Saturday, April 24, 2010

Love and Obstacles by Aleksandar Hemon


Pretty nice cover, huh? Read this SS collection about a year ago. Not bad.

Read that Hemon starts his stories with autobiographical circumstances, but then fictionalizes the details. For example, the story "Good Living" tells about a man who sells magazine subscriptions door-to-door in Chicago, which Hemon has done. He writes poetically, with lots of good short dialogue, all of the stories are in first person, often very funny; for example the father in "Everywhere" says "there arrives the time in the life of every family...when it becomes ready to acquire a large freezer chest." He is playful with language; one character he describes has "a dimple in his chin deep enough to put a screw in", and the stories are touching.

In the story 'Everything' a teenager living in Sarajevo is sent on a trip by his parents to obtain a freezer for the family. He has some rather worldly intention on the way, mainly to get laid, and after he has had a lot to drink, actually knocks on a husband and wife's hotel room door, with the intent to seduce the wife with a birth control pill. He is unsuccessful and he writes, "The door was closed as closed can be. I heard the murmuring...husband and wife, and I recognized that love was on the other side and I had no access to it." Later he gets beaten up by hotel manager, buys the freezer and returns home. The story ends with the line "everything in the freezer chest thawed, rotted in less than a week, and finally perished." So this was a touching story, kind of melancholy, where someone who is very inexperienced encounters the world, he somehow fails at intimacy, etc.

Good, except that there is too much "guy" in this writing; consider these excerpts: "I held a belief, common among adolescent males, that beyond the circle of family, friends and prudish high school girlfriends lay a vast, wild territory of the purest sex...where the merest physical or eye contact led to copulation unbound.", and "my fellow travellers pressed their butts against the door, the Y-crack peeping out of the pants of one of them." Makes you wonder, is Alexander Hemon STILL an adolescent male????? Now I guess that I know how men feel when they read "Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing", lol.

Hemon has an interesting bio where he ended up in living Chicago in 1992 after he came as a tourist but couldn't return to Sarajevo due to the war. He spoke/read little English when he came, but certainly taught himself a lot over the next several years!

You can listen to him read from the story "Noble Truths of Suffering" here. I watched a little bit of this had a visceral dislike for Hemon. Can't really explain that. Went out to see this dude about a year ago when he came to Portland and my reaction to him then was positive.

Oh, well, anyhow. These stories are good enough. I recommend them.
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