Thursday, October 29, 2009

New short story collection focuses on disabled characters

From Powell's Books about Call Me Ahab by Anne Finger:

Synopsis: Imagine a Hollywood encounter between Helen Keller and Frida Kahlo, two female icons of disability. Or the story of Moby Dick, or, The Leg, told from Ahab's perspective. What if Vincent Van Gogh resided in a twentieth-century New York hotel, surviving on food stamps and direct communications with God? Or if the dwarf pictured in a seventeenth-century painting by Velazquez should tell her story? And, finally, imagine the encounter between David and Goliath from the Philistine's point of view. These are the characters who people history and myth as counterpoints to the normal. And they are also the characters who populate Anne Finger's remarkable short stories. Affecting but never sentimental, ironic but never cynical, these wonderfully rich and comic tales reimagine life beyond the margins of normality.

The Publisher's Weekly review:

"In this marvelously original collection, Finger (Basic Skills) explores the nature and function of legendary outcasts, from Goliath, initially ridiculed for his giantism before he became a savior of the Philistines, to Vincent Van Gogh, tortured madman and impoverished artist caught in a bureaucratic vacuum as he waits for his Social Security benefits. In 'Helen and Frida,' Finger imagines with absurd relish Helen Keller and Frida Kahlo featured in the same empowering movie (Helen is played by Jean Harlow). In 'The Artist and the Dwarf,' Finger configures an elaborate inner life for the dwarf Mari Barbola in Velzquez's Las meninas, juxtaposed with the dialogue between a medical illustrator in Auschwitz and her doomed subject, the famous circus dwarf Lia Graf. Most ambitious is 'Moby Dick, or the Leg,' in which Finger suggests a touching, untoward intimacy between Ishmael and Captain Ahab. Brisk, inventive and intelligent, these stories do their own thing, and do it well."