Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Saturday 26 April 2014

"My Mother was an Upright Piano" by Tania Hershman (Tangent, 2012)

56 stories. The publications list is over 30 titles long, ("London Magazine", "Smokelong Quarterly", "Vestal Review", etc)! Compared to recent works by Jon McGregor and Lydia Davis, there's much more uniformity of length and style. There are usually characters. There's no linguistic instability (language is transparent). The pieces are clearly Fiction rather than essays (p.93 excepted) or lists (p.125 excepted). The shortest story's about half a page and the longest is 4 pages. Median is around 300 words, I suspect (in contrast, her earlier The White Road and other stories had a story 102 words long, and stories thousands of words long). There's often a 3-part structure, and the SF guideline of changing only one feature of reality (or conventionality) at a time is commonly adhered to. Stories are presented in bunches of about 6.

  • I liked: "the short tree has its hand up", "trams and pies", "forty-eight dogs", "underground", "waving on the moon", "if", "containing art"
  • Interesting were: "move quickly now", "the angle of his bending", "let's toast this thing".
  • My least favourite was: "the painter and the physicist", though "missy" came close because of its predictability.

In this context the language sounds too strained at times

  • "I remember now a piece of night when he was with us" (p.44)
  • "I turn sharp as nails to catch you inside a moment" (p.46)

Other reviews

  • good reads
  • Kerri Shadid (World Literature Today) (Hershman shows us that our world is, in fact, a nearly unrecognizable place, and we are all aliens in it, alien in our skin, unknowable not only to each other but often to ourselves ... Everything is not illuminated in Hershman’s storytelling, and the reader may well ask himself at the end of a story, “What just happened?” The answer: something vague, absurd, the pain of our attempts at human relationships, and our tenuous place in the universe revealing themselves, and they are beautiful.)
  • Michelle Bailat-Jones (Necessary Fiction) (The diversity of subject on offer in the collection is brilliant, but what really impresses is how Hershman succeeds in establishing longer, more complicated narratives within each short piece. ... Despite the variety of subject and even the varying directions of experiment that Hershman follows, the pieces speak to one another through their innovative and unusual way of looking at and re-imagining the world.)
  • Martin Macaulay (Sabotage reviews) (It’s a solid, unbreakable and inspiring collection. ... Hershman pulls you in to these beautifully condensed fictions. The difficulty is in trying to climb back out again)
  • Bookmunch (Getting the opening right is one of the big challenges of short form writing, and it’s one of Hershman’s real strengths. ... This is strong and assured writing, which demands your attention)
  • Jonathan Pinnock (the work of a grown-up writer who has gained the confidence to let her muse off the leash and to follow it wherever it goes, however unexpected that turns out to be)

No comments:

Post a Comment