help in some ways, but a bit more detail on what the “world god,” was would have been helpful, and a bit more detail on the species, and other important facts would have been nice, and would have helped shape less confusion.

In the end though my science fiction fill is over, and quenched, and certainly there does not come a feeling or desire to go back there for a while. At least not for any of this “space opera,” stuff. Maybe in the future some time I’ll give Samuel R Delany’s science fiction a go but that would be about it.

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

Thursday 1 March 2012

City of Glass

Hello Gentle Reader

The whodunit of the mystery fiction is something of quite popularity. Who could forget Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) set in Las Vegas, then Miami, and then New York. The way the scientific facts of how to solve a crime, are done, became something of great interest to everyone. Soon everyone saw everything, of how a crime can be solved. They saw how fingerprints can make a difference. How a simple strand of hair can become evidence, and solve a crime. How all the evidence can eventually cause the killer to then, confess to the crime that they had. Though of course, it became common knowledge after a while, that this was just fictional of course. That a crime cannot be solved in such a short time. In fact, hair analysis is costly and is usually not the most preferred way to find DNA. Yet still, families everywhere, sat with their dinners at the television, watching the bright colours, and the scientific methods of how blood is analyzed, how murders are caught, and how justice is served. But the fun part was between commercial breaks, everyone was trying to figure out who committed the murder. But before Crime Scene Investigation: Las Vegas; Miami, and New York – there was Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, and of course there was C. Auguste Dupin, the ((arguably) first detective of the ((arguably) first detective story by Edgar Allan Poe.

A Nobel Laureate in Literature T.S. Eliot called Wilkie Collins novel “The Moonstone,” “the fist, longest, and the best of the modern English Detective novels . . . in a genre invent by Collins not by Poe.” But the Golden Age of the Gentleman Detective novel, changed to the Private Eye novel, championed by Raymond Chandler with his private investigator Philip Marlowe. Of course from there, the detective novel and stories evolved into police procedurals and the psychological thriller that Patricia Highsmith herself, championed with her shadowy world, of moral ambiguity especially with her anti-hero Tom Ripley. From there the great detective and the crimes committed by men and women; had shifted and turned into great different novels, over the years. “The Name of the Rose, “ by Umberto Eco features William of Baskerville (“The Hound of the Baskervilles anyone?) who is a Catholic (specifically Franciscan) Friar, and takes on the job of solving the murder case. For the younger readers there always was “The Hardy Boys,” and “Nancy Drew,” who solved mysteries.

It should not come to a surprise that before I got into the great literature – I started to read classics when I was young; that I read some mystery and crime fiction. The thrill of reading the chase, how the case was solved – and of course the fun of trying to solve it one’s self, was the great fun of the detective fiction. But when I discovered Michael Slade, the pen name of a few authors – Jay Clarke, John Banks, Lee Clarke, Richard Covell, and Rebecca Clarke; however Jay Clarke is the predominate author of the team. With his novels “Swastika,” “Deaths Door,” “Burnt Bones,” and others – with their brutal violence, and interesting perspective into the psychological horror of the criminally insane mind, I found a group of books that I thought would be possible to love forever. However eventually they too, proved to be following the same formula, which eventually lead to the abandonment of even Michael Slade.

“City of Glass,” by Paul Auster – the first novel in his “New York Trilogy,” felt like a, homage to the detective novel and the genre that through the years and the ages, has evolved and become something of its own character. Even the way the book was written. The minimalist surface details of the day to day mundane routine had the same aspect of the character Daniel Quinn. A routine, that after careful observation are acutely in place for the main character to avoid grief over his loss of his wife and son. Daniel Quinn the main character of this novel, is a writer. He writes under a pseudonym William Wilson.

Daniel Quinn, in his earlier years had written poetry and other works of literature, but now under the pseudonym of William Wilson, he writes detective fiction, with his fictional detective Max Work. The death of his son and wife, is what caused the change from Daniel Quinn’s serious literary output to, that of a writer who writes under a pseudonym, producing a detective novel once a year, for finical reason.

As by chance and coincidence, late at night the phone rings to Daniel Quinn’s home, and he answers the phone. On the other, the person asks to speak to the private investigator Paul Auster. Daniel Quinn, can only tell them, that they have the wrong number. But the caller is persistent in their pursuits of wanting to talk to Paul Auster. This continues time after time, and eventually out of curiosity – and slight irony Daniel Quinn takes the identity of Paul Auster, and decides to become a private investigator, and agrees to the appointment and to meet his client.

Upon meeting his appointment – the Stillman’s, Daniel Quinn, meets some odd characters. Virginia Stillman, is a beautiful woman, and immediately arouses sexual longing in Daniel Quinn playing the charade of Paul Auster. Quinn then meets, Peter Stillman. An odd character if anything, who speaks absolute nonsense in a monologue, about his father, a deeply deranged man, and his absence and isolation from human society and human contact other than his father, who after his wife’s death, decided to prove some deranged theory of language with an experiment with his son. It becomes apparent then Peter Stillman, the senior, is being released from an asylum for the criminally insane. It then becomes Quinn’s – or who they believe as Paul Auster; duty to protect Peter Stillman, the junior.

What happens next is a surreal and confusing twist and turns of philosophical puzzles and the nature of language and the linguistic zeal and the theory of the pure language that Adam and Eve, had spoken in the Garden of Eden, that Paul Stillman, the senior, wished to show existed with his cruel experiment with his son, which later turned him into a feral child. While reading Peter Stillman’s theory of language and his experiment that issued social isolation of his son, reminded me of a feral child known as “Genie.” For the first thirteen years of her life, this child “Genie,” was isolated from the rest of the world, by her parents. Restrained to a toilet training chair, and indications express that she was beaten whenever she made noise. Through the critical stages of her childhood she never learned to speak. However in nineteen-seventy, November the fourth, Genie was discovered – the social worker who first saw her thought she the child was six or seven years old. Her father committed suicide after he discovered that Genie had been rescued. After her rescue Genie was placed in the care of the state, doctors and scientists tried to get the young child to talk. But their efforts proved to be a success in some areas, but after a while, she could no longer go on. Genie eventually lost funding for the project, and she was placed in numerous foster homes. It’s become known that she has since relapsed into her earlier state of a coping mechanism, and chooses silence, after the beatings and harsh treatment of the foster homes. Her current whereabouts and now current name have not been disclosed.
But the feral child that is more or less alluded to in this novel is the feral child Victor of Aveyron.

Days of trailing Peter Stillman senior lead to nothing – and after slowly confronting the man, does Quinn learn much about the Peter Stillman. However, when he loses Stillman one day Quinn begins a decent into madness. He finds Paul Auster – but Auster is not private detective at all, but rather a writer as well, who is familiar with Quinn’s earlier work – his poetry to be more specific. However, Auster proves to have everything that Quinn wished he had. A wife and a child. Quinn leaves in worst shape then he came there too.

What happens next is the slow psychological downfall of a man whose psyche was not all there in the beginning. Quinn’s precious routine, is soon falling apart. Unable to cope with the thought of letting Peter Stillman the junior die or get hurt by his father, Quinn takes extraordinary and insane measures to make sure he has complete watch over his clients. What ensures are surreal events. Quinn learns numerous aspects of the case, and eventually finds his entire life has fallen apart around him.

The ending leaves one with quite a twist and a sense of an empty ending. A wondering of what happened. What had one just experienced? It leaves one feeling a bit empty at times, with the thought of what had just been through with the main character. It was unsettling and the ending hit quite the punch at the end.

However there were some problems in my opinion with the novel. It sat a lot of the time heavily on a very minimalist style, which can give the prose a very lifeless feel to it. There were not a lot of descriptive scenes. It almost felt like everyone should know their way around New York, which after a while felt a bit like a pity. I wish there were some landscape descriptions of the apartments, and the surrounding city, it would give a much better feel to the place. Because of the way it was written, it often felt a bit cold, and a bit lifeless. But the twist and the turns, and the layering of reality and identity was good.

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
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