I hope at some point to prove capable of writing a review that does this justice but for now I'm too wowed. The stories are a fascinating mix of intimate realism and ingenious imaginings, some fully realized, others little more than vignettes, all well written. I envy the ability to write such varied stories that wind up feeling of a piece as a collection, and can't think of another one quite like this. The blend of the personally accessible and ideologically complex is Horvath's own, though Guy Davenport, Alice Munro, and Kurt Vonnegut occasionally came to mind, which puts him in good company.
There's a wildly speculative, subtly satirical, and sometimes laugh-outloud funny series of "Urban Planning case studies," my favorite of those being the one about Ganzoneer and . . .
. . . the comic futility that attends any attempt to walk there, due to the elasticity of her streets, walls and sidewalks, which send the newcomer flailing and sprawling . . .Sure, Ganzoneer isn't what most would consider graceful. Once one acclimates to her peculiar genus of motion, though, she harbors no shortage of loveliness; it wouldn't occur to her long-term residents to demean her with 'jiggles,' nor compare her to a beached cetacean. No, you are far more likely to hear them remarking on her sublime way of yielding to the slightest air current, the sensuousness of her rippling, the jaunt and jounce she lends to the most ordinary stroll.
My very favorites of all are more realistic, personal, and somewhat troubling, but also magical: The Discipline of Shadows
and The Understory
, the latter in part because I have a thing for trees.
From The Discipline of Shadows
Who didn't skip beside his shadow, marveling at it as an emperor might his lands or a peasant his erection, this view of the augmented self offering up just a whiff of omnipotence? But just when we thought it gave us boundless control, our shadow evaded us, hiding itself inside another or going its own way (priming us early for love)? Like any boy or girl, I chased mine up and down hills and on sunbaked pavements till I came rumbling, breathless, to my knees.
From The Understory
One day, he discovers the Epilobium sp., whose stem will eventually turn red and offer up a white flower. A library visit reveals that this is common in Finland, close enough to Germany to make him tremble. On another occasion, he stumbles onto blackberry plants. And best of all is the common cinquefoil, the glorious yellow flower he decides he'll pin in Sara's hair. He crouches with the guidebook near the ground before picking one, squinting and rubbing for the slight serration that will distinguish it from imposter weeds. The day he plucks that flower, he decides to write Heidegger.
What a pleasure to have met this author on Goodreads, and I look forward to following his literary career.