Edited by DF Lewis

Reviewed by Mario Guslandi

Here's part four of Nemonymous ,the “meganthus” created by DF Lewis, whose authors remain undisclosed, to be revealed only in the following volume. Quite an interesting idea, emphasizing that what really counts in a fiction anthology is the quality of the stories, not the prestige of the authors. And Nemo is becoming so utterly anonymous that now even the book cover is blank, the title appearing in microscopic characters only on the book spine.

For a reviewer , commenting upon anonymous stories is a risky business, but also a kind of relief: one cannot be intimidated by a famous author's name nor biased in favour of a writer he admires.

Neither one is my problem, actually, and I think reviewing a story without having a clue of who's the author is just a lot of fun. But the small world of independent press has another peculiarity: today's reviewer may be tomorrow's author, today's author possibly tomorrow's editor (and vice versa). Having no plans whatsoever of either publishing or editing fiction in the future, I have an exhilarating sense of freedom in expressing my views about a bunch of unlabelled stories without having the fear of offending someone.

But I digress. Back to Nemo 4. If any anthology is a mixed bag, the present one is a real poutpourri of genres and styles, quite loosely sticking to the concept of “dark fiction”. It's hard to find a common ground for the seventeen stories selected, so I guess that the only criterium for inclusion was the editor's taste- which must be very eclectic indeed

“Apologising to the concrete” is a short, compelling piece of fiction where the witness of a tragic manslaughter is haunted by a groundless sense of guilt.

In “Creek man” an unknown creature in a creek elicits the curiosity of a group of kids. A nice parable on the cruelty of innocence. “The death knell” is an offbeat, quite effective story about a jobless man and his family, trapped in a sort of time suspension, with a dreadful feeling of impending disaster.

In “Embrace” a teacher in midlife crisis tries to confront his inner demon, who materializes as an ugly, deformed girl stalking him everywhere. Unfortunately the too evident symbolism weakens what could have been a good story, if the material would have been handled in a more subtle fashion.

“The extent of the property” is no more than an amusing vignette, whereas the unintelligible “The frog's pool” and the bizarre “Generous furniture” left me with the irritating feeling of having totally wasted my time.

“Leaves like heart” is the ambitious representation of the difficulties of human relationship and the inability to communicate with others, all triggered by the death of a beloved father. The story, which would have pleased Ingmar Bergman, remains an unconvincing attempt to give literary form to a bundle of confused, ambiguous feelings.

“Slow motion” provides a deep, introspective analysis of the complex, erratic liason. between a man and a woman

A couple of surrealistic pieces (“The Rorschach-interpreter” and “Nocturne for doghands”), as well as two examples of post-modern horror (“Sexy beast” and “The withering”), sadly miss the target, while “The painter”, the description of an unsolved case of mental disorder progressively affecting the mind of a famous painter, remains too conventional to be fully enjoyable.

But don't get discouraged, more good stuff is coming. For instance “My burglar”, where a burglar breaks in the house of a beautiful woman only to find himself caught in a spiral of desire for her, is a graphic and quite effective story, written in a very neat style, certainly one of the best tales in Nemo 4. “Vole Mountain” is a lyric piece of fiction, depicting life, with its dreams and disillunions, as seen from the point of view of a man working in an ice-cream booth, with the dark shape of a mountain in the background. “Maledict Michela” ,a weird fairy tale à la Karen Blixen, is written in an elegant prose and starts very promisingly, but somehow , somewhere goes off the track, possibly because of lack of a solid content.

Anyway, dear reader, I don't expect you will necessarily share my views. As with any anthology the stories I dislike you might just love or the other way around. But rest assured, Nemo 4 offers such a variety of material, that you'll certainly find something to satisfy your taste.

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