6 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
- Publié sur Amazon.com
THE LIFE OF POLYCRATES AND OTHER STORIES FOR ANTIQUATED CHILDREN even as a title gives a preview of the strange, intelligent, well crafted moments of written entertainment contained between the covers of this collection of the writings of Brendan Connell. The author, born in Santa Fe, New Mexico but now a resident of Switzerland, has had many of his stories published in a wide variety of literary journals (The Journal of Experimental Fiction, Fantastic Metropolis, Flesh & Blood, Leviathan 3, Album Zutique, and Strange Tales: Tartarus Press for example.)
Here he offers (courtesy of Chomu Press) the publication of a romp of a historical fiction novella, THE LIFE OF POLYCRATES, based on the tale of Polycrates, 'powerful tyrant of Samos between 540 and 522 BCE. His downfall shocked the Greek world.' For the first few pages of this story the reader may feel overwhelmed by the plethora of Greek names and relationships of the sons and kith and kin and lovers of the Polycrates realm, but persistence in remembering the characters is quickly rewarded by following the rise and fall of a family a fascinatingly dysfunctional brothers whose antics are related as though they were true - except with Connell telling the tale we know he is leading us on for a fun-filled ride. It borders on - no, surpasses - the wildest antics imaginable.
Connell fills this book with bizarre short stories: 'Collapsing Claude' is the story of 29-year old Claude who lives in Torino and begins an affair with a grossly distorted, maxi-bosomed Mirta whose strange physical lusts include the proposal of a three way with one Egon ('in the form of a great ox'), a tale that has a surprise ending. Another story, 'The Slug', appears to take us on a test drive of tolerance for things unattractive, some 'chapters' of which are single lines such as 'Everyone is vulgar'.
Brendan Connell's works may be an acquired taste, but from delving into the wealth of writings in this book, he could just become addicting. Weird and terrific fun. Grady Harp, March 11
4 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Anyone who has studied the ancient world in an English-speaking classroom will be familiar with the style adopted by historians like Herodotus and their modern translators, with its slightly formal word choices, its long sentences, and its frequent parenthetical digressions. That style forms the jumping off point for "The Life of Polycrates," the title novella of Brendan Connell's new collection. That title itself has a footnote, which leads the reader down to a dramatis personae with descriptions like "his Brother, a Luxuriant" and "a Flatterer," and sprinkled throughout you'll find lacunae and scriptural references. But that's only the beginning of the quirkiness on display in this ambitious novella, which supplements traditional history and anthropology with such delightful asides as a letter from a prospective court jester, a list of the contents of a dressing case, and "conjectural conceptions" that reveal the hidden thoughts behind these epic Greek lives. The prose is never drily historical, and often finds a pleasing poetry of simple images:
"On leisure days he would sit in his garden, under the shade of the amamaxudes, or else wander along the paths, sniff at the flowers and sample prime pieces of fruit from his orchard. There were roses that were half white and half red and vines which carried both white and black grapes together, grapes that were not fit for wine, but for eating were deliciously sweet. He had a mulberry tree which was grafted to a chestnut tree, a chestnut tree grafted to a hazelnut tree, and a pomegranate grafted to an oak. He grew cadmium-yellow lemons which smelled of cinnamon, melons odiferous as peach blossoms, and artichokes which breathed the aroma of hyacinth, were without sharp prickles and tasted not unlike sweet plums."
While I had fun reading "The Life of Polycrates," I didn't know what the point of it was (beyond, of course, the hope that people would have fun reading it). I'm still not exactly sure, but having read the rest of the stories in the collection, I could probably hazard a guess. If this collection is anything to go by, Connell's fiction deals with eccentric passion in all its forms. Whether the protagonist is an ancient Greek tyrant, a medieval pope, or an ordinary contemporary man, he or she is sure to manifest some bizarre behavior in aid of an equally bizarre desire. The language of the other stories is more modern and experimental than that of "The Life of Polycrates," but the unique vision of the world remains the same.
Perhaps my favorite of these shorter works is "The Dancing Billionaire," which contrasts the search for purpose of a child of wealth with his aunt's unexpressed, disturbingly ambiguous devotion to him. As in all his stories, Connell's voice varies to fit the needs of the moment, but this passage will do as well as any to demonstrate what he's capable of.
The curtains glide open.
He appears, cane in hand, in black coat and tails, bow tie, top hat, tipped negligently to one side, and spats.
The orchestra bursts forth, coolly, his mouth drops open, utters words of song, strangely pathetic, ridiculously melancholy.
that embarrassed sweat
glistening brows of red madness
Stepping out with my baby...
The cane toyed with, an extension of the procreative
waves of colorful insects.
smooth sailing 'cause I'm trimming my sails..."
I generally prefer a more direct, undramatic style, but Connell generally handles this well enough that I have no complaints. From time to time there's an abstract sentence that doesn't flow right, feels too much like an unconnected block of nouns and adjectives, but that's rare enough to be written off as an occupational hazard. And I'd say that the disturbed yet all-too-human personalities of Connell's stories-- cross-dressing big game hunter, motorcycle daredevil with a gambling-addicted wife-- demand such an approach. In fact, one of the stories I didn't think quite worked, "The Chymical Wedding of Des Esseintes," is a perfectly adequate piece of suggestive fantasy, but pale and underdeveloped compared to the rest of the book. To resemble human beings rather than ironic caricatures, Connell's characters also need a degree of human specificity, and again, most of the stories provide that, generating sympathy as well as shock. A couple, though, most particularly "The Slug," lack that level of detail, and as a consequence read more like exercises in describing degradation than like full-fledged stories. Even these lesser works, though, offer a distinctive voice whose equal you're unlikely to find in contemporary fiction. The Life of Polycrates, like other Chomu Press books, is most certainly not for everyone, but if you enjoy weird and experimental literature, you'll very likely find it worth your time.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
A Book Vacation
- Publié sur Amazon.com
The main story in this compilation is an intriguing novella exposing the life of the great leader, Polycrates, in a manner that most histories do not; it's interesting. It reads very much like the aside stories in high school textbooks--you know, the ones set apart from the textbook by the boxes the editors rope it off in, the ones that further explain an event that is actually captivating, unlike the rest of the book... I remember being in history class and, instead of listening to the lecture or following along in the textbook, I would turn the pages in my textbook and read all the "stories" about great people instead. It always held my attention, and that is what The Life of Polycrates was like for me when I read it; an interesting history that I actually enjoyed reading. Seriously, why can't all textbooks be like this story instead of droning on and on?
The rest of the short stories within the compilation were interesting, though none caught my attention like the one about Polycrates. Some of them were a little disturbing, well, I guess parts of Polycrates was disturbing as well, but overall I thought they were all well written, though I wouldn't necessarily give this compilation to young readers... maybe college age and older.
(The star ratings I go by are from Goodreads, which are different than those of Amazon. Thus, my rating above is different from that on Goodreads. To diffuse confusion, please not that my overall rating of this book is that I liked it.