Saturday, August 09, 2008

More Michalopoulou

The opening story of I’d Like has a woman, a frustrated painter, disappointed in herself, sitting at a reading with her husband, a novelist who is not as famous as he thinks he should be. As the great Greek-American novelist strides on-stage, the husband grips his wife’s hand and, in their edgy, jealous stress, he grabs it so hard that he breaks her finger. They have to leave before the reading….

Another story has a professor, sitting in his office late at night, bored by grading papers. He pours himself a whiskey (do professors really keep whiskey in their offices?) and, out of boredom and a sense of practical joking, calls his house just to hear his own voice on the answering machine. But instead of the machine, his own voice answers and informs him that he is, in fact, not a professor but a character in his voice’s novel. He is not, somehow, the real him but the phantom one. Irate, he threatens to drive home and prove his own reality to his voice, but he can’t find the door out of his office…

This second story is the only one so far that ends with what I’d call a magic realist gimmick. I loved it. It tells well—which is why I tell it—but it’s far from the best story in the lot. The other, better stories deploy their magical touches with tremendous feeling and irony.

When I met her—for thirty seconds, to thank her and sign my book--at the PEN festival, I had the urgent and embarrassing sense of meeting a kindred spirit. She cannot have shared this feeling, of course, which made me all the more embarrassed. But now, reading these stories, my crush, my enthusiasm is renewed. I am hungry for more. The back of the book tells me there is a lot more, so I’m going to seek it out, but I find it’s mostly in Greek or German…

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