Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Soup Reviews: Part 4

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Short Stories.

For days, I have been contemplating how to post these short stories I've read recently. Then, I remember that I have this feature. It had been idle for such a long time, more than a year in fact. So for Noche Buena, we will have some soup... Soup Reviews, that is.


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   There was this bridge, many tales have crossed it. A curse, a house, a library, a father, and a sacrifice were among them.

He had carved out a strange little kingdom, there where the river met the road, just beyond the bridge.

When I was young, I enjoyed listening to my mom’s old aboriginal tales. When the night is due she would stop and I would ask, “What happened next?” She would reply, “That’s for tomorrow night.” And so it was.

This short story is something like that; a tale weaved intricately, best told before bedtime or over a campfire. The storyteller will wait for the question, “What happened next?” before she/he will go on. The story deserves to be heard in full, in all its astonishing points, in its saddest moment, and in its fortitude.

Published here.
Rating:  ★★★

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The Door to Lost Pages by Claude Lalumière
   This is a collection of short stories loosely weaved together with one common factor, a bookshop named Lost Pages. Stepping through is like walking into a nightmare, and I meant that both in a good way and a bad way.

Clearly, this book is a spin-off of Paul Di Filippo’s Lost Pages, who also wrote the foreword. I enjoyed Lalumière’s prose and plot. He was able to create an atmosphere fully charged with phantasmagoria, but left enough room to squeeze in some tenderness in the midst of it.  I was touched by Aydee’s plight and her courage to survive.

When the weather was like this, she felt the world reflected hers sense of place in life: neither this nor that; neither here nor there; perpetually on the brink of transformation; unwilling to settle for just one potentiality.

My biggest issue, I guess, are the sexual scenes. I never mind sexual contents for as long as they are exquisitely done. I've read American Gods by Neil Gaiman; I was never bothered by Salim and the Djin, or by the Queen of Sheba’s man-eating vulva. But Lalumière’s sexual scenes were tasteless, in my opinion. I know that it is unfair to make comparisons, and the scenes were necessary for the story to move forward, yes, but I cannot shake off the feeling that it was forcibly written in that manner for the sake of adding some spice.

Rating: ★★★½


*
The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami
   Fushigina Toshokan is the original title for this short story, first printed in 2005.  As the title implies, the story is very strange indeed. Told in a dream-like fashion, the protagonist was able relate his experiences from the bowels of an unidentified city library.

As far as the story goes, a boy had the most terrifying of misadventure while borrowing books from a library. There is nothing far special other than how the strangeness was won by the boy with help from newly earned friends. But like any Murakami books, nothing is as it would seem in his theme of surrealism and loneliness. The full impact of this strange tale comes at the ending. 

The tricky thing about mazes is that you don't know if you've chosen the right path until the very end.

All of us, young and adults alike, have different ways of coping with loss. The process is sometimes nightmarish. And our boy protagonist is teaching us that no matter how deep and labyrinthine the bowels of loss is, with a bit of hope and bravery, there’s always a way to survive.
Rating: ★★★½

 *
A Faraway Smell of Lemon by Rachel Joyce
   This is a short Christmas story and not a cheery read for the season, but in Joyce’s few words it conveyed a profound understanding of life’s ups and downs.

Everyone around Binny is on the rush, doing their best to finish their last Christmas shopping. Meanwhile, Binny’s feelings are debating whether to succumb to heartbreak or keep a strong front and celebrate Christmas with her children.

No matter how much she rails, there are some things that are gone forever… It is enough to have tiptoed to that space beyond the skin, beyond our nerve endings, and to have glimpsed things that beforehand we only half knew.

What started as an unpremeditated meeting with a shop girl, tending a small store for household products, turned out to be a compassionate encounter. As much as good things happen, we cannot simply shoo away the bad ones. Such is life. It is never easy, but sometimes it is the small menial things that may help us pull through by reminding us how something worn and dirty can still be revived. 
Rating:  ★★★★★

*
The Museum of Literary Souls by John Connolly
If only all book lovers may be granted such an opportunity, it is more than awesome.

Mr. Berger was leading a quiet life when he witnessed a woman commit suicide by the train tracks, in the small town of Glossom. No one believed him, especially the police. But a few days later, he saw the same woman again by the train tracks. This time, he was able to stop her and follow her back home… to the library.

It's a natural consequence of the capacity of a bookstore or library to contain entire worlds, whole universes, and all contained between the covers of books. In that sense, every library or bookstore is practically infinite.
John Connolly magically stretched the mystery of bookshelves into doors and rooms of unimagined possibilities. His words are like a web of spell, spinning a tale I don’t want to end. The story was so beautiful and fulfilling, a true delight for a book lover like myself.
Rating: ★★★★★




2 comments :

  1. Loved how TFASoL seemed so real. I mean like when we are experiencing a rough patch and how we loose enthusiasm for things, and we see everything as broken. The glass on the door, the crockery..etc. But then Joyce turns things around using something so simple as polishing. And TMoLS is so magical. Every book lover's dream (or nightmare?) :) Thanks Louize, for sending these two my way. Enjoyed them a great deal. :D

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    1. I was more than happy to recommend it, Tin. Really glad that you liked it. :)

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