Reviews of Telling Tales (2004)
Review by spiphany (2011-12-19)
Overall an enjoyable anthology. Given that the stories weren't chosen to fit any particular theme and that the authors are from such a wide range of countries and backgrounds, I was surprised at how well they seemed to work together. I sometimes have trouble with the rapid changes of style and tone in an anthology, but I didn't find it jarring in this case.
There was only one story I couldn't finish (the one by Amos Oz, mostly because I wasn't in the mood for a demonstration of Arab-Israeli politics) and several that were fairly unmemorable, but also a few that were delightful discoveries. I particularly enjoyed "The Centaur" by José Saramago and two rather philosophical stories about language and the writing process -- "The Letter Scene" by Susan Sontag and "To Have Been" by Claudio Magris. I found a few authors with whom I was previously unacquainted and whom I may read more of in the future.
On the other hand, I was disappointed by the contributions by a couple of authors whose work I know well, namely the Germans Günter Grass and Christa Wolf. Wolf's story was a poor choice for a volume appearing in translation, as it is centered around German idioms which use the word "blue", and whatever fun there was in the wordplay of the original didn't survive the translation. The excerpt from "My Century" by Grass also does not show the author at his best. I think of both writers as more novelists than short story writers, so the problem may simply be that the form is not very effective for showcasing their writing. I don't know whether this is true for other authors in the volume -- that is, that the stories included feel unrepresentative of their work in general.