Volume 93, Issue 66
Thursday, January 27, 2000
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Stories an enigmatic odyssey
"Disturbing, witty and tragic" are the publisher's comments on the back cover and for good reason.
These 17 short stories, published for the first time in Canada, contain some of the most beautiful and strange imagery in recent memory. These praises may come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Carey, a man who has already been awarded the Booker Prize for his novel Oscar and Lucinda and has been shortlisted for the same prize for Illywhacker, another complete novel.
Carey possesses an incredible ability to take the surreal to another level. Readers who don't fully appreciate his unconventional imagination may still enjoy Carey's amazing manipulation of language. The poetic flow of his words alone makes these stories well worth the read.
One of the highlights is "Do You Love Me," which is an off-centred look at relationships. The story opens with random people walking down a street who pretend not to see a man slowly vanishing on the street corner. The more the man tries to attract help, the more fiercely people ignore him.
The narrator's father has a theory that people are dematerializing because they are not loved enough. This revelation causes the father to panic and he attempts to make up for lost time with his son. However, the attempt is made too late and the father helplessly fades away, as his emotionally detached son can muster up nothing more than a phony admonition of love to save his father's life.
This book is Carey's vehicle with which to present his own unique writing style. A few of the stories follow a format all their own, with chronicled point style and subheadings (reminiscent of Frasier) with titles for each scene change.
The story titles themselves are brilliant. "The Last Days of a Famous Mime" and "The Puzzling Nature of Blue" quickly immerse the reader in the stories.
In "A Million Dollars Worth of Amphetamines" the reader is introduced to a young runaway named Julie who has some very privileged information regarding the whereabouts of a large amount of drugs. Julie has a much older lover named Claude, with whom she likes to play mind games. In addition to being the only person who loves her, Claude also wants to protect Julie from a gangster who is the rightful owner of the amphetamines and who could also link Julie to a murder.
The story line resembles Quentin Tarantino's fast-paced, violent and artsy storytelling. Fortunately for the reader, Carey's take on this type of tale comes with more art than violence.
A twisted sense of humour and an appreciation for the truly deranged will help when reading this book, as it is a collection which spans a wide range of genres and emotion. You'll find intrigue, passion, complicated father/son relationships and basic greed motivating all stories.
The end result is a damn good book.
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