So Much Smoke I Cass Moriarty I

January 6,  2017

So Much Smoke
Reviewed by Cass Moriarty

So Much Smoke by Felix Calvino (Arcadia Publishing 2016) is another complex collection of short stories by this author who is a master at the short story form. As with his previous works, the stories in So Much Smoke are mostly set some decades past, in his setting of birth in Galicia on the northwest coast of Spain, or otherwise they relate to the migrant experience of Europeans coming to Australia in the sixties and seventies. As I have come to expect, Felix's style is compact and sparse prose, clear and sparkling writing that nevertheless manages to navigate some complex emotional territory. The experiences of village life are particularly well drawn, as are the coming-of-age experiences of various characters in the book, along with the associated vexations about personal identity. The first tale, They Are Only Dreams, is short, sharp and memorable. It remained in my mind, and I have spent a lot more time thinking about it than it took me to read the actual story! The description in these stories is vivid; the endings are abrupt and thought-provoking. This is the stuff of real life, explored with compassion. And there are just enough references to Spanish history and culture to be informative and interesting without being overdone. I'm not sure how much of Felix's work is autobiographical, but I do feel that I know him a little better with each collection I read.