Good Reading : June 2005
general fiction word of mouth Pieces for the Left Hand J Robert Lennon Pieces for the Left Hand is a collection of 100 very short stories – page-long anecdotes told in a folksy, conversational style about the nar rator’s small Midwester n town and its inhabitants, about how funny, surprising and downright strange life can be. At it’s best, it s terr ific – Underlined Passages’ is unforgettable and ‘Twins’ hauntingly beautiful. But overall, it’s disappointingly uneven. Certain themes recur throughout – a distaste for academia; an interest in uncanny coincidence; the idea that friendships can be based on, and broken up by, the simplest quirks of fate; and the idea that people can base their lives on a single moment of revelation, only to discover their epiphany was not what they thought. So the theme of the book is how seemingly mundane incidents can become life-changing events, but this is over- done to the point where the townspeople sometimes seem incapable of completing the most everyday task without triggering a bout of insanity, marriage breakdown, national celebrity or a crime spree, if not all of the above at once. Still, there is definitely enough of interest here to make it worthwhile, and the stories are so short that you’re only ever a few pages away from a complete gem. ★★★ RG Granta $29.95 Reviewed by Daniel Herborn The Patron Saint of Eels Gregory Day In the tiny Victorian coastal town of Mangowak, the locals are experiencing the slow but inevitable encroachment of development. Noel and his friend Nanette bemoan the loss of the ‘magic’ in things. One night after heavy rain, Noel wakes to the sound of a feverish sloshing outside his house. He emerges to discover that the local swamp has overflowed, and the ditches are full of eels. Initially delighted, the towns- folk grab their fill, but as the sloshing continues, Noel begins to wonder about the remaining eels, panicking and afraid. As he tries to sleep, he is disturbed by a strange monk in cowl and beanie chanting over the eels. Miraculously, they are calmed. Then, pied piper-like, he leads them to the river and freedom. This remarkable man is the patron saint of eels, who 300 years ago stunned the populace of an Italian village, Stellanuova, by bringing a catch of eels back to life. Sainted upon his death, Fra Ionio’s destiny is to watch over his people and the eels around them. Since then he has visited whenever his help was needed. The heart of the book is that magic is in life by the very fact of its ephemerality. It’s a simple message told in a down- to-earth style. A promising debut novel. ★★★ Picador $22.00 Reviewed by Lachlan Jobbins Join us for a readers’ tour of Ireland in September, 2005. Travelling with a small number of other book lovers we will spend 13 days taking in the literary sights and sounds of Ireland. Starting our tour in Dublin, once home to such writers as Bram Stoker, Samuel Beckett and Oscar Wilde, we will then travel by coach to Galway, taking a side trip to the Connemara, before travelling on to Sligo then returning to Dublin via Newgrange in the Boyne Valley. • See the beautiful Book of Kells • Visit the Abbey Theatre • Visit pubs to hear Irish story tellers • Take guided literary walking tours • Visit Yeats’ grave • Enjoy a banquet at Kinvara Castle • Visit fascinating bookshops If you would like to receive a full itinerary or further information about the tour please call 02 9810 2477 or write to: Good Reading, GPO Box 3835 Sydney NSW 2001 Travel arrangements by Real Inter-national. Travel Licence 2TA4832. Good Reading tours Ireland!