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Mouthful of Birds: Stories by Samanta…
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Mouthful of Birds: Stories

by Samanta Schweblin

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English (4)  Spanish (2)  All languages (6)
Showing 4 of 4
A few too many feel bad stories for me
Review of the English translation paperback from Oneworld Publications Feb. 2019

Casual brutality in writing, whether to animals or people, has become a real turn off for me. So even stories that are meant as parables or as a symbolic commentary on society, that use these actions or incidents become somewhat abhorrent.

Still, several of the stories here were excellent. I especially liked the kickoff lead of Headlights with its ambience of a twilight-zone world by the highway. The Size of Things with a quirky toy-store worker who makes nightly re-arrangements of the products and shelves to the delight of the owners and customers was the real stand-out highlight.

Others, like e.g. Mouthful of Birds, The Test, Heads against Concrete were turn-offs. The closer The Heavy Suitcase of Benavides left an especially down note as the finale, which probably distorted my view overall.

The stories here are presumably from quite an early period of Schweblin's writing as they are a translation of 2009's "Pájaros en la boca" (literally: Birds in the Mouth). It seems an odd choice for her English translations after 2017's breakthrough of "Fever Dream" which had impressed me quite a lot.

I received this book as part of Shakespeare and Company's 2019 Year of Reading subscription package. ( )
  alanteder | Mar 10, 2019 |
Samanta Schweblin is an Argentinian author whose work is finally being translated into English, first with Fever Dream and now with a collection of short stories called Mouthful of Birds. The stories in this collection are varied, but share a sense of discomfort, of things being off-kilter, of the ordinary rules not applying. A man murders his wife and stuffs her body into a suitcase only to find that his actions are badly misunderstood. A father comes to terms with his daughter's changing diet needs. An unhappy woman meets a merman.

Each story is odd, unsettling, and none of them are interested in answering any questions a reader might have. Stories begin in the middle or stop before or during the the moment of crisis. Backstories are hinted at. These are not stories to rush through, but to read singly, with time to mull over what happened or didn't happen or might happen later. There's often the sense of the environment being destroyed or turning against the people living in it. Intriguing and not necessarily satisfying, I'm eager to read more by this author. ( )
  RidgewayGirl | Feb 21, 2019 |
“My god, Sylvia, your daughter eats birds!”

“I can't do it anymore.”

“She eats birds! Have you taken her to the doctor? What in the hell does she do with the bones?”

Sylvia stood looking at me, disconcerted.

“I guess she swallows them too...”

^Obviously, that was from the title story, [Mouthful of Birds], which was one of the only highlights here. I so wanted to love this story collection. I like dark, slightly bent and inventive. These contained all those traits but nothing ever really sang out to me. I am thinking it could possibly be the translation, but I don't want to put the complete blame on that. I will have to just write it off as a rare misfire for me and see what she does next. Of course, I still love that cover art. ( )
  msf59 | Feb 7, 2019 |
Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin is a collection of stories, translated from Spanish, that fall under the genre description of the fantastic. They are also somewhat linked not only by their atmosphere, which is mostly dark and foreboding, but also by their social and cultural commentary.

Most readers will find at least a few stories they particularly like here, I actually found none that I disliked or even didn't care about. Every one spoke to me to some degree and a few will stay with me. For a collection to be this compelling throughout is not as common as one would like even if it is completely understandable.

I would recommend this to readers who enjoy dark stories that make some kind of a statement, usually a statement you will need to wrestle with in your own mind. If elements of the fantastic put you off then you might want to skip this although I would suggest you give it a try anyway, these are very accessible stories where the fantastic serves more to enhance the story than tell the story.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via Edelweiss. ( )
1 vote pomo58 | Jan 9, 2019 |
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Entre la noche insomne y la vigilia los cuentos hipnoticos de Pajaros en la boca horadan lo real con una crueldad aterradora. Crudos extranos insolitos: lo raro se impone en ellos a veces con una sospecha trivial y silenciosa. Otras con una densidad violenta e irreversible como en una pelicula de David Lynch o en una pesadilla kafkiana. Un cavador fanatico un hombre solo con su mujer muerta en el piso de la cocina la ruta ruidos cacerias en la estepa la furia de las pestes la tension la desesperacion. Ganador del premio Casa de las Americas 2008 este libro de relatos se mueve en la delgada linea que separa lo fantastico de lo real lo sobrenatural de lo cotidiano en un estilo fluido y preciso. Una vision particular del mundo que confirma a Samanta Schweblin como una de las narradoras argentinas mas importantes y originales de su generacion--Product description.… (more)

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