Thursday, July 03, 2008
"How the Discovery of Sugar Produced the Romantic Era" by Bonny Finberg. Published by Sisyphus Press, NY, NY 2007
Finberg's twelve short stories told from the male point of view are a wonderful romp into the land of men. But who are these men? Do we know them? Friends? Lovers? Strangers? Family?
In the introduction Finberg says she wrote these stories from the male point of view as a distraction from the writing of her novel and she discovered, that "…man or woman, we all share the same loneliness, foolish hope and disappointment, and are essentially the same at our core."
"...essentially the same at our core" is a debatable topic, but what is clear is Finberg's talent in creating stories like an artist painting a canvas. She knows just how much to add to what we already know about the human (male) condition and she knows when to end it. As I finished each story, I found myself lingering over what I had read, the images, the person -- wondering if he was okay, or equally wondering if he knew what an idiot he was.
Her observations of ordinary acts are brilliant. Here's a ditty I love in "Basho on the Road:"
"He picks up a Dunkin' Donuts bag next to the clutch and pulls out white gym socks."
Ordinary guys, doing ordinary things offered to us, the reader, by an extraordinary talent.
As I read these stories, all but one in the third person, I found myself wondering how can a third person tale be gender specific? For instance, who else but Dashell Hammett could write from a male point of view, but is it male POV -- in third person when the writer is a woman? In each story Finberg got inside the men she was writing about. It was like she sat down in a café with these men and they opened their hearts and fears to her. And like the best ghost writer she was able to articulate what they thought they could not.
"He would stand in the courtyard at dusk and play the violin. People threw down change in brown paper bags. This was before he understood that these were not ordinary things."
Brilliant. Humourous. Touching. Surprising. And the best for last: unexpected endings that will touch your heart and sometimes smack you up.
More from Finberg's introduction:
"I wanted to write from the male point of view in order to create a greater sense of distance from my characters. At first I discovered that saying “he” instead of “she” was all it took. Most of them sprang from my head like little Athenas while others were based on fleeting observations of strangers—in the street, at a cafe, parked behind the wheel of a mini-trailer. Sometimes I added elements from people I knew, and one or two were based on women that I turned into men."