If I’m straight up honest I’ll say that I loved this book, up to a point. Robert’s short stories are fantastic. His writing is simply brilliant, the intelligence and wit sharp beyond comparison, and his humour is wry and beautifully sardonic; there were occasions which had me in stitches. Each story peels back another layer of the author, and we very quickly start to realize that there is far, far more meaning to Robert’s writing than I think some give him credit for. In truth, what may start off to some feeling in some ways puerile in fact soon evolves into something much deeper and more existentially profound. We start to learn a great deal about Robert – no more so than his transfixion (some might even call it an obsession) with the inevitably of death; it even reaches an extent to which this probably becomes the theme of the entire book, both the fiction and non-fiction elements.
About midway the focus of the book changes from narrative to monologue, the format more of essays and various prose, as Robert shares his thoughts and opines on various subjects. He does so with an honesty and candour which tucks today’s political correctness forcefully into the shameful corners it deserves to be, and this is undoubtedly the biggest part of Robert’s appeal; he says what he believes in plain language, articulately, eloquently and without apologetic filter or the contrite hypocrisy of many other writers – and for this he is truly to be admired.
I admit, I far preferred his short stories to his own non-fiction musings, and was sorry to see them come to an end, as hugely entertaining as they were. Beyond this, the anthology simply became a soapbox for the author to share his views on everything from politics to healthcare, smoking and even roasting his own critics. In fact, in some ways I am a little reluctant to review Robert’s work, for fear of being browbeaten; to say he is a writer of superior intellect and quality is to state the obvious. But, unlike some of the comments of his sternest critics, I don’t think that the writing is presented entirely for the narcissistic ascension of the author, but rather simply that this octogenarian has compiled some of his favourite lifetime’s work into a publishable volume. In my personal opinion, I would have preferred to see the stories and perhaps the latter jazz-based narrative included, but the middle section of Robert’s personal mouthpiece omitted and saved for a blog, for those shopping Robert’s particular niche; they felt somewhat self-indulgent and subject to acquired taste – personally, any author’s political views are always a big turnoff for me when reading non-fiction, and we all have our opinion of Trump; the trend of sharing those respective opinions got old very quickly into his presidency. My point is that I loved most of this book, but the middle section just really didn’t do anything for me, which was a bit of a shame, because for the most part it was truly an otherwise perfect read, which shows its detractors up for ideology wardens they are. The stories are good fun, well worthy of 5 stars on their own, and I suspect that those who say otherwise aren’t really about the writing.
In : Book Reviews
Tags: robert-levin short-stories anthology volume non-fiction fiction narrative prose essay jazz music