Roy Kesey - Short Stories

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Roy Kesey - Short Stories

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Editado: Ene 16, 2013, 4:47 am

All over
Finished reading: 3 January 2013

All over is a collection of 19 short stories, by the American author Roy Kesey. Kesey is the author of four books, Nanjing: A Cultural and Historical Guide, and two short stories collections: Nothing in the World, and All over, written and published in 2007 while living in Beijing, and his latest, Pacazo, a novel published in 2011. Kesey now resides in Maryland

At a total of 145 pages, this means each story in All over is very short, at an average length of just about eight pages. All stories are highly charged with a feverish energy and dynamic, and some of them are characterised by a frantic verbosity, which make them somewhat difficult to read, and require attentive reading. The writing can be called experimental, with parts of regular prose interspersed with ultra-short paragraphs, and short-style dialogue, which raises the pace of reading. Formal and informal styles are mixed.

The premise of most stories is some form of weirdness, but very close to real-life experience. For instance, the first story, "Invunche y voladora" swirls around the irritations that develop between lovers in long relationships, but this couple is newly-wed. Thus, the story bears out the tale of many failed marriages on the first day of honeymoon. Cleverly done, and one of the better stories in the collection.

In the short story "Loess", the narrator is the former Chinese Prime-Minister Zhou Enlai who outlines to Chairman Mao Zedong how they will shape Chinese history. The story is told from their pre-natal perspective.

There are other stories that betray their origin as being written in China, for example, "At the Pizza Hut, the Girls Build Their Towers". The story describes how customers at the Pizza Hut, being restricted to a single serving from the salad bar (used to) pile their salad incredibly high, to maximize the amount of salad ingredients which could be held on top of one (small) salad bowl.

Another story that seems inspired by China is "Scroll", the second story in the collection. It tells the story of an artist who spent 34 years to create a painting that is nine miles long and then fails to find a gallery to show it.

This collection of stories will be very interesting to readers seeking out the avant-garde of modern short-story writing, and it will be interesting to follow the further development of Roy Kesey as an emerging author.

Ene 17, 2013, 7:53 pm

One and a half stars! Wow. You grade on a steep curve. I like the idea of the book but, from your description of it, I suspect I wouldn't like the style at all.

Thanks again!

Ene 18, 2013, 1:27 am

1.5 for All over by Roy Kesey means it is readable, but could not really captivate me, I had difficulty concentrating, and started skimming. The style and structure are experimental, and therefore not really comfortable to read. The depth of human experience in somewhat shallow.

At the same time, bearing in mind that this is a new author, the work is interesting, and I will definitely read more by this author.

I suppose there will be other readers who can appreciate the stories much more than I do.

For comparison, last week I finished reading two other collections of short stories: Zsuzsi Gartner's Better living through plastic explosives which I also gave 1.5 stars for broadly the same reasons (incoherence, frantic verbosity, experimental style that distracts from content, etc), and Nathan Englander's For the relief of unbearable urges which I gave 3 stars because it is very well-written, but rather dull.

I would give something 1 star, if by my standards it was unreadable, and half a star if both content and style hit the bottom, as with for example In Persuasion nation by George Saunders.

Four stars are for works that are very well-written and also have very interesting content, while also being intellectually challenging, for example Janette Turner Hospital 's Forecast: turbulence or Virginia Woolf's Selected short stories.

I reserve five stars for books which create a physical reaction, such as tears, disgust or real fear.

Ene 18, 2013, 1:41 am

Very clear indeed. I gave Gartner's Better Living 3.5 stars because it was a first collection, and because despite being uneven, it had some truly beautiful imagery and a few moments of real emotional impact for me.

Kesey...interesting. Not a son of Ken Kesey, I know, but he seems to have some of the same literary DNA.