For this challenge, I read Trigger Warnings last month, so here is the review…
Dubliners … a review
The only Irish author I can claim to have read extensively is Oscar Wilde. At the end of this month, I might be travelling to Dublin for work and so I thought, as part of the Classics Challenge, why not James Joyce? I have always associated Joyce with Ulysses and the size of it has been off-putting. I have also been under the mistaken impression that all of his works are long.
I was wrong. Even at the bookstore, I was surprised by the thinness of this book. ‘Practically a novella…’ I thought to myself. Wrong again! As it turns out, Dubliners is a book of short stories… major Joyce ignorance.
It is a delightful read. Enthused by the short story dip in and out aspect, I delved into it with gusto. The stories are like walking down the city streets. It is a mix of all the caricatures that you would see on city streets – the jilted lover, the reluctant wife, the whore, and the saint. The stories, themselves, cover the entire gamut of emotions. The style of writing reminded me of Dickens, but without the ramblings. The plot delves in straight to the point and does business.
Dublin is brought out through its residents, isn’t that lovely? I was transported to the Irish country capital even before I got there. I would thoroughly recommend this book as a quick but meaningful read. And ths has definitely made me want to read more of his works. I am looking forward to Dublin.
Trigger Warnings … a review
I got this book as a Christmas present from a faraway friend who has the most eclectic reading taste.She asked me if I had read any Gaiman and when I said no, she proceeded to post me this. I can safely say that this is unline anything I have read in a long time.
This book is primarily fantasy fiction, with elements of magic realism, surrealism, and general strangeness that run in a common vein throughout. Made up of many short stories and poems of varying lengths, this has a nice dip-in-and-out quality to it. And that is exactly what I needed as I have been travelling over the holidays to various people. I like to read short stories which then don’t weigh on my mind when I’m doing other stuff and make me in any way anti-social.
Some of the stories have stayed with me. Especially, a modern day retelling of Cinderella, which is my favourite Disney move since I was three! Gaiman is a natural poet and his writing has a haunting, wistful quality about it that is very engaging. In some ways, this book was a reminder of feelings of reading Murakami’s The Elephant Vanishes. And as far as I am concerned, being reminded of his writing is never a bad thing.
If you fancy a different kind of read, shorter fiction, fairy-tales for adults, or just want to add some surreal to the January fog, this is your book. Enjoy!
I Truly Lament … Author interview
A few words from Matt Freese, whose book I enjoyed a lot. I’ve also enjoyed the banter I’ve shared about the holocaust, his writing, and various other things. Enjoy…
BM: The role of fantasy and fairy tale as a tool for the human mind to process trauma… is the mind trying to pass it off as unreal and distant?
MF: I imagine fantasy is useful for the reader in that it provides a psychological distancing, safer that way, more digestible. If I can have the reader grasp or understand the humorous and not so humorous workings of a golem, his concerns as the protector of Jews, of being a monster and a grim reaper as well, I then can have him mirror back all kinds of reflections (pun intended) about the people who have called upon him for help. In “The Disenchanted Golem” I raise more questions than I could ever answer, but it is in the questioning that I can deepen if not enrich the tale I am writing. When Kafka begins his short story with a young adult who turns into a bug, we are off and running. One of Freud’s great teachings is how the human mind makes use of fantasy for all kinds of conscious and unconscious purposes. I have no significant attachment to golems, but the concept intrigued me for the purposes of my own story telling, especially when one Jew finds that the golem is really useless and all that counts is his own existential self – as it should be.
The golem is a vast projection of a persecuted people, a people that historically have been quite rational in their approach to life and living and yet they, too, collapse into a mystical belief. An unremitting and historical condemnation will do that to you. The story goes of three men of differing religious backgrounds, one of whom is Jewish, who visit a doctor and each is told that his condition is terminal. One man breaks down and says he will go back to the old country to live out his last days. The second man leaves the office and runs purposefully in front of a bus and is killed. The Jew is left. And the Jew, hearing his fate, says “I’d like to see another doctor.” Alas, reason goes so far as some of my stories depict. I was intrigued as a writer in playing the role of the golem. It tested my imagination and my skills. When I write, I leave spoor and I leave it up to the reader to follow this or that trail. I am not that anal that I know exactly what each ”dropping” means. I like to leave the reader and myself guessing. I have found that this approach gives dividends to me as a story teller and perhaps to the reader who doesn’t need everything spelled out.
Consequently the golem is a projection and as we know we place all kinds of stuff on others as we project. On one level, all stories are Rorschach tests.
BM: A little bit of background to your life and inspiration for writing about the Holocaust.
MF: I am a product of lower middle class parents who just managed to get by; I lived in housing projects; I had toys and clean clothing and ate well. I didn’t know we were far from well-to-do. I was a reader as a child, passive, inert, non-assertive, introverted and shy. High school was a horror; I didn’t wake up until the age of 32. I had a few anti-Semitic experiences growing up and I had an acute awareness of being Jewish and very proud of the heritage. Like Freud, I am a godless Jew but fully aware that if you forget you are a Jew, the world will quickly remind you of that. Reading about the Holocaust and Jewish history in general made me ask questions. It was decades later I sat down and began to write what it must have been like in one of the camps. It took decades for the book to write itself and so when I began to write I did not have to stop. It was channeled. Imagination, fantasy, anger, rage and resentment flowed. I counted on my unconscious to guide me, it always does.
BM: Do you research using conventional ways? Past records of events etc., or do you pick an incident and revolve the fiction around it?
MF: I look up words or terms as I go by. I stay away from non-fiction accounts because I have imbibed enough to know what I want to portray in fictional terms. If I want to know what a blochfuher is, that’s readily available. To the point, I research me. I am the source.
BM: Folklore and the Holocaust? Where did that come from?
MF: I happened upon it, it is in my background. I did not read extensively about golems, for that is not my way. I dip my writer’s pen into the inkwell and then go on. After all, there are only three golem stories in the book and their purposes vary. The Disenchanted Golem, an editor has said, really sums up the entire book. You look at that, make of it what you will.
BM: What are you hoping readers will take away from this book?
MF: I haven’t the slightest idea. It is true that after you write a book it is no longer yours and that goes a long way to say that is why there are hundreds of acting interpretations of Hamlet. Sam Goldwyn had a telling line when asked about his most recent movie’s theme: “If you want a message, send for Western Union.” After all, what we take away from a book may be fleeting, passing or a sensibility. I am not teaching. I am exploring. Come excavate with me, if you choose.
BM: What further writing projects are you working on or planning to work on?
MF: I am working on a memoir of two summers, 68 and 69, I spent in Woodstock and the long range impact it has had on me to this day.
Other blogs participating:
Jan. 16 – Mathias @ Mathias B. Freese: A Writer’s Blog
Jan. 20 – Fran @ Just Reviews
Jan. 21 – Bobbie @ Nurture Your BOOKS™
Jan. 23 – Mathias @ Mathias B. Freese: A Writer’s Blog
Feb. 3 – Rachel @ Leather Bound Pounds
I’m sure they will all be good reads.
Link to the Author’s website: http://www.mathiasbfreese.com/
See you around! And here’s a gorgeous picture from just now
I Truly Lament: Working Through the Holocaust … a review
The first book by Mathias B. Freese that I reviewed was last year, it too, like this one, was short stories. So, naturally, I approached this latest book with a certain set of preconceived notions about his style of writing and the overall content. It was however, quite a different experience. Freese is a gifted writer. I say this because I have read quite a few books about the holocaust and this has such a different approach to the whole issue. Each story involves a folk tale, or a fable, from Jewish folklore. And creatures, both good and bad, come alive to take the characters of the book through bizarre journeys.
One of the stories that touched me most was one that involved a ‘golem’ . “In Jewish folklore, a golem is an animated anthropomorphic being, magically created entirely from inanimate matter.” Mothers tell children stories of the golem as a creature that must be summoned when no hope remains and the world is dark. A Jew who is escaping from a camp has the golem in his head and conversations follow. The story is bone-chilling. I have always marvelled at the cruelty of man to man but never have I come across such raw rendering of emotions. Even the story about Hitler’s relationship with Eva seems true.
Needless to say, it is a most depressing read. Do approach with caution. This book affected me almost as much as Anne Frank’s work, and that is the highest praise I can give it.