Cigar Box Faust and Other Miniatures
(Tachyon Publications, $14.95, 94 pages, paperback, published November
I think this must be the first time I've ever Cigar Box Faust is the introduction, by a very comfortable margin).
It's easy to see, though, why Michael Swanwick's back-of-an-envelope
vignettes were deemed fit for collection and reprinting.
a collection of any author's short-short fiction (the longest text in
The contents range from the titular text of a piece of tobacco theatre,
apparently performed by Swanwick at conventions, to a series of brief
essays on unusual topics, to an eleven-part outré dissection
of Picasso, to the author biogs Swanwick invented for Asimov's Science
Fiction, where many of these pieces saw publication. There's one
imaginative piece for each planet of the solar system, an anecdote for
every letter of the alphabet, and the author's thoughts on the late
Philip K Dick. What unites these various pieces is a lively sense of
humour, to say nothing of the fertile imagination needed to produce
so much material, and the reader is fairly guaranteed to find at least
a handful of pieces that will please.
It seems that, not satisfied with overachieving while awake, Swanwick
has trained himself to lucid-dream new short-short stories -- to lucid-write,
if you will. The lucky beggar. I particularly admired the results of
"Writing in My Sleep", as well as "The Mask", a compressed novella sold
to Asimov's at 1500 words but here reduced to just over 400.
But the best, if you ask me, has been saved till last. "The Madness
of Gordon Van Gelder" is a merciless ribbing of the editor of F&SF,
and all credit to the victim, who bought the piece ...
A compendium of tiny curiosities and hit-and-run gags, Cigar Box
Faust is the perfect pick-me-up for the reader in a hurry.
Review by John Toon.
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