Death with Interruptions by Jose Saramago

As a reviewer, there are two things you’ll want to know about me before bothering to read further. I only like literary fiction, and I only like literary fiction that’s a bit “difficult,” in one way or another, style or theme, preferably both.

A good theme for me might include controversial social issues, human paradoxes, ethical puzzles– problems to which there are no easy solutions. The concerns of unmarried 32-year-old woman and the plight of a middle-aged man whose affair is petering out are not real “problems,” in my view, nor is the temporary loss of faith in God or humanity. Continue reading

Willful Creatures: Stories by Aimee Bender

Aimee Bender’s stories are the contemporary descendants of those of the Brothers Grimm, with their surrealism laid on top of human desire and need. In both her previous collection, The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, and this newest one, Willful Creatures (Doubleday, 224 pages), her fiction adopts the tone of fairytales through the straightforward storytelling of the bizarre. Instead of a sausage growing on the end of a nose, Bender gives us potato children and a captive miniature man. Instead of a wicked stepmother, she conjures a collective group of predatory teenage girls. The “willful creatures” of the Continue reading

Salvation and Other Disasters by Josip Novakovich

[Review adapted from an author introduction read at Dactyl Foundation October 2002 ] Despite the fact that Novakovich may write about what he knows — immigrant life or life in Croatia — ¬†these stories not the¬† so-called “slice of life fiction” that is considered the epitome of realism these days. They are concerned with an artfulness in a way that much of contemporary fiction is not. They may remind you of myths. I want to make a comparison to one myth in particular, Oedipus Rex, not in terms of content but in terms of plot structure.

It has to do with the way he uses chance and coincidence. It’s something he does in many stories in his new collection, Salvation and Other Disasters, (Graywolf Press, 204 pages), Continue reading

The Thin Wall by Cheryl Anne Gardner

This is probably the hardest review I have had to do yet. Prior to The Thin Wall (Twisted Knickers, 124 pages), I had read two previous books by Cheryl Anne Gardner, The Splendor of Antiquity, and Logos, and The Thin Wall is a radical departure from Gardner’s romantic roots into the realms of darker, subconscious psychology and individual philosophies she masterfully delves into in this work.

One word to describe this book for me? Drastic. Continue reading