Temmer (Throw Granny off the Balcony and Other Short Stories, 2012) offers a collection of five diverse, experimental short stories.
These tales, ranging in length from the 14-page “The Sentimental Imagination” to the novella-length title story, take place in disparate settings and time periods, such as the Ottoman Empire, the United States during the French and Indian War, or Paris in the late 19th century. However, they’re united by their exploration of metafictional elements and the concept of time. Some stories share common themes such as spurned love, desperation and unfortunate beginnings. “Mr. Heathcliff’s Fortune” offers an explanation of the title character’s whereabouts during his absence from Yorkshire in the Emily Brontë novel Wuthering Heights: He was in Louisiana, earning money gambling and wrecking lives. However, the author’s portrayal of Heathcliff as evil may disappoint readers who see the character as merely haunted and obsessed. The metafictional final story, “The Cartographer,” begins with the doomed romance of a beautiful courtesan, Guilia, and Antonious, who she doesn’t know is a eunuch; their story is told within a second story about a fictional romance between academics Vittoria and James, which is itself told by novelist Marguerite. The novelist’s actions, meanwhile, are directed by the Divine Mind and the Universal Mind. It’s the most successful story in this collection and the most amusing as well, with the priceless line: “[A]ll sorts of cruelties exist when women and eunuchs are left to their own devices.” Interestingly, many stories’ turning points hinge on written documentation, such as diaries or poems. Despite often flawless prose, the stories tend to suffer from lengthy buildups, with climaxes only occurring in the final pages. Overall, however, although some stories skirt the fine line between intellectual experimentalism and just plain weirdness, fans of short fiction will find them well worth their time.
An ambitious, if occasionally uneven, story collection.