Because things so seldomly work out as planned, at least as planned by me, I purchased this title thinking I’d found a new Javier Marías story and would scoop all fellow Marías fans in its reading. A coup. A feather in my cap. Whoohoo! Alas, not only was the story not a new one, it was one I’d read a couple years back. These things happen—to me.
In Joy Williams’ Baba Iaga and the Pelican Child, the crotchety old witch startles readers in a tale with a PoMo ending (wait, it has an ending?) if one has done his or her homework by becoming familiar with East European folklore, at the most, or if one has read the Wikipedia entry ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baba_Yaga ), at the very least.
Javier Marías’ The Resignation Letter of Señor de Santiesteban is the story an English school teacher who spends a year haunted, and insulted, by a ghost whose identity is in question, before exacting his revenge. Even better on rereading when it didn’t compete with other Marías stories inWhile the Women Are Sleeping. A chilling tale of one-upmanship.
Roberto Ransom’s Three Figures and a Dog is a wondrous story of Art, perhaps haunted Art, and may answer the question of: Can an artist see something in a work of art that others do not? I’m unable to locate anything by Ransom which may have included this story, and it’s a shame as I’m very interested in reading more. In the short term, I’m willing to give A Tale of Two Lions: A Novel a go, even with its relatively low ratings. Meanwhile, you may find this of interest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SMMXu3Tu4Q Go ahead and watch it, for cryin’ out loud; it’s quite brief and will show you EXACTLY what to expect from the story (sorta).
Ben Stroud’s Byzantium, not surprisingly included in Byzantium: Stories tells the story of Eusebios, a man with a withered hand who is sent on a mission to castrate a monk whom the Emperor fears will usurp his throne—haunted by the miraculous. Very well done.
Patrick deWitt (author of The Sisters Brothers) provides a Flannery O’Connor-like story of treachery and deceit with his The Bastard, in which, the title character dupes an old widowed farmer, his daughter, and the entire town they call home. Fun.
Five solid stories, capably told, each by authors good at what they do. This collection suggests good things for other volumes in the Electric Literature series.