Sunday, August 24, 2008

Books: The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios


I enjoyed "Life of Pi," so I figured picking up some of Yann Martel's short fiction in the local bargain bin was a safe bet. There's a certain pleasure in reading a writer's back catalog of works - you see the development of the craft, the honing of the skill necessary to handle a full novel (not that novels are superior to shorter pieces, but they certainly take more time to make). It's only gravy that the book was a few bucks, since the older stuff often gets left behind when an author makes a big splash ("Life of Pi," meanwhile, was selling at full trade paperback price).

"The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios" is the headliner short story of the collection, and it's a sometimes-weepy exploration of the relationship between two friends, one of whom is dying from AIDS. The title sounds confusing, but it's about as literal as you can get - interspersed through the story are facts from the 20th century. The tone is a bit on the maudlin side, but I liked the story's final statement about the creative process.

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