– “Asterix and the Battle of Algiers” by Pranav Behari
In my search for an online literary journal, I stumbled upon an excellent one called fail better. Right off the bat, I noticed the lack of capitals in the title, which annoys me, as a grammar (and consistency) enthusiast, but the contents of the journal almost make up for the missteps of the title. Almost. I’ll probably never be completely comfortable with breaking the rules of language, but I suppose there are reasons out there for doing it, and I have done my fair share of rule breaking, as much as it pains me each time. But if you figure out why there are no capitals in the title of this journal, let me know, because I haven’t figured that one out just yet.
Moving on, there is a wonderful interview with Aimee Bender in the latest issue, and if you’ve had Steve Matanle for class at U.B., you’ll probably recognize some of his values in it, namely the idea of writing spontaneously—of “improvising,” as Steve puts it, of not obsessing about the story for weeks on end. Just write it! Indeed, just last semester, I had Steve for Fiction (not to mention Experimental Forms), and we read a story by Bender called “The Girl in the Flammable Skirt.” It was one of the most memorable stories from the class, I think, and so when I saw that there was an interview with the author, I was eager to read it.
And now I want to buy Bender’s latest book, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, about a girl who has the uncanny ability to feel the emotions of the people who prepare her food (her mother’s lemon cake always brings sadness). While the title of the novel is just plain awesomesauce, the story’s description is captivating in a way that most mainstream fiction cannot touch, promising a novel reading experience that only Bender could provide (you see what I did there, with “novel”?). While some call her a fabulist, Publishers Weekly calls her a “spelunker of the human soul.” Thus, I contend that Aimee Bender is either a fabulous fabulist or an expert spelunker because, from what I remember of “The Girl in the Flammable Skirt,” and from reading about her latest novel, I’m instantly intrigued by her ability to capture the essence of being human in such a nontraditional story form. Magical realism is a tough sell, but Bender is a successful marketer.
Now I just have to decide if it’s worth the space on my bookshelf to buy a new book, which is especially difficult because this one seems so promising, or if I should buy it on Kindle or some other e-book reader if/when I get one someday. But that’s a whole other issue, for a different day.
Finally, one of the stories in the latest issue of fail better is called “Asterix and the Battle of Algiers,” and, as a former student of French, this title grabbed me right away. I have yet to read the whole story, but I plan to do so; with an opening line as great as the one I used for the title of this blog post, how could I not finish it?
*NOTE: This blog entry is syndicated from a blog I had to start for my Electronic Publishing class at U.B. this semester. I may or may not delete the extraneous blog when the class is over, but I thought I would at least give my readers the opportunity to read the contents of that blog indefinitely.