Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Interesting Monsters Paperback – August 1, 2001
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
A sly, brainy, delicately shaded novel masquerading as a postmodern short story collection, Aldo Alvarez's debut is like an offbeat dinner guest who ends up as the life of the party. Most of these 16 stories offer a fragment in an ongoing (though out-of-sequence) tale of the love relationship of Mark, a brooding, slightly homophobic music producer, and Dean, an antiques appraiser, who tests the tolerance of his new love interests by making a queeny display of himself on first dates. One of the most poignant of these stories, "Quintessence," takes place before Dean meets Mark, and is about his failed attempt to find love with a simple, well-meaning, ordinary Joe, who has shown Dean his horrible "art" of doll toilet-paper covers, "breathtakingly ugly in design and execution." Refusing to take the easy way out of this heartbreaking scenario, Alvarez's sympathies remain evenly divided. Even when Dean hates himself, his author doesn't. With malice toward none, and humor for all, Alvarez builds a network of complicated but very real connections, in a voice that is spare and surprising. --Regina Marler
From Publishers Weekly
Playful, wry and tinged with melancholy, this promising debut collection of 16 short stories nimbly sidesteps the tropes of gay fiction. Though Alvarez's prose is uneven, slipping back and forth from cunningly styled to stilted, his themes and characterizations are intelligent and sophisticated. Most of the stories are linked, chronicling the ups and downs of Mark and Dean, a couple with a long history. Set up by friends, they suffer through a disastrous blind date, then meet again two years later at their friends' wedding, in "Public Displays of Affection." Their courtship is detailed in the prose-poem "Ephemera" ("I like this very much./When exactly do you know you're in love?/Me too.") When Dean discovers he is HIV positive, he leaves Mark without explaining why, and is confronted by a straight colleague of Mark's in the touching "Other People's Complications." Mark, a former pop star and a successful record producer, heads to his mother's house in "Heat Rises," holing up in the attic for months with a stash of recording equipment, emerging with a piece of music that he claims replicates the sound of his soul. Mark and Dean are eventually reunited, and one of the funniest stories in the book ("Property Values") takes place in Puerto Rico, where they move so Dean can spend his last years where he grew up. Told from the point of view of a real estate broker who is horrified to find that her clients are gay, it ends with her hilarious comeuppance. Unrelated stories tend to be more experimental. In "Rog and Venus Become an Item," the adult protagonist is still attached to his placenta, which he carries around in a briefcase; "A Small Indulgence" is set in a curiously bland heaven. These are thoughtful, ambitious tales, cleverly imagined if not always flawlessly executed.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Literature is not so easily codified. While the evidence of our current increased reading habits becomes more evident, the usual best-seller hype too often submerges unique new voices. Such is the case with Aldo Alvarez. Though acknowledged in circles of informed writers and critics and readers of literary magazines, Alvarez seems to explode on the scene with INTERESTING MONSTERS like a breath of fresh literary air. Alvarez himself takes care to inform us of his position in the ReModernism school (and I'll let you read his precis about that without diluting the wit and bite!). This is not a book of short stories: this is a theme and variations on the myth and reality and ultimate viability of interpersonal relationships. Yes, the relationship explored is between two gay men, and in electing to fast forward, flash back, daudle, and pause for amusing roulades, Alvarez creates an atmosphere for self examination that is universal. The "interesting monsters" of the title appear to be the schisms in each of our personalities that surface and retreat at times with disatrous/amusing results. This little book is packed with humor, with tenderness, with sheer professorial excursions into the English language. Some readers may find it not well tied or a bit obtuse, but those "faults" are easily healed with subsequent reaings - once you understand the enormously invigorating new style passing before your eyes and seeping into your brain. A fine book by a fine writer - and observor!
There are several amusing tales not involving Mark and Dean ("Losing count", "Flatware"). Alas, there are also some failed experimental pieces: "A Small Indulgence", "Rog and Venus Become an Item", and, especially, "Death by bricolage." These are probably their progenitor's favorites, but the stories (in contrast to these "experimental fictions") in the book are well-crafted, insightful, often moving, and sometimes hilarious.
The author is coming to Berkeley and I am looking forward to his reading. Well done.
Written in a clean, eloquent and thought-provoking style, Alvarez obviously knows good writing...