Bodies

Bodies by Osmond Arnesto

The first printed collection of the author’s poetry and prose. Also featured is a short story on the joys of accounting. For the lonely, the lost, and everyone who has ever known the feeling.

I met Osmond in a few of my writing classes at UCSD. He always impressed me with his comic and heartfelt way of dealing with deeply icky, deeply uncomfortable, and deeply taboo subjects. A mix of theatre actor, stand-up comic, and all-around nice guy, his writing sparkles with that unique something you sadly can’t bottle and sell.

Recently, Osmond self-published his very first work, a collection of poems and short stories. I was delighted to see the short story included as one that had been work shopped in one of my classes.

His poetic voice and style is very well established; his unique way of putting poems together reminds me perhaps of what it might have been like to read a young William Carlos Williams or Juliana Spahr. If you’ve never read those two poets, I highly recommend checking them out.

At 54 pages, my main complaint with this collection was that there wasn’t more. I admire Osmond’s ability to attack difficult subjects and break them into something comedic, however squeamish, while displaying impeccable talent, poise, and extreme breadth of knowledge. There are easter eggs scattered throughout his work for the careful reader, some of them denoted with foot notes. While the ease of movement of the work suggests a hasty dash-off, bearing that beautiful fluidity of stream-of-consciousness, further examination reveals how meticulously every line and sentence have been constructed.

Osmond is off to teach English in Japan for a year, which I’m sure will prompt many more hilariously wonderful poems and stories that I for one can’t wait to read.

His book is available through Amazon or as an e-book through Lulu’s.

My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me

My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me by Kate Bernheimer

Michael Cunningham, Francine Prose, Aimee Bender, Kelly Link, Jim Shepard, and more than thirty other extraordinary writers celebrate fairy tales in this thrilling new volume. Inspire by everything from Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” and “The Little Match Girl” to Charles Perrault’s “Bluebeard” and “Cinderella” to the Brothers Grimm’s “Hansel and Gretel” and “Rumpelstiltskin” to fairy tales by Goethe and Calvino and from China, Japan, Vietnam, Russia, Norway, and Mexico, here are stories that soar into boundless realms, filled with mischief and mystery and magic, and renewed by the lifeblood of invention. Although rooted in hundreds of years of tradition, they chart the imaginative frontiers of the twenty-first century as powerfully as they evoke our earliest encounters with literature.

Fairytales are always an interesting creature. Written by adults, for children, they almost can’t help, but be a little dark. And these retellings especially so.

I felt there was only one story in the entire collection that had a happy ending: “Psyche’s Dark Night” by Francesca Lia Block. I really enjoyed that story, but I would say it also probably had to do with the frame of mind I was in when I read it. I’ll be checking out some of her other work.

Overall, I enjoyed these stories, though I found some decidedly creepy.

Most of the authors were new to me, with the exception of Aimee Bender, Neil Gaiman, Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum, John Updike, Joyce Carol Oates, and Ilya Kaminsky.

Aimee Bender’s story, “The Color-Master” was my absolute favorite. But then, I’m kind of an Aimee Bender fangirl.

Sarah Bynum’s story made me feel all the feelings, in an uncomfortable way. I liked it, but I also found it unsettling.

It was interesting to see Neil Gaiman try a new format in “Orange”, through just the answers in a fictional Q&A.

Another notable story for me was “The Mermaid in the Tree” by Timothy Schaffert. Very good, very beautiful story. He’s definitely an author I want to check out further.

Other standouts were “Catskin” by Kelly Link and “A Day in the Life of Half of Rumplestiltskin” by Kevin Brockmeier.

At the end of each story, there is a section of commentary by the author. This is often a discussion of the original story, the inspiration, and/or additional info on the retelling. I really loved having these included, though some of the authors definitely used it as a place to launch off on a pretentious slog of literary theory.

Gregory Maguire’s introduction is definitely worth a read…also a fairytale unto itself.

I would definitely recommend this to people interested in fairytales or for people who like some of the authors in the collection. There are over forty stories in here, so there’s a lot to go through. A very nice collection.

Fragile Things

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

A mysterious circus terrifies an audience for one extraordinary performance before disappearing into the night . .

Two teenage boys crash a party and meet the girls of their dreams—and nightmares . . .

In a Hugo Award–winning story, a great detective must solve a most unsettling royal murder in a strangely altered Victorian England . . .

These marvelous creations and more showcase the unparalleled invention and storytelling brilliance—and the terrifyingly dark and entertaining wit—of the incomparable Neil Gaiman. By turns delightful, disturbing, and diverting, Fragile Things is a gift of literary enchantment from one of the most original writers of our time.

This is a must-read for fans of Neil Gaiman. Probably not the best introduction to him though. This collection of short stories features works that are all enormously fun, darkly twisted, humorous, and thought-provoking. My favorite part of this reading experience was actually reading the introduction. In the introduction, Gaiman discusses a little bit about the making of the story and its publication and/or awards history.

Having previously read American Gods and Anansi Boys in pretty short succession, I was a little hesitant about diving into more Gaiman. But it happened that I was in a period of my life where the only time I had to read was right before bed and I had so much to do, I didn’t want to get engrossed into a novel and waste an hour of the little sleep I could get. Enter Fragile Things.

Reader be warned, many of these stories are ghost stories, monster stories, and alien stories. I am not a scary-story reader and I was able to read these at night. Though there were a few I don’t recommend ending your night on: “Closing Time”, “Feeders and Eaters”, “The Facts in the Case”, “How to Talk to Girls at Parties”.

These stories, while enjoyable, are also pretty dark and twisted. Which is why I don’t recommend them to a Neil Gaiman newbie. Cut your teeth on one of the other books, get a taste for his style, and then check out Fragile Things. I don’t read a lot of short story collections (I usually prefer novels), so I can’t say how this stacks up against others. But Fragile Things is full of solid, award-winning stories. There are a few Hugo award-winning stories in here.

In addition to the stories, there are smatterings of poetry. Gaiman’s poetry is lyrical and accessible, not at all the incomprehensible mush that emerges from experimental poetry classes. (I should know, I like that incomprehensible mush). His poetry is more reminiscent of the oral tradition style poetry, rhythmic and easy to follow.

I should mention how much of a delight Fragile Things is for the consummate reader. Gaiman is constantly showing off his well-rounded knowledge of literary history, but not in a snobbish way. He touches everything from Sherlock Holmes to Beowulf to The Chronicles of Narniato The 1001 Nights to Aladdin to Goldilocks and the Three Bears to The Matrix, rounding it all off with an American Gods novella, set two years after the end of the events in that book.

Fragile Things is a literary feast.