#123 ~ A Heart In Port

November 18, 2008 at 8:00 am | Posted in Books, LIfe, Reading | 3 Comments
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cover-of-a-heart-in-port
A Heart In Port by Emily Givner

Emily Givner, the gifted Canadian author of A Heart in Port, died in 2004 of an allergic reaction.  She was but 38 years old at the time.  The stories in this book reflect the themes of her life and speak of a generational experience that we shared.  This collection of short stories left me wondering what might have been had she had more time to write.

My favorite story in this collection is “Canadian Mint.”  This story tells of two drug enhanced Generation X slackers who find themselves building a tall tower of pennies in an apartment out of boredom.  They are so enamored with what they’ve done that they decide to build penny towers on the street to make extra money.  Although it never fit my personality to live like these characters, I can close my eyes and picture myself walking down the sidewalk finding any number of my college friends doing the exact same things, having the same types of arguments.  Reading this short story was like listening to an old friend tell a familiar story.  It puts me back to a place and time in my life like “Hey, Jealousy” by the Gin Blossoms or “Interstate Love Song” by the Stone Temple Pilots.

I find it difficult to review short stories.  I’ve recently received some wonderful advice on how to read shorter fiction, but I don’t feel as if I can really do them justice.  Some of the writing was not as polished as others and this is perhaps a consequence of publishing some of the posthumously.  She simply may not have been finished with them.  Still, the book is held together by the common threads of music, allergies, and interactions with older men.  A Heart in Port is an interesting collection and the cover art is very indicative of its mood.  It will never be known what Emily Givner would have done with her talent, but Canada still has this diamond in the rough.

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To buy this collection, click here.

#77 ~ Down to a Sunless Sea

June 15, 2008 at 8:58 pm | Posted in Books, Reading | 5 Comments
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Cover for Down to a Sunless Sea

Down to a Sunless Sea by Mathias B. Freese

This slim book is a collection of 15 extremely short stories that fall in the category of character sketches. They look, for the most part, inside the psyche of people dealing with disturbing experiences or memories. Each of the vignettes are serious and dark in nature and you just get a little taste for each character before meeting the next. I was almost equally curious to know more about the character I just met or thankful to be moving forward.

Of the 15 stories, three of them have sat with me since I finished the book a week ago:”The Chatham Bear, ” “Alabaster,” and “Little Errands.” “The Chatham Bear” tells the story, through the eyes of a seasonal visitor, of how the residents of Chatham reacted to sightings of a bear in their community. What the narrator ultimately thinks about the bear and the community is thought provoking. Equally interesting is “Alabaster,” the story of a young boy who often sees an elderly woman and her middle aged daughter sitting on a park bench. The story of their single conversation, while dark, reminds me of exactly how it used to feel to find myself in a conversation with an elderly person when I was a child. One never knows the impact that a simple conversation between strangers might have to both parties. My favorite sketch, however, was “Little Errands.” As someone who has experienced deep and lasting anxiety will completely understand this narrator. There wasn’t necessarily any insight provided within “Little Errands,” but anyone reading this should be able to understand the way anxiety feels and prompts those suffering from it to think and act.

It’s hard to say how I would classify Down to a Sunless Sea. As most of the stories were less than 10 pages, this book was good to have in the car to read when 10 to 15 minutes of free time occurred. Still, there wasn’t much to connect to either positively or negatively as a reader. “Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Father Was a Nazi,” a heavy-handed look at Schwarzenegger’s ancestry, was so short that it was over before I realized how much it bothered me. I would recommend this to someone studying abnormal psychology. If for no other reason, this book could provide interesting case studies. Otherwise, I would suggest that a casual reader wait until Freese, a gifted writer, publishes a full length novel. Many of his characters are deserving of more time and attention.

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To buy this book, click here.

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