Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Idea of Switzerland - Walter Abish




Walter Abish 24 December 1931 –

Well, can’t say that Calisher picked, in my opinion, the best story to lead this volume.

This was a tough read. You know, I had the expectation of settling down into a nice little read...but noooo - I am immediately faced with a challenging piece.

To put it mildly, Abish has been labeled “as a master of the nonconventional form”. (Nonconvention – is that even a real word?)

Look, I’m all for nonconvention.

No problem at all.

But maybe my literary mind isn’t developed or diversified enough to accept this level of literature.

I think that I have over the years exposed myself to enough of the experimental and unconventional forms of literature and more recently – with the prevalence of experimental Lit showing up on websites my recognition and comprehension of it has grown.

Calisher states in the introduction that she chose the story because it reminded her of the European short story (makes sense given Abish’s background).

I am assuming that she means non English European short stories???

Translated???

Perhaps then, we get back into my literary mind not being “developed” and “diversified” enough. Yes, I think this is where perhaps I am lacking a little. You see, I’m American. And I think now is a good time to admit that I have a pretty limited exposure to foreign short stories. Of the periodicals that I read the short story in, such as Glimmer Train, The New Yorker, VQR and the Atlantic – not to forget “Best New American Voices” series, I would say that I have limited myself to North American short fiction.

Now, I have read countless shots by Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and other notable Russian and Soviet authors. I even own a collection of Romanian short stories. But I have only read them in translation.

Lost in translation applies here.

So, we I am to suppose that I read an American Short Story written in the European short style...in English.

This being the case, I believe that I am in a position where I owe Calisher a bit of thanks for exposing me to this story.

I’m genuinely happy I read it.

But I didn’t like it.

The mental stimulation it provided was appreciated, and the lesson I learned was valuable.

I don’t need to point out that it has taken me several days to post an entry after I announced the beginning of my reading. It is impossible to like every story in these books but I do feel that each one has a lesson to offer.

Sometimes it just takes a bit longer for that lesson to appear.

I had to let this one stew a bit.

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