The Book of Fantasy: A Review: Part 10

February 10, 2021

Previous post: The Book of Fantasy: A Review: Part 9.

“The Atonement” by Silvina Ocampo

I fell asleep while reading this story the first time. I didn’t reread it at the time, but I thought I’d give it another shot so that my review of The Book of Fantasy would be complete.

Am I glad I reread the story? I guess. It’s not my favorite, but it’s certainly not fall-asleep-while-reading-it bad. I was probably just tired when I read it the first time. Give me a break; I have a baby.

The thing that makes this a tough story to follow is the way Ocampo’s narration flits back and forth through time and space. The story is anchored by a single scene: the narrator’s husband, Antonio, is showing off a trick that he has taught to his flock of pet canaries. Grammatically speaking, the scene is written in the past tense, but it effectively functions as the “present” of the story because blah blah blah retrospective narration blah blah habitual aspect blah blah blah free indirect speech.[1] What I’m not bothering to explain here is how the grammar of this piece is operating to muddle the situation and setting of any given paragraph.

I’m curious to know how the story reads in the original Spanish, because it seems like the sort of story that could be particularly gnarly to translate.

Unrelatedly, there is a footnote in this story that explains what bolas are. And I’m like bitch please, of course I know what bolas are: 1d4 bludgeoning weapons that allow you to make a ranged trip attack against an opponent.

“The Man Who Belonged to Me” by Giovanni Papini

A man named Amico Dite pays the narrator to own him, body and soul, on the condition that the narrator directs him to live an adventurous and illustrious life. Which, as we soon discover, is quite a severe condition indeed.

In short, this is a story about the awesome and thankless responsibility of being a manager.

I don’t have a lot to say about the story other than I enjoyed it, and it shines an absurd little light on a desire we all harbor in a small corner of our soul; namely, the opportunity to lead an exciting life without actually having to orchestrate any of it.

Oh and hey, according to Wikipedia the author was a fascist! I mean, like, a literal Mussolini-approved fascist. So uh that’s not great.

“Rani” by Carlos Peralta

A butcher is married to a beautiful woman who turns into a tiger at night. It’s a nothingburger story. Let’s move on.

“The Blind Spot” by Barry Perowne

The main character of this story is named Annixter, which is a great name. So Barry Perowne starts things off on the right foot here.

I feel that sentence I just wrote is a setup for a hatchet job, like, “This story gets a point for [trivial thing X] but loses several million for [much more substantial thing y].” That’s not really where I’m going with this, though. I just like the name Annixter.

The story was pleasant. I suppose there’s nothing particularly interesting going on. Like, no stylistic chicanery or achingly beautiful prose. But heck, sometimes you just want a pleasant murder mystery with a fun gimmick and a dash of fantasy. Bish bash bosh and bob’s your uncle.

“The Wolf” by Caius Petronius Arbitrus[2]

A kinda boring page-and-a-half-long story about a werewolf. It’s a passage from The Satyricon, which is a fun[3] bit of trivia I guess.

Continued at The Book of Fantasy: A Review: Part 11.


[1] I genuinely tried to write a cogent analysis of this, but it kept getting super long and boring and technical. And I probably would have gotten the details wrong in any case, because I don’t actually know anything about linguistics.

[2] I transcribed the name as it appears in my copy of The Book of Fantasy, but this is a typo for Gaius Petronius Arbiter. I’m willing to buy that “Arbitrus” and “Arbiter” are interchangeable forms of the same Roman name, but the Caius/Gaius mix-up is pretty clearly an error.

There are actually a lot of rather glaring copyediting flubs in my edition of The Book of Fantasy; I’m not really sure what that’s about.

[3] (Fun not guaranteed.)

The Book of Fantasy: A Review: Part 10 - February 10, 2021 - Greg Poulos