Writer/editor Steven Partridge has posted a brilliant and amusing review of Crushed Mexican Spiders (the collection of short stories by Tibor Fischer published last year by Unbound) in which he discusses Possibly Forty Ships, the usually lesser mentioned but equally fantastic story, in interesting detail. We’ve put the review below, and you can head to Steven’s site for plenty of other great lit-related writing (book reviews, interviews, discussions of literary prizes etc.)
Flipping Tibor Fischer
The end papers of Tibor Fischer’s new book take design inspiration from Greek pottery and the London Underground. The former prefixes a story about the Trojan War, the latter a woman who returns to her London flat to find the locks are changed. The reader can choose which story to read first and then ‘flips’ the volume over to read the next one. As an artefact the book did feel as though I was handling a piece of priceless Grecian Pottery. It arrived bound in dark blue paper, the dust jacket photography is by acclaimed Czech photographer Hana Vojakova, the individual covers are beautiful, there’s a note on the book’s typeface and the endpapers are highly stylised and, according to the press release, finished with a subtle grey wash. Let’s see you do all of THAT on a Kindle. There’s no denying that as an object it’s certainly well considered but are the stories any good?
I read Possibly Forty Ships three times. The first attempt I had one eye on Eastenders and had no idea what was going on (in both the book and Albert Square) but by the third reading I think I had it sussed. A man is being interrogated with the threat of torture to recount his experience and involvement in the Trojan War, that staple of Homer’s Epics. It’s a brief retelling of the myth with a few gags thrown in: ‘Once you’ve had your wife in fifty-six positions, it’s not the same’. Poor Achilles is a trannie, no doubt his thigh high platforms the cause of his infamous podiatry problems; he ends up in the King of Ethiopia’s bed where he’s ‘bummed into madness’ to the extent that ‘you could drop a vole into his rear.’ The writing’s pretty clever: before being written down, Homeric myths were transmitted orally, probably like Achilles’ STIs, and the story is all dialogue. The man being interrogated uses a Homeric technique of repetition (an ancient rhetoric device that helped in the memorising of tales): ‘the truth? How do you define – ‘, ‘How do you define war? What is a – ‘, ‘How would you define a hero?’
Tibor’s style and the themes of failed marriages, sex and un-heroic heroes wouldn’t be out of place in a contemporary celebrity magazine, thus showing that stories in their general sense are timeless, the tales might be different but the human involvement is always recognisable. Likewise, war stories, possibly more so in our own times, are always distorted. The man questions his interrogator’s presumptions, claiming that a fleet was actually just a few ships (possibly forty), that not all the soldiers were heroes, some were blind and had chronic back pain. ‘It’s a pity pleasure can’t, like a stream, flow endlessly out of one person. There would be fewer burning cities.’ Read that in respect to a disgruntled Commander in Chief and the pursuit of war is all down to a lack of leisure time. Anhedonia is a warmonger.
Read the rest of the review here…
Tibor Fischer’s Crushed Mexican Spiders is available from: Waterstones, The Book Depository, The Guardian Bookshop, Amazon UK, Amazon US and more.