Friday, January 13, 2012

Superstitious Feeling

Today's post is brought to you by the number 13. As in Friday the 13th, a special day for the more superstitious among us. I am crossing my fingers that writing this post doesn't bring me bad luck (knock on wood). Listed below are two novels and two short story collections that feature a central element of superstition:

Bats or Swallows
(M)
by Teri Vlassopoulos

"Teri Vlassopoulos's stories are sharp, accurate, at times dark, but told with balance and skill. The innocence and clarity of her narrative voice reveals new and unexpected layers. Vlassopoulos brings readers into her characters' worlds; making their desires intelligible, showing how they frame their live's events in terms of abstract superstitions, allowing us to feel what they feel. Bat or Swallows is a debut collection of excellent short fiction, with a style and tone reminiscent of Julie Orringer's How to Breathe Underwater." - Publisher

Death in the Truffle Wood (M)
by Pierre Magnon

"Octogenarian Magnan is a gifted storyteller whose style successfully, if curiously, combines elements of Alain Robbe-Grillet's surreal landscape; David Lynch's dark, oddball humor; Agatha Christie's old-fashioned gentility; and Peter Mayle's French pastoral. Banon is a remote, highly superstitious Proven├žal village where not much happens beyond growing truffles, eating spectacular food, and enjoying illicit affairs. Then a group of latter-day hippies disappears, and bodies start turning up in bizarre circumstances (drained of blood and laid in a tomb). Commissionaire Laviolette, an old-fashioned investigator out of the Maigret school, is called in to investigate. " - Booklist

Bay of Souls (M)
by Robert Stone

"Michael Ahearn is an English professor at a backwater Midwestern university, generally content in career, marriage, and fatherhood. Everything changes when he becomes fascinated by an exotic new professor, Lara Parcell, and enters into an incendiary relationship with her. When he follows her on a supposed diving expedition to her revolt-plagued native island (where she hopes to reclaim her soul and extricate her family from extralegal complications), things change even more. Lara succumbs to ritual, and the only diving Michael does-to retrieve contraband from a shot-down tail dragger-nearly kills him. Back in the Midwest after this trip to hell (as he takes it), Michael finds himself sick, near divorce, and regarded as a pariah. Months later, a weird back-roads encounter with Lara, just a ways from a redneck honky-tonk, is almost (or perhaps really) phantasmagoric.

Stone (Damascus Gate) is at his best here, and that's very, very good. This starts like Richard Russo, evolves into Joseph Conrad, and resolves almost as Daniel Woodrell. Highly recommended" - Library Journal

Galileo's Children : tales of science vs. superstition (M)
edited by Gardner Dozois.

"This anthology of 13 stories by such celebrated sf writers as Ursula K. Le Guin, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Silverberg, and James Tiptree Jr. depicts the struggle for scientific knowledge against the forces of superstition and religious dogma. Selected by the Hugo Award-winning editor of the sf literary magazine Asimov's Science Fiction, the stories were previously published either in Asimov's between 1991 and 1999 or in other magazines and books between 1955 and 2004. A short biographical and bibliographical essay about each author precedes each story, giving context to the authors' contributions to the genre.

In addition to increasing readers' awareness of the sometimes bloody struggle between science and religion-a timely theme in our world today-the collection offers a span of perspectives and voices and a breadth of imagination. This would be a fine introduction to the best of sf short story writing." -Library Journal

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