Stories about the everyday reverberate with magic and tragedy.
It’s not uncommon for writers to publish a collection of shorter material after a novel or two has met with a high degree of acclaim. Fortunately, in Stollman’s case (The Far Euphrates, 1997; The Illuminated Soul, 2002), the pieces here are taken from his early stories, which first got him noticed, as opposed to a random assemblage of short, recent pieces gathered up and released for a quick buck in between novels. In “Die Grosse Liebe,” the narrator does little more than describe his German mother’s near-obsessive love of an old movie, The Great Love, which she never revealed until after the narrator’s father’s death. Yet somehow, the tale becomes a moving meditation on love and the past, a son communicating with his closed-off mother through flickering, black-and-white images. The death of parents echoes through many of the pieces, like “New Memories,” an enjoyable trifle about a boy whose father has just died but who spends a wonderful summer with his mother’s cousin, Blossom. Blossom is too obviously a life-loving symbol, yet somehow the story works, a jaunty smile through the sadness. In “If I Have Found Favor In Your Eyes,” a young girl whose parents have recently separated becomes spiritually infatuated with the Orthodox couple who move into their apartment building, much to the chagrin of her nonreligious, concert pianist mother. One of the lesser efforts, “Mr. Mitochrondria,” is set in a small Israeli town about to inundated by a cloudlike infestation of locusts. This doom-laden setting is paired with a story about two boys’ relationship with their writer mother and researcher father. Like all of Stollman’s work, it’s exquisitely crafted, but unlike most of the pieces here, doesn’t leave much of an impression.
An expert weaver, Stollman brings together themes of religion, science, and love into an emotional whole.