Synopses & Reviews
Channeling Steven Millhauser by way of George Saunders, The Great Frustration
is a sparkling debut, equal parts fable and wry satire. Seth Fried balances the darka town besieged, a yearly massacre, the harem of a pathological kingwith moments of sweet optimismresearchers unexpectedly inspired by discovery, the triumph of a doomed monkey, the big implications found in a series of tiny creatures.
In Loeka Discovered,” a buzz flows throughout a lab when scientists unearth a perfectly preserved prehistoric man who suggests to them the hopefulness of life, but the more they learn, the more the realities of ancient survival invade their buoyant projections. Frost Mountain Picnic Massacre” meditates on why an entire town enthusiastically rushes out to the annual picnic that ends, year after year, in a massacre of astonishing creativity and casualty. The title story illuminates the desires and even the violence that surges beneath the tenuous peace among the animals in the Garden of Eden.
Frieds stories suggest that we are at our most compelling and human when wrestling with the most frustrating aspects of both the world around us and of our very own naturesand in the process shows why he is a talent to be watched.
"The 11 stories in Fried's debut have the vigor of adventures, taking place in settings as disparate as Spain in the time of the conquistadors, a king's harem, a city under siege, various scientific setups, and in the case of the title story the Garden of Eden. Such an imagination is refreshing, but even more rewarding is that the stories don't rely solely on concept or conceit, and trudge forward into the lovely mess of strong characters wedged into dramatic circumstance. The scientists in 'Those of Us in Plaid' have a simple, though not easy, objective involving an obstinate monkey and a space capsule. Science is clearly one of Fried's major interests: 'Loeka Discovered' follows a team of researchers reconstructing ancient history from bits of bone and other artifacts. The lengthy 'Animalcula: A Young Scientist's Guide to New Creatures' offers 15 scholarly descriptions of minuscule fauna, creating a fictional microcosm and illuminating it with the surprisingly poetic inner life of the scientist studying his subjects. While Fried's stories run to the historical or technical, there's a strain of absurdism in his prose that combines pathos, unease, and dark humor to add depth and give these stories a sense of modernity and relevance. (May)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.