Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Tales of the Slaughterhouse

I read Tales of Toscana by Dan Bern last night. Tales is a book of short stories that generally involve Italy or Italians. There is Rosario, the butcher who moved to America and tried to compete with the supermarket; Formaggio, the ballplayer that ruled the field until DiMaggio got annoyed; a man who is not afraid to cut you with his knife that also functions as a lighter; Fantutti, the young boy who takes on Agassi at tennis; Tibbizzante, the man who indulges a young American in aged foods; a lost prophet named Steve; the tourists who believe themselves to be cultured Europeans; and a man who goes to space.

Each one of these pieces is a funny, quirky character study. The writing is sharp (as Bern's always is) and nonchalant in a way that allows you to imagine that you're being informed of these actual events by a master storyteller.

Speaking of master storytellers, my first review of Bern's writing invited comparison to Kurt Vonnegut--not in a theft of style, but more as a testament to similar sensibilities.. Tales of Toscana is no exception to that comparison, and this was all too clear to me when I read Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five.

Slaughterhouse is a classic, and there's not an awful lot I can say about it. It's a brilliant anti-war piece, interlaced with the oddball genius humor of the writer that I came to love in books like Breakfast of Champions. I have no idea why it took me so long to get to this, probably the late writer's most celebrated and controversial work.

I read all three-hundred pages of this in one afternoon (and still found time to spend an hour doing puzzles with my mom, run over four miles, and eat some jelly beans). I can come to a number of conclusions here:
  1. After four soul-sucking years as an English major, I've finally rediscovered my joy for reading, and hit my typically avid stride.
  2. My attempts to avoid my seeming Internet addiction are working, and I am filling my time with other endeavors.
  3. Slaughterhouse-Five is an amazing book, Vonnegut is an engaging writer, and you should read this.
    1. If you haven't read this, you should read this.
    2. If you have read this, you should read this.
That is all. Tomorrow is my first job interview in the hunt to get something with benefits and real money and regular hours and a little love. Wish me luck.

1 comment:

Review the World said...

good luck!

and, i found this entry inspiring -- i've been reading a lot lately, too - but 4 miles? - i thought my long walks were good excerise.. - i need to catch up!