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review 2017-11-18 16:14
Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories - Mariana Enríquez

 

I received an ARC of this book through The Reading Room/Bookstr.

Definitely a disturbing and macabre collection of stories, but that wasn't what I disliked about it. What I really didn't like was that most of the stories didn't really have a plot or resolution. They were more just a collection of creepy descriptions. These descriptions were beautifully gruesome, but they didn't make for a good story on their own. Creepy images were dumped into the stories without context. They were definitely creepy, but there was no explanation (a shelf full of fingernails, a pantry full of maggot-infested meat). Points for creep factor, but none of the stories seemed to go anywhere and ended in weird places.

Also, the majority of the stories feature marginalized characters (homeless people, addicts, poor people, abused children, children with deformities, abused women). I was hoping the stories would bring awareness to their struggles or call out the ways these people are abused by society (police brutality). Instead, Enriquez does these populations an injustice by turning them all into disgusting villains and creepy entities in her stories. I feel like she takes advantage of their place in society and brings them down even more, making them scary, dangerous, and almost inhuman.

Since this was a translation and Enriquez is based in Buenos Aires, I'm not sure if some of the stories were lost in translation or if there were cultural things I was missing being from the United States.

This was not the book for me. While Enriquez definitely had some interesting ideas, the stories just didn't seem to go anywhere. An interesting collection of images, but not much in the plot department.

 

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text 2017-11-17 12:55
16 Tasks of the Festive Season - Square #14: December 25th - Quaid-e-Azam
Kingdom's End: Selected Stories - Saadat Hasan Manto
Manto: Selected Stories - Aatish Taseer

Book themes for Quaid-e-Azam:  Pakistan became an independent nation when the British Raj ended on August 14, 1947. Read a book set in Pakistan or in any other country that attained sovereign statehood between August 14, 1947 and today (regardless of what part of the world).

 

 

I had a lot of help with this task: I love exploring. I love going new places and I love reading about new (to me) places. So, when the task came up to read about Pakistan I got excited. Then I realised that I don't know that much about Pakistan and that I cannot actually name a single author who actually lived in Pakistan and wrote with a setting in Pakistan. (I did briefly consider Exist West, but I believe Mohsin Hamid may be writing about the human condition in general without naming a specific country.)

 

So, I asked Midu for help and she recommended to try Saadat Hasan Manto, whom I would never have come across if it had not been for Midu's recommendation! (Btw, if you're not following Midu already, check out her BookLikes Follow Friday post!)

 

The more I read about the author, the more intrigued I am about his short stories. I mean, what's not be intrigued by about an author whose openness apparently led to several trials for obscenity, who's been labeled as a rebel, and whose despair over the social and political situation he lived in led him to seek relief in an addiction to alcohol that ultimately killed him.  

 

Link to a fascinating article about Manto in The Guardian

 

I have a couple of choices of books - I found a reasonably priced collection on Ammy, translated by Aatish Taseer, which seems to include some of his most controversial stories, and I also found a collection of Kingdom's End at my library, which seems to contain a wider selection of his writings. 

 

I'll start with Taseer's collection for the purposes of the 16 Tasks.

 

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text 2017-11-15 01:11
Reading progress update: I've read 236 out of 377 pages.
The White People and Other Weird Stories - Arthur Machen

this collection is running at about 3.5 stars, in the ratings game, with me--but to be fair, I've got two long stories left to get done, and my overall view could change...a little.

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text 2017-11-14 14:59
Reading progress update: I've read 201 out of 377 pages.
The White People and Other Weird Stories - Arthur Machen

I'm working my way through what I'll call a novella, titled 'A Fragment of Life', and it was slow and grinding, a bit early on--a bit "domestic", chatty, and homey--but now the magic has started to really creep in, and I like it. Machen has not emerged as a perfect writer for me, but when the beauty comes out in a story, the words light up.

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quote 2017-11-13 23:23
"What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"
The Harlequin Tea Set and Other Stories - Agatha Christie

About 15% into the book, the 3rd Chapter story. 

 

 

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