cover image Skinswaps


Andrej Blatnik. Northwestern University Press, $50 (109pp) ISBN 978-0-8101-1656-6

An epigraph to this collection--""the world's getting smaller with every/ second we breathe""--aptly describes the sensibility of this Slovenian writer. Not only does he specialize in miniatures himself (the majority of these stories are under two pages), but he often puts life under a microscope. ""The Drummer's Strike,"" the opening story, captures a moment in slow motion as a band makes a Herculean effort to come together on the beat. In the final story, a man getting off a bus imagines himself cleaning a kitchen under the watchful eyes of an aggrieved lover, even imagining that his Walkman batteries will die as he cleans. The other 14 tales are finely honed, often comic pieces ranging from aphorisms to spare dialogues and explorations of cultural differences. The recognizably Central European characters mix philosophy, eroticism and everyday grit, returning repeatedly to themes of music, death, betrayal and the fragility of the individual's hold on reality. Blatnik's craftsmanship and modern flair direct our attention repeatedly to what is small, strange and essential in the world around us. (Nov.) FYI: Skinswaps is the latest installment in Northwestern's Writings from an Unbound Europe series.