The Musical Brain, by César Aira

I'm afraid most of these stories were a bit beyond me, though I'm at least clever enough, I suppose, to recognize their brilliance. I'd say about a third of these stories are hilarious, a third are incredibly smart and moving, and a third are a little more absurdist/surrealist that I can handle. Examples: God throws a birthday party for himself every year, only it's held outside of space/time and is attended exclusively by monkeys; a priest is assigned a poverty-stricken diocese but instead of spending money on the poor, decides to build an incredible house for his successor so that that man will be able to give all his money to the poor instead of worrying about a house, but the successor decides to do the same for his own successor, and so on and so forth; a café's patrons make more and more elaborate origami for a little girl, each creation more impossibly complex than the last.

Aira is a deliberate writer, but I'll admit I'm not a very deliberate reader. The funny stories were great, I read them quickly, giggled, and appreciated how smart they are. But his other stories are rambling, some start going one direction and change tacks a couple times to end up somewhere completely different. Perhaps I'm an impatient reader - no, I know I'm an impatient reader. I'm a book buyer and reading is part of my job, so if a book doesn't catch my attention quickly, I ditch it. This is hard to do with a collection of short stories, some of which I really enjoyed; how long do I give a story I don't like? A page? Two? Dear reader, I read it all, though I didn't love it all, just so I could say I had.


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