Sunday, February 1, 2015

Review: "Natasha" by David Bezmozgis

After my review of Kinder Than Solitude a week ago, I mentioned author David Bezmozgis, and decided to put my money where my mouth was and read is collection of short stories titled Natasha. I was expecting something bad, but what I got was kind of okay if I may say so. It may not come near being great, but I have definitely read worse collections than this. If I can do a little positive/negative comparisons, it is a very short book that you can finish in a day, and if you are interested in different cultures, there is a lot to chew on here. And Bezmozgis is good writer with many unique ideas. But I felt he was trying to control those ideas too much, not letting them guide the story instead, which would lead to a tighter, more focused story, because he doesn’t do that, a lot of these stories felt very derivative. None of them really stand out, there is one called Tapka that opens the collection, that is about the narrators dog that is funny at points but ultimately falls flat, and the title story, about the narrator’s relationship with a cousin-by-marriage that turns sour rather quickly, that came closets to connecting with me. Bezmozgis doesn’t really have a handle on the short story format, or at least one that interests me at all. For example, he has two stories in here about his father, the most interesting character, where he tries to open up a massage parlor and win a weightlifting competition. These scenarios are ripe for interesting narrative turns, even cheap ones, but Bezmozgis seems more interested in tired tropes of old Jewish writers such as Malamud or Roth, who are both favorites, but I’m expecting something different from a new crop of young writers, and this isn’t it.

Rating: 3/5

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