Common Clay: 20-Odd Stories

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9780312139483: Common Clay: 20-Odd Stories

A collection of stories considers themes of life, death, and transformation and includes such titles as "Making my father read revered writings," "Headless," and "If Hamlet's uncle had been a nicer guy"

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From Kirkus Reviews:

The latest collection from British grandmaster Aldiss (A Tupolev Too Far, 1994, etc.) includes six original stories among the reprints, 198795, the whole being knitted together with unsettling fictional-autobiographical musings and others comments. An inveterate traveler, Aldiss lets his experiences emerge in stories with a wide variety of settings: ``The Mistakes, Miseries, and Misfortunes of Mankind'' dissects the violence done to families in Bosnia; the small ironies of life bubble up in ``A Swedish Birthday Present''; ``A Dream of Antigone'' links a modern revolutionary to the ancient Sophocles play and wonders how Antigone and her lover Haemon might have survived. Elsewhere we find: a man who beheads himself; Hamlet the overweight prince of Denmark; two ``enigmas,'' Aldiss's patented, weird small trilogies; a story of the afterlife in which the characters remake reality; ``Horse Meat,'' a brutal and terrifying commentary on power and corruption; ``How the Gates Opened and Closed,'' a brilliant ``story'' in which, as the protagonist asseverates repeatedly, no events occur; and ``Making My Father Read Revered Writings,'' a stunning illustration of how texts vary their meaning according to the person reading them. Not to every taste, perhaps, but thoughtful and subtle, conveying the unnerving sense that there's always something else going on just beyond the reader's immediate apprehension. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

The stories here, most of which are reprints, are "20 odd" in both meanings of the term: there are actually 23 tales, and each one is given the inimitable, idiosyncratic Aldiss spin (seen in Somewhere East of Life, 1994, etc.). Certain commonalties run through the entries, which date back to 1978, and brief bridges of commentary connect them, as well. References to The Tempest (the artful "Else the Isle with Calibans"), Antigone ("A Dream of Antigone") and Paul Gauguin (featured in the epiphanic closing tale, "Her Toes were Beautiful on the Mountain") recur. Images associated with the feminine, such as the moon, are also prominent, with one of the characters longing for "the female part of myself, the anima I've denied all my life." The need to merge the yin and the yang is key to this book, the centerpiece of which, "The God Who Slept with Women," concerns a young girl who finds herself impregnated with a being everyone assumes to be a sleeping deity. Aldiss challenges the normal presumptions and conventions of the genre. Infrequently, as in "The Mistakes, Miseries, and Misfortunes of Mankind," his proselytizing devotion may leave readers nonplussed, but the high tenor and quality of most of the stories here mark this as the most rewarding literary SF collection of the year to date.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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