Friday, March 30, 2012

Vladimir's Mustache by Stephan Eirik Clark

Set against the backdrop of Russian history from the time of Peter the Great to the years of the post-Soviet collapse, the nine stories in Vladimir's Mustache — familiar to readers of Ninth Letter, Cincinnati Review, Witness and Salt Hill — represent a rare feat of ventriloquism and range. From an Italian castrato who longs to sing for the tsar, to a method actor who learns the danger of losing himself in a role after he is cast as Hitler, to the men and women who meet through “mail order bride agencies, all of Stephan Eirik Clark’s stories are told with a humor that’s never far removed from an underlying sadness. Regardless of where he situates his attention, Clark writes with a voice that never falters, telling with great emotional honesty the story of men and women who are trapped by circumstances, alienated by history, or irrevocably estranged from the culture at large.

I very much enjoyed reading this short story collection. It is full of well written scenes and poignant observations that will capture the interest of any short story lover out there.

What makes the collection so interesting, is that, although the stories are varied, there is a nice sense of interconnection, making a cohesive book. The writing is simple, clear, and it gets out of the way so that the plot can come through. The author is obviously someone with a good sense of pacing. This is incredibly important in short stories, so it’s always a pleasure to read an entire collection that moves this smoothly.

I can definitely recommend this book to all lovers of literary fiction and short stories. It makes for a very entertaining read.

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