Saturday, April 26, 2014

Review: Boundary Problems, by Greg Bechtel

Boundary ProblemsBoundary Problems by Greg Bechtel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It would be egregiously erroneous to fail to recognize Greg Bechtel's accomplished writing. There is no question he understands the nuance of language. His work is witty, clever, targeted for an audience looking for literature rather than escapism.

Yet in this collection of short stories one has the feeling of being the stranger at a gathering of a closed order of colleagues, all sharing clever inside jokes. This exclusion of the reader reaches an uncomfortable crescendo in the trilogy of writings entitled the Smut Stories which are placed in reverse order without apparent cohesion throughout the collection. There is definitely an homage in the stories to award-winning author, Candas Jane Dorsey (Black Wine and Paradigm of Earth). There is a definite attempt to examine the concept 'being one's own pornographer'. But the entire triad remains inaccessible and irrelevant to any but those involved in that inner circle.

As to the remainder of the stories in the collection, while clever, there is little by way of character or background development to snag a reader, and so despite Bechtel's attempt to illuminate the social construct around sex and sexuality, the stories, for the most part, run too deeply to the academic to elicit any emotional response.

However, as I've constantly stated, art is subjective. I would by no means dissuade a person from reading this ambitious collection, for what to one is opaque, to another may be visionary.

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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Review: Maleficium, by Martine Desjardins

MaleficiumMaleficium by Martine Desjardins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Written very much in the dark and twisted tradition of Guy de Maupassant, Maleficium creates a single story comprised of eight short stories, all charged with sexual deviance, repression, greed and pretty much the embodiment of the seven deadly sins, save for murder. It is exotic and reveals an extraordinary imagination. For lovers of dark erotica, this is your drug.

Which is to say, I am a lover of none of these things, and hence this review may be coloured by that prejudice.

That aside, the translation is deftly handled, balancing an homage to 19th century writers of dark fiction, and modern sensibilities of literary style. Martine Desjardins herself demonstrates impeccable historical research and an understanding of a variety of arts and trades, so that details of the various artifacts and arts, so lustily pursued by our seven protagonists, form a credible backdrop.

Overall, a haunting read which lingers like the dark euphoria of an opiate.

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