Review - Grady Harp

April 25, 2009

Taut, Simple Stories that Linger

Félix Calvino deserves a much wider audience here in the United States. His collection of short stories here gathered under the title A HATFUL OF CHERRIES are piquant brief morsels that range from a few pages to extended stories and every story manages to paint imagery and place and character so clearly with the most economical style that each appears like a flashback of thought in every reader's memory bank.

Calvino was born in Galicia and spent his childhood on a farm not unlike those scenes he so frequently recalls in these stories. Under the reign of General Franco, Calvino fled to England to study and work and eventually migrated to Australia where he currently lives and writes his magical prose. From these various regions Calvino gathers the fodder for his tales - stories that take place in Spain and in Australia with settings that range from dealing with the earth as a child to discovering love as a youth to encountering the realities of small community prejudices to simply celebrating the aspects of the very young to the very aged characters he describes so well.

Calvino's writing style is the opposite of florid. With a few brief sentences on a few pages he is able to bring the reader into the focal point of his stories that usually take a quiet twist at the end, a technique that makes reading a collection of short stories more like reading a full length novel, so engrossed is the reader in his ability to capture attention and imagination. Not that his writing is without color: for instance, in the story 'An Old Sheep' he writes 'In the boredom of the long nights and the sweetness of warm beds, couples rejoiced in their labours for new life, while in the next room death was busily harvesting among the old.' He knows well how to speak of love, of desire, of tragedy and of humor and is equally at home with each of these and other emotions.

Some astute publisher should capture the talents of this Spanish Australian writer. He deserves center stage in the arena of authors who have mastered the art of writing short stories!

Grady Harp (Los Angeles, CA United States)

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