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The Book of Names: Stories by Royce Leville
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The Book of Names: Stories

by Royce Leville

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1410683,257 (3.95)2

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
By the logic of the second story in this book ("Ronald"), I need to give this book a bad review. It came without swag. It came without first class comped orgies. It came without packages, boxes or bags. It did come from Germany, so I got to put my basic German to good use reading the envelope's customs declaration form (although I could have probably guessed what buch meant even without a German 101 course). But I've got to channel Ronald here -- pull out an awful passage and compare the book to Kafka. Except there aren't really any truly awful passages in this book, and I've never read Kafka, so I suppose I should just review The Book of Names properly.

The Book of Names is a collection of stories about horrible people doing horrible things to each other in absurdest fashions. Right up my alley. It was an amusing read, sometimes a bit spooky, sometimes a bit mirthful. We jump around, from Germany to the UK to Australia to Canada. Completely readable and the technique is more than fine. I would say the performance is wound very tightly. It's a compelling group of stories and there's the fun, at least in my copy, of matching up the people in the stories with the diagrams on the front and the alternative titles for the short stories on the back. And the stories aren't all about men. There are stories about women, a little more than a third with female protagonists. But therein lies what about this collection makes me uncomfortable.

Now, it's hardly as if the men here are pinnacles of virtuousness, but the woman all seem to be variations of bitches be crazy. Catfighting ("Sandra"). Promiscuity ("Barbara"). Delusional ("Emily"). Vindictive ("Shannon"). Man-hating career woman ("Marty"). They seem so much more one-note than those stories with male protagonists. Is it the stories? Or are my ovaries just more attuned to lousy feminine characterizations? I mean, realistically, does Marty, an educated, well-placed career woman really think that enslaving men forever and having women run everything is really a solution? And what's wrong with Barbara, a senior, enjoying sex? I don't see why I should be disgusted by that, like the man through whose eyes Barbara's story is told.

So I can't embrace The Book of Names completely. But I had an enjoyable two evenings reading it. Now off to sell my copy on ebay (the last Ronald reference since it's the end of the review). (

The Book of Names by Royce Leville went on sale January 13, 2015.

I received a copy free from Librarything in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  reluctantm | Aug 4, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Very nice grouping of stories. Enjoyed the really unique voice Mr. Leville has. I love compilations of short stories much more than a novel. I think an author has to write wicked tight and with great skill and deftness to pull people in and hold them, and I really think Mr. Leville did that with these.

Quick, engaging reads of dark human nature-- I would recommend them. ( )
  DanaJean | Jun 28, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I found myself laughing quite a few times while reading Royce Leville’s peculiar story collection, The Book of Names. Mostly, it was the sort of nervous titter elicited from seeing someone else squirm.

The “names” of the title are the protagonists of each story – a rogue’s gallery of oddballs that includes a locksmith who has secretly obtained the keys to every residence in his town, a vengeful gravedigger for a small town parish wrongfully accused of a terrible crime, an underappreciated marketing executive, a motley crew of illegal immigrants trapped in a shipping container, a flirty, murderous septuagenarian and an out of work Olympic racewalker.

The majority of these people feel misunderstood and employ fanciful, and sometimes downright creepy, ways to gain control over the world and people around them. Whether it’s something relatively normal, such as the man who creates an elaborate adulterous fantasy about a lady contortionist or as unsettling as the locksmith’s investigations into the homes of all the town’s occupants in his role as self-appointed protector and moral arbiter. The marketing exec even goes so far as to invent an entire world, Herth, ostensibly as a bedtime story to amuse her daughters, which ultimately plays out like a wish fulfillment fantasy of female empowerment.

Most of the stories are fairly short and are written in a crisp, compulsively readable style. Though not quite as whimsical, I think Leville’s work would appeal to fans of Kelly Link for its off-kilter characters and skewed take on the world. They are sometimes funny, sometimes a bit chilling, very sinister and vastly entertaining.

Also, I should mention that I received my reviewer’s copy directly from the publisher, Rippple Books (located in Germany). They sent it gift-wrapped (!) and signed by the author. The book itself has a “Travel Page” on which all the book’s readers are asked to write their name, date and location so that the book contains a records of its travels, which I thought was neat. And the short story titles are written on the back of the book (out of order) while the index page shows only the protagonist’s first names (thus the title) so it was kind of a fun challenge to match the actual titles with the stories once I was finished. Really cool, fun packaging. ( )
  blakefraina | Jun 25, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I was so happy to see a book that’s not a 50 Shades or Twilight copycat available for me as ER that I requested it at once (I should add that the list of ER books available in Italy is always very short for copyright reasons and usually limited to the two mentioned categories in e-book format). It arrived as real paperbook by post and even had the author’s autograph inside – my first! How thoughtful – thank you!!

I usually avoid short stories. English is not my native language and it often takes me a couple of pages to get into the flow and in case of short stories I have to change focus too often to enjoy them fully. Now this book was a real exception. The stories were mostly super short but interesting and quirky enough that I always wanted to read „just one more“ when one was finished and so I got through the book quite quickly. I apologize however for taking so long to get started with it – RL got in the way.

The book has twenty stories on 243 pages, titles are character names. Some stories are set in the US, others in Australia and some in Europe, mainly Germany. For me the writing sounded a bit as if a German with an extraordinary English vocabulary had written them. I can’t really put my finger on it (as I wrote above not being a native speaker myself), but something in the way sentences were formed made it different from other English texts I usually read. It might also have been the use of third person narration in present tense which was a bit unusual.

The stories themselves are a mixed bag in a very good way, there was only one I didn’t get and that was „Sandra“. Some are very realistic, some are scary, one or two are dystopean. The ones set in Germany are very well observed imo, especially the one (forgot the title) with the 50th birthday. I am sure the author worked much personal experience into the more realistic stories, you believe them at once. But the quirky ones aren’t any weaker, often have surprising twists (the first one is a good example) and show that he has great imagination.

I am very glad I got this ER and I will keep the author on my watchlist from now on. ( )
  Deern | Jun 22, 2015 |
Dark exposures of human ugliness, artfully done and without mercy.

Will definitely check out Leville's other work. ( )
  e.w.jackson | Jun 16, 2015 |
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