A Life on Paper: PW Review

April 20th, 2010 § 0 comments

Publishers Weekly gives the upcoming A Life on Paper these nifty kudos:

These 22 curious tales verging on the perverse will strike new English readers of Châteaureynaud’s work as a wonderful find. Beautiful prose featuring ingenuous protagonists and clever, unexpected forays into horror are the hallmarks of these mischievous stories. The husband of the title tale, reeling from the untimely loss of his much younger wife, tries to capture her essence in their daughter, whom he photographs obsessively. By the time of the daughter’s untimely death, there are 93,284 photographs. “The Pest” chronicles the narrator’s tireless attempts to rid himself of his odious doppelgänger, even setting up his own suicide. A doctor interviews a decapitated head in “La Tête” and vows to help put it out of its misery. Châteaureynaud is tremendously skillful at setting up disorienting stories with convincing details and characters, as evidenced in “The Styx,” narrated by a dead man who assists at his own burial ceremony a little too importunately, until he’s pushed out of the moving hearse. Translator Gauvin does a fine job of harnessing the nervous, thrilling feel of these tales. (June)

There are actually 23 stories in the collection: in the ARCs, one was missing (“The Pest,” in fact) from the table of contents. This tickles me, as though some subtle perceptual discrepancy that rights itself on scrutiny only to sneak into error again the second that, satisfied, we look away. Not to be recognized by the table of contents is somehow to have vanished into a pocket of nonexistence. Some part of me wishes we could release a limited flub run, if only to puzzle and challenge, but perhaps such a book sounds more like Perec. When I bought the hardcover of The Corrections (first printing), there was an erratum slip tucked into the title page to the effect that two pages in the four hundred thirties had swapped places.

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