The short texts of Alex Epstein virtuously echo the great tradition of world literature in a truly original manner, as the tension between the classical and the intuitively improvised creates in the reader’s mind the literary equivalent of a cross between Mozart and Miles Davis.
Israel’s new Borges... a master of flash-fiction who distills stories to their aphoristic essence.
A rising star in Israeli literature.
Epstein has a singular voice. The moment that he decided to write prose was a blessed moment for the Hebrew literature of our times.
An original writer of exceptional talent... He can be placed next to Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Kafka, Borges.
To say fiction like Epstein’s requires a new way of reading, and it does, is not to say it’s difficult or unwelcoming. The work leads you along, gradually recalibrating your response time. The brevity has the effect of concentrating attention: You grow more alert, eased into the ultrareceptive mindset engendered by a Zen koan. Before you know it, the longer stories—those of a full page and more—come to feel like novels. You become hyper-aware of how much can be fit into a small space—and by extension, how much of conventional fiction is, by strictest definition, unnecessary.
[E]nigmatic, brilliant, sweet, funny, composed entirely of crumbs of what others turn into thick novels.
Tyler Meier has a term for writing like this: “lily pads.” That is, blooms of detail, snatches that speak volumes. Lily pads are like those moments during a reading that provoke collective vowel sounds from the audience. But of course, these stories are much more than that. They have an odd sort of integrity, an intention to them that’s hard to put your finger on, to explain how it works or why. Each story works like a kind of Merry-Go-Round, accelerating, looping, and terminating at the point of beginning. You go for a ride, and if it sounds like I’m describing an amusement park, this is intentional. These stories are entertaining.
Like Borges, Epstein reinvents the truth, the real, and even history, by fictionalizing them (which is not to say that his stories don’t include many real facts).
A consistently provocative collection, best read first in gulps and then in savory sips.
Charming, gossamer miniatures.
When you ask what if, you are starting on a whole slew of possibilities. Lunar Savings Time is a collection of short fiction from Alex Epstein as he asks these questions, and creates stories of people, famous and legendary throughout history. With a Jewish influence throughout, he creates questions and thoughts that will bring thought to people of any faith. An excellent compilation, Lunar Savings Time is very much recommended reading.
Fantastical, whimsical, and flighty, Epstein’s tales tantalize us, as we waver between bemused incredulity and a need to “believe” what we read.
What we have in Blue Has No South is a book, which is itself a collection of immigrants. An exquisitely described gathering who, though unknown to each other, share a common place here. Some are funny, some are smart, some are surreal but all are moving towards a collective meaning in their own way. Not all arrive at their final destination. Nevertheless, they shuffle together and in doing so mark something astonishing.
As readers, we puzzle, we try to work out, and question what is story and what is outside of the story. Perhaps a story can be anything an author and a reader want it to be. It exists on the page and in the imagination, and Blue Has No South is a collection that tests out our notions of story, stretches them, and leaves us wanting to dip back into the collection again and again.
Epstein’s collection is something of a spatial triumph—microscopic stories (some are only single sentences long) with manifold compartments and a capaciousness belied by their slight appearance.
With more than 100 short-short stories (many no longer than a few lines), there’s a frenetic buzz of activity, with recurring themes including chess, mythology, rain, angels, suicide, animals, muses, time machines, tragic love, aging, and painting, all sewn together in a Borges-meets-Kafka style. Some pieces slip into metanarrative, as with “Gibraltar, a Love Story,” a brief bit in which the author comments on the flaws in his tale about an elephant escaped from a zoo. Other pieces don’t tell stories at all, such as “The Flawed Symmetry of Romeo and Juliet,” which offers a critique of “the only lovers who see each other dead.” Often it isn’t the scraps of story that make the pieces work as much as the poetic language, as in a story involving the murder of a chess-playing writer. These deceptively simple snapshots certainly can deliver on a fast reading, but slow, close attention reveals layers of thought and complexity.
I would highly suggest [Blue Has No South] to fans of Borges, Kafka, and Lydia Davis.
His style and tone are postmodern, but his voice is his own. This reviewer would not hesitate to recommend Blue Has No South to cerebral and off-center readers.
[Epstein scrutinizes] the space and soul of the city… These stories are the stories of a flaneur—someone who collects discards from the sidewalks, tiny dramas that no one wants any more, and tries to breathe life into their dead merchandise by means of the story. … What most returns to life in these stories in Blue Has No South… is fracturing light from the far-off scenes in the old books, which it sometimes seems that Israeli literature has left on a bench on a boulevard, like items nobody wants. Fortunately for Hebrew literature… writers stroll down this boulevard who pick them up and open them, and then the old sparks fly out of them and again illuminate the space of Hebrew.