Unlike the fetid and static water evoked by its title, the writing in Dead Aquarium is amazingly fluid and lucid; and it flows, flows easily and effortlessly, so that there is not a single obstruction or blockage, not one awkward, clumsy boulder of a sentence to interrupt the easy procession of prose.
I realize this book is a work of fiction, but it cuts deeply, and leaves the reader contemplating some of the horror that people suffered during Hitler’s reign. Though not the easiest book to read, I Truly Lament is compelling, and very well written. The book was one of three finalists chosen in the 2012 Leapfrog Press Fiction Contest out of 424 submissions, and it’s easy to see why.
All of the micros in this collection could be described as “on the verge of vanishing.” But thinking about this specific set of stories related to disappearing, especially Cooper’s, leads me to wonder why we’re drawn to this particular form, especially now. Forget the Internet and the short-attention span argument for a moment. What if the desire for the micro and flash fiction is born of a last-ditch effort to get in and get out, while we can?
In her short story collection, Shelf Life of Happiness, Virginia Pye has a character, Nathan, in the title story, remarking about the “long shadow” that “Papa” casts over “lesser writers.” If Ms. Pye ever felt overshadowed by the great Ernest Hemingway, or compelled to imitate his style, she has overcome it.
Kalman’s courage in tackling difficult subjects (unplanned pregnancy, psoriasis, adultery, anorexia, autism, depression and death) her gift for language, and her understanding of human nature make Tiny Feet Dancing a book to keep and reread.
While each story can stand alone, reading them all together in a single volume is an enormous advantage. One of the major accomplishments of Hairway to Heaven is its interconnections and associations, its themes and variations, which gradually resolve themselves – effortlessly, beautifully – into a novelistic whole. Hairway to Heaven is a very good book indeed.
Morocco stands for something to each of the characters. In order to decipher this symbol in their lives, they must look inward. They each arrive at a turning point in which Morocco speaks back to them, helps them discover its meaning to them. For Henry, Ahmed becomes his guide not only to various Moroccan sites, but to his own mortality. Rosemary, an American ex-patriate, a grizzled but classy woman, sees her younger self in Sarah and tries to steer her toward a different future.
Lives in these stories never turn out as expected, but they do have the accomplish, the finish, of a life that feels real; sometimes to the point of unbearable pain. Whether it be an old friend that the protagonist bumps into that he can’t connect with, or a father whom he wishes not to be similar to in anyway, for his lack of power, these characters resonate with the human flicker of reality; the chaos that lurks behind the ordinary lives of strangers.
Perhaps the cover says it all? Yes, you can begin to judge this particular book by its cover because inside and throughout all those white pages a hurricane is at work endeavouring to yank everything of life’s rationalizations into shards of disbelief.
With great writing skill Brian Falkner uses simple but effective language to continue the exploration of human emotions throughout the book. Some of his stories are sad, some quite dark and one or two almost funny but at the turn of each page the reader feels a tugging of the heartstrings, or worse, something delving into the mind stirring up those repressed feelings that nobody wants to talk about.