The Great Frustration

Seth Fried. Counterpoint/Soft Skull, $14.95 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-59376-416-6
The 11 stories in Fried's debut have the vigor of adventures, taking place in settings as disparate as Spain in the time of the conquistadors, a king's harem, a city under siege, various scientific setups, and—in the case of the title story—the Garden of Eden. Such an imagination is refreshing, but even more rewarding is that the stories don't rely solely on concept or conceit, and trudge forward into the lovely mess of strong characters wedged into dramatic circumstance. The scientists in "Those of Us in Plaid" have a simple, though not easy, objective involving an obstinate monkey and a space capsule. Science is clearly one of Fried's major interests: "Loeka Discovered" follows a team of researchers reconstructing ancient history from bits of bone and other artifacts. The lengthy "Animalcula: A Young Scientist's Guide to New Creatures" offers 15 scholarly descriptions of minuscule fauna, creating a fictional microcosm and illuminating it with the surprisingly poetic inner life of the scientist studying his subjects. While Fried's stories run to the historical or technical, there's a strain of absurdism in his prose that combines pathos, unease, and dark humor to add depth and give these stories a sense of modernity and relevance. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/21/2011
Release date: 05/01/2011
Open Ebook - 192 pages - 978-1-59376-451-7
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