A collection of soul-grindingly bleak stories with the barest glimmers of human resilience.
The author of these stories (All Good Things Will Come from the Sea, 2014) makes Raymond Carver read like Anne Tyler. All of them are set in the harbor district of his native Athens, but this is no tourist’s Greece. It could be termed a working-class neighborhood, but many of the protagonists are no longer working, and their existence is barely hand-to-mouth, for too often there is nothing in the hand to reach the mouth. Sometimes their jobs have been lost to political upheaval, but there are no political solutions to their existential dilemmas, no party that is better than any other. Occasionally, characters believe that their plights will somehow capture the attention of the media. In the closing story, “Piece By Piece They’re Taking My World Away,” someone whose home has been lost to eminent domain says, “I’m sure they’ll say something on TV. That’s something, at least. At some point they’ll say something on TV for sure.” But the reader who has heard similar hopes from other characters here knows that there will be no media attention, at least not before the story ends, as they invariably do, without resolution, leaving the characters in limbo. Though the opening “Come on Ellie, Feed the Pig” evokes “the smell of the malicious poverty that is slowly and silently and confidently gnawing at Ellie’s dreams and strength and life,” her situation is better than most. She has some money, if not much, and the worst that seems to happen is a lover’s betrayal, as others have betrayed her previously. She hasn’t lost anyone close to her in a violent explosion, and there’s no sense that the next day she faces homelessness, joblessness, or starvation. So, she’s one of the lucky ones.
The protagonist of one story, driven to the brink of madness by a friend’s shocking workplace death, wants “to write something that would express unspeakable rage and hatred and love and despair all at once.” Such sentiments could be the writer’s own.