The Life of Polycrates and Other Stories for Antiquated Children, by Brendan Connell
I already knew that Brendan Connell is an extremely eclectic writer. An American born in Santa Fe, New Mexico and currently relocated in Switzerland, he’s the author of several books, including the delightful novel The Translation of Father Torturo (Prime Books, 2005) and the short story collections Metrophilias (Better Non Sequitur, 2010) and Unpleasant Tales (Eibonvale Press, 2010).
Connell’s fiction defies any label, ranging from history to SF and horror, actually eluding the canons of each genre and exhibiting as the only permanent aspect, a certain degree ( or should I say a high degree?) of weirdness. Accordingly, his writing style is so various and changeable to make it hard to recognize him as the author of any given story if we’re not privy to the writer’s identity.
The latest collection of this literary chameleon includes a novella ,” The Life of Polycrates” and a bunch of short stories.
Like a modern Herodotus, Connell depicts both through a straightforward narration and by means of apocryphal epistles, the events surrounding the life of the tyrant Polycrates of Samos, who ruled on that Greek island between 540 and 522 BCE. The novella, charming and entertaining, is indeed the highlight of the book.
The remaining stories are as varied as they could be, from the vivid “Collapsing Claude” describing the insane passion of a man for a disgusting and depraved female, to “Molten Rage”, an exercise in neo-realism set in a gloomy, grey Milan .
“The Dancing Billionaire” is the unmerciful but engrossing portrait of a wealthy young man unable to cope with the world, while the surrealistic “ The Chymical Wedding of Des Esseintes”is the accurate report of a man’s singular experience in a foreign city and “Maledict Michaela” an elegantly written, although rather flimsy fairy tale.
“Peter Payne” tells the sad life story of a stuntman married with a fat gambler and the obscure “Brother of the Holy Ghost” revisits the story of the hermit who was briefly Pope with. the name of Celestin V before returning to his beloved seclusion .
Connell never ceases to surprise and astonish. If you don’t know him yet, you’d better give him a try.