Books by Gustaf Sobin

Released: Jan. 1, 2001

"Idolaters will enjoy glimpses of the star and Sobin's suitable lushness of word and image, while others may wish for a breath of fresh air."
As in The Fly-Truffler (2000), Sobin follows a character striving obsessively—against time and age—to find or capture some essence in his life before it's too late. This time around, though, contrivance outweighs the compelling. Read full book review >
THE FLY-TRUFFLER by Gustaf Sobin
Released: Jan. 1, 2000

Poet and novelist Sobin (Venus Blue, 1992) offers up a strange and serious love-tale imbued by the surreal—with results hardly less compelling for that. Professor (at the University of Avignon) of the rapidly dying Provenáal language, the methodical Cabassac finds his life changed from the day he takes home with him the beautiful Julieta, whom he first notices as she sits alone in the back row of his lecture auditorium. Julieta shares Cabassac's passion for capturing the last oral records of Provenáal, and the pair—now living together, though at first sexlessly, in Cabassac's ancient and enormous farmhouse—make weekend trips to remote areas of Haute Provenáe, speaking there with old men and women in order to capture what Cabassac calls "breath relics" of the dying language. One weekend, by a waterfall, they do make love, and from then on all is changed—first by Julieta's pregnancy, and then, before she delivers, by her death. Exactly how the crushed Cabassac will cope with his now-emptied life had best be left for readers to discover, though it does need to be said that only after making meals of the deeply buried, mysterious, and curiously atavistic truffles that he searches for on the ancient acres of his estate—only then is he able to dream of Julieta in ways even more rewardingly vivid than life. His contemporary life, indeed, is gradually left behind as Cabassac searches for his truffles, neglects his teaching, sells off bits of his estate (and then, disastrously, the whole thing), goes without electricity, then telephone, as he descends more and more deeply'symbolically? really?—into the lost antiquity that it seems now Julieta (an orphan) might herself in fact have arisen from. Not for literalists, but a symbolic-emotional tale that immerses the reader into the very air, feel, and texture of ancient Provenáe—and as a bonus serves up a fascinating handbook on the life and harvesting of the enigmatic truffle. Read full book review >
VENUS BLUE by Gustaf Sobin
Released: Feb. 10, 1992

A Forties screenwriter—the rich and childless and elegant and ever-so-literary Millicent Rappaport—becomes obsessed with a shadowy film star, Molly Lamanna, and keeps a journal of her obsession. After Millicent's death, a Tucson memorabilia collector named Hollander works on uncovering the braided trails both of Millicent's journal and of Molly's highly mythical and secretive life. The quest involves some danger too, for Millicent's will named a mysterious Latino man as her legatee, and the rapacious law firm that now administers the estate seemingly will go to any length to have this mysterious man out of the picture. This is a novel (poet Sobin's first) of hints, shadows, false leads, and fetishes. Bathed in retro light and mock-eroticism (think Toby Olson, think lesser John Hawkes), the book is disabled quickly, though, by the sameness of weight of its overstuffed, unbearably eloquent language: ``I'd go on lying there in bed, half asleep, still hoping somehow to find her beneath the heavy, troughed quilting of some sustained dream, rather than plucked, as she was, abducted—her own exquisite captive—into those thin, ever-thinning altitudes that by the hour, certainly, she'd already attained.'' Whether it's the narrator's or the diary's or the dialogue's, the style is a leadenly one. No human person is credible—only Sobin's vocabulary and stuffy rhetoric. Read full book review >