Halcombe (Ser un Tusitala, 2016) delivers an absurd novella about a fame-seeking traveler along with several essays on a wide range of topics.
In this collection’s opening story, a fictional character named Halcombe Norilsk, originally from Russia, decides “to become famous traveling the world.” How would he obtain this fame? He has a plethora of schemes, each less successful than the last, including attempting to write for the British newspaper the Guardian and trying to be a model. Wherever shall such a hapless character wind up? After Norilsk’s zany adventure ends, the reader is met with a series of diverse, personal essays by the author, written in a more earnest, yet still often playful, tone. Their subjects range from tips on sleeping (such as “do not enter into your bedroom until the time you go to sleep”) to a discussion of the 1957 film The Bridge on the River Kwai (spelled “Qwai” here). There’s also a list of the 30 best songs by Jack White of The White Stripes and background information on a script for a short film that the author wrote for a screenwriting course. However, the author’s grammar is sometimes less than perfect, as when describing a punk-rock concert: “Punk-monger of Evaristo was positive as always, yet who did really triumph rendering a paramount punk performance it was MKB.” That said, Halcombe’s opinions are still coherent throughout. The author clearly has an affection for his subjects that shines through in each piece, such as one about the history of the Academy Awards. The essays that analyze aspects of American culture are the most intriguing, as the author is not from the United States, nor is he a native English speaker. As a result, his essays on the movies of Quentin Tarantino and the life of Jimi Hendrix have an unusual perspective, shedding new light on cultural items that readers may think they already know well.
A breezy and often eccentric collection of fiction and nonfiction.