Sunday, February 11, 2018

Disturbed By Her Song

Tanith Lee
Completed 2/11/2018, Reviewed 2/11/2018
4 stars

This is my first Tanith Lee.  It’s probably not the best one to start with because of its main conceit.  The book is a meta-fantasy collection of short stories.  Lee channels fictional characters who convey the stories to her.  The characters are Esther Garber and Judas Garbah, half-siblings who are both gay.  Esther’s stories are fictional, Judas’ are autobiographical.  Lee expertly writes in two different styles, although other reviewers have noted that they hear Lee’s voice through both.  While I really enjoyed the book, giving it a high rating, I think I would have liked to have first been introduced to Lee through one of her novels.  The book was nominated for Lambda Literary Award for LGBT SF/Fantasy/Horror, which is how I discovered it in the first place. 

As I said though, I really enjoyed this book.  It is a collection of short stories of love.  It is lightly erotic, but mostly about relationships that do not work or work out.  There is a sense of despair to almost all the stories.  The prose is wonderful.  It’s literary without being overwhelming so.  It flows with lovely word choices.  I especially liked the stories “written” by Esther.  Esther’s stories were about women in love.  I found the characters to be very interesting and well-drawn.  Judas’ stories were darker, and their autobiographical nature didn’t grab me as well.  These are the stories I found particularly noteworthy in this collection:

Black Eyed Susan – A maid sees a ghost in the hotel in which she’s working.  She becomes obsessed with the ghost, trying to connect with other workers and guests who may also have seen it.  Her work and even an affair with another maid takes a backseat to this obsession.  This is the only story that has a directly speculative nature, in addition to the meta-fantastical trope of the narration being a channeling of fictional characters.  I found it to be gripping, and filled with anticipation. 

The Kiss – This is a piece about a girl who attempts to get her playbill kissed by the play’s star and the homophobic reaction of the crowd who witnesses it.  It’s a short work, but very powerful and still timely.

The X’s are Not Kisses – A woman develops an intense jealousy when her lover goes to see an old friend.  The woman finds erotic love letters in her lover’s study and the jealousy and despair nearly destroy her.  The downward spiral of the main character is amazingly developed.  It carried me along with it until I was believing the woman was justified in her obsessive behavior. 

Disturbed by Her Song – Another story about obsession, this time by an actress who falls for another actress who has no idea of her feelings towards her.  This is more of a slow burn compared to “X’s”, but still took me down the obsessive spiral with the main character. 

There are only nine stories in this collection.  All of them are worth a read.  The above four were just highlights.  I give this book four stars out of five for the powerful way Lee can turn feelings into readable prose that draws you in and takes you to the darker places of the soul. 

No comments:

Post a Comment