Sunday, 8 August 2010

Jeff Vandermeer, The Third Bear (2010)


Vandermeer is a very good writer of novels, but he is a great writer of shorter pieces. I'm a little in awe, actually, of how good the stories in this collection are.

Why should he be better at shorter fiction than at longer length work? It may be because his greatest strengths as a writer are not so much on the side of plotting (though there's nothing wrong with his plotting) and more on the side of mood, tone, and flavour. It may not be coincidental that the weakest story in this collection is also the longest: the novella-length Frankenstein-retread 'The Surgeon's Tale' (this was co-written with Cat Rambo, so its hard to say whether Vandermeer or Rambo is responsible for individual examples of thesaurometastasised writing, as when a 'gangly old man' is described as 'as though his limbs were made of sticks of chalk, wired together with ulnar ligaments of seaweed, pilllowing bursae formed from the sacs of decaying anemones', 211). Conversely, one of the collection’s best pieces, ‘Shark God Versus Octopus God' isn't about the story as such; which is to say, the story pans out exactly as you expect it to. But the story is witty, memorable and wise; beautifully judged, tonally and in terms of mood. And the title story, perhaps the best of all, is as much about refused conventional narrative expectations as anything else: a muscular, expert fable of the incomprehensibility of violence.

4 comments:

偉曹琬 said...

不斷的砍伐用的雖是小斧,卻能砍倒最堅硬的橡樹。......................................................

Mike Taylor said...

"Why should he be better at shorter fiction than at longer length work? It may be because his greatest strengths as a writer are not so much on the side of plotting [...] and more on the side of mood, tone, and flavour."

How very strange -- I'd have said of several of my favourite short-story authors that the reason they're better at shorts than at novels is because their strengths lie in plotting rather than mood.

劉王育正劉王育正 said...

河水永遠是相同的,可是每一剎那又都是新的。. . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Miles said...

I've just picked this up and I've now finished Shark God vs. Octopus God. The previous stories haven't tended to be very funny, but I thought this one was pretty amusing. The Shark God's bravado and, like, high school jock attitude are great.

It reminded me (naturally) of this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9A-oxUMAy8

(The video is better if you turn off the sound and fast-forward to 1:40.)