Saturday, March 17, 2018
by Bob Van Laerhoven
Paperback, 114 pages
Published January 5th, 2018
After his much-acclaimed short story collection Dangerous Obsessions, which had war as a common background, Belgian/Flemish author Van Laerhoven surprises again with five stories that shed a piercing light on our most self-destructive impulses. A steroid-spiked Syrian mercenary of Bashar-al-Assad is determined to become a “martyr,” after the loss of his right arm by “friendly fire.” A retired London tube-driver becomes obsessed by his desire to revenge the vicious killing of his parents in Croatia on his half-nephew. A Belgian travel-writer gets entangled in the madness of the Kosovo-war during the nineties and witnesses its dramatic consequences many years later in New York. A jaded art brut painter in Brussels betrays his best friend, a Rwandese art forger, to the Mafia, opening the door to guilt, lust, and murder. A born liar with the nickname Johnny di Machio seeks in the seventies, in Poona, India, salvation in Bhagwan’s ashram for his sexual problems, but gets trapped in a maze of long-hidden violence.
In January, I received word I'd received an early reviewers copy of the book Heart Fever from LibraryThing. A few weeks ago I took time to read it.
I was not familiar with this author but I like details so it is typical for me to review and author bio/profile before I choose to make a move to their work.
I learned this author made his debut back in 1985 and his stories are published in English, French, German, Spanish and Slovenian. I rather like his eclectic style of doing a history of articles, biographies, columns, letters, non-fiction, novels, theatre pieces, travel stories and decided to check out this collection of 5 short stories.
Early on, I was perplexed by its rather directionally degrading tone and for a time I read it aloud in a frenetic cadence. At times, my perplexion was replaced by irritation. In this read, I am taken to places I really don't want to be. I am frustrated, irritated, saddened and angered and I went back and forth like that for awhile. But I think a good writer often makes us think outside our norm.
Yes, it is an emotional read. And in all honesty, this author has had experiences I would never hope to. But I feel a read should be more about the story the author, or their subject matter has to tell.
So, soon after I started the first story my initial shock transcended to astonishment.
These short stories seem to be a darkly symbolic lesson of our perception of spatial representations. Like a series of sub-maps of observational learning. And, thinking along those lines, it seems aptly titled Heart Fever as the center of the person's thoughts and emotions are perceived to be marred by a disturbed state of mind.
Of note: The collection, which had war as a common background, made me think about how 'Dickens' wrote... we should realize the lessons life teaches us in controlling the shadow of our own growing tree.