An evocative collection that might pull the rug from under your feet.

CATASTROPHE

AND OTHER STORIES

A new translation of Italian writer Buzzati’s (The Bear’s Famous Invasion of Sicily, 2003, etc.) mind-bending story collection, originally published in 1965.

Buzzati (1906-1972) is notorious for his often irreverent short stories, in which characters are revealed like scattered thunderstorms and plots remain unfinished or end abruptly. In Landry’s translation, the essence of Italian surrealism and futurism seeps through every word. An array of characters struggle with existential questions; in the title story, for example, a passenger on a speeding train notices that many of the people he sees through the window seem to be alarmed about something. Then the other passengers pick up on the feeling, but the narrator says: “Like myself, the others were uncertain as to whether the alarm was real or whether it was just a mad idea, a hallucination, one of those absurd thoughts that tend to force themselves upon the tired traveler.” Here, as in other stories in the collection, the character wonders what is real and what is imagined, and Buzzati often plays with this idea of narrative distortion. In “Seven Floors,” a man is taken to a hospital which sorts its patients according to their proximity to death; the closer patients are to the ground floor, the more likely it is that they will die. However, as the story progresses it begins to seem that the floor patients are sent to is based less on medical fact than on a story physicians tell them. Another tale, “The Opening of the Road,” features a character slowly disappearing in the great expanse of a seemingly endless road. This is how Buzzati asks the bigger questions: where are we heading? What is real? And does it really matter?

An evocative collection that might pull the rug from under your feet.

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-274273-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

THINGS FALL APART

Written with quiet dignity that builds to a climax of tragic force, this book about the dissolution of an African tribe, its traditions, and values, represents a welcome departure from the familiar "Me, white brother" genre.

Written by a Nigerian African trained in missionary schools, this novel tells quietly the story of a brave man, Okonkwo, whose life has absolute validity in terms of his culture, and who exercises his prerogative as a warrior, father, and husband with unflinching single mindedness. But into the complex Nigerian village filters the teachings of strangers, teachings so alien to the tribe, that resistance is impossible. One must distinguish a force to be able to oppose it, and to most, the talk of Christian salvation is no more than the babbling of incoherent children. Still, with his guns and persistence, the white man, amoeba-like, gradually absorbs the native culture and in despair, Okonkwo, unable to withstand the corrosion of what he, alone, understands to be the life force of his people, hangs himself. In the formlessness of the dying culture, it is the missionary who takes note of the event, reminding himself to give Okonkwo's gesture a line or two in his work, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.

This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1958

ISBN: 0385474547

Page Count: 207

Publisher: McDowell, Obolensky

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1958

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