A collection of nine classic macabre tales, exquisitely translated from the Italian by Venuti.

FANTASTIC TALES

Originally published in English in 1992, these reissued translations will introduce Tarchetti's short, fantastic works to a new generation of U.S. readers.

Tarchetti (1839-1869) was a novelist, journalist, and poet aligned with a scrappy Milanese collective of artist-agitators known as the Scapigliatura (from scapigliato, "disheveled"). As is evident in this collection, Tarchetti, who also worked as a translator, was heavily influenced by gothic literature from abroad, favoring the morbid, the metaphysical, the socially and sexually outré. However, despite frequent use of Italian settings in earlier works by gothic authors from other countries, by Tarchetti's time, gothic literature had not taken hold in Italy, and until Venuti discovered otherwise while translating these stories, Tarchetti was credited with writing the first gothic tale in Italian in 1865. This story, about a young man who drinks a potion to relieve himself of love for his disloyal sweetheart, which appears in this collection as "The Elixir of Immortality (In Imitation of the English)," was actually an unattributed translation (with a few notable tweaks) of Mary Shelley's "The Mortal Immortal." Whether viewed as a pure act of literary subterfuge or, as Venuti does, also a sly statement on the anti-bourgeois ethos of the Scapigliatura, comparing Venuti's retranslation into English with Shelley's original is in itself a brief and illuminating education in the art and artifice of literary translation. While certain stories, like "The Letter U (A Madman's Manuscript)" and "Captain Gubart's Fortune," will likely seem less fresh to modern readers than they would have to 19th-century Italian audiences, others still feel remarkably vivid and innovative. In "A Spirit in a Raspberry," when the myopic and supercilious Baron B. eats the fruit of a mysterious raspberry bush that has sprouted following a maid's disappearance, the most interesting aspect isn't what happens next but the way it unfolds in an almost psychedelic portrayal of the resultant war for dominance of personality and gender expression within the baron's body. In "Bouvard," it isn't the perverse but ultimately predictable ending but the young Bouvard's unassailable belief in his future success despite the disadvantages of his birth, the sensitivity he displays toward nature and the inspiration he draws from it for his art, and ultimately the disillusionment he feels with society when his talent and fame as a violinist fail to produce the acceptance and affection he most desires. The collection overall is well worth the read for these and other inventive tales.

A collection of nine classic macabre tales, exquisitely translated from the Italian by Venuti.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-939810-62-5

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Archipelago

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA

A tightly wound caseworker is pushed out of his comfort zone when he’s sent to observe a remote orphanage for magical children.

Linus Baker loves rules, which makes him perfectly suited for his job as a midlevel bureaucrat working for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, where he investigates orphanages for children who can do things like make objects float, who have tails or feathers, and even those who are young witches. Linus clings to the notion that his job is about saving children from cruel or dangerous homes, but really he’s a cog in a government machine that treats magical children as second-class citizens. When Extremely Upper Management sends for Linus, he learns that his next assignment is a mission to an island orphanage for especially dangerous kids. He is to stay on the island for a month and write reports for Extremely Upper Management, which warns him to be especially meticulous in his observations. When he reaches the island, he meets extraordinary kids like Talia the gnome, Theodore the wyvern, and Chauncey, an amorphous blob whose parentage is unknown. The proprietor of the orphanage is a strange but charming man named Arthur, who makes it clear to Linus that he will do anything in his power to give his charges a loving home on the island. As Linus spends more time with Arthur and the kids, he starts to question a world that would shun them for being different, and he even develops romantic feelings for Arthur. Lambda Literary Award–winning author Klune (The Art of Breathing, 2019, etc.) has a knack for creating endearing characters, and readers will grow to love Arthur and the orphans alongside Linus. Linus himself is a lovable protagonist despite his prickliness, and Klune aptly handles his evolving feelings and morals. The prose is a touch wooden in places, but fans of quirky fantasy will eat it up.

A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21728-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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THE THINGS THEY CARRIED

It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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