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Nemonymous 5 (aka Nemo Book)

(77 pages, landscape format paperback, August 2005. See www.nemonymous.com for all pricing and distribution details.)

Review by Mario Guslandi

The two main characteristics that make Des cover scanLewis' brainchild, Nemonymous, a great literary experiment continuing to fascinate fiction readers, are the anonymity of its contributors -- which makes you love or hate a story for what it is, regardless of who the actual author might be -- and the versatility of its contents, defying any precise genre classification. The fifth issue of the magazine/anthology further enhances the variety of tones and themes already exhibited in the past, which means that each reader and reviewer will find its share of likes and dislikes, according to his own taste and idiosyncrasies.

The twelve stories included range from a cute technological vignette with a slightly horrific undertone ('The robot & the octopus') to the unremarkable story (?!) 'Grandma's two watches', with a lot of interesting stuff in between. Of course 'interesting' doesn't always equate 'good' but that's another matter entirely ...

Talking of the good stuff, among the most accomplished contributions are 'Driving in circle', an outstanding tale depicting the unsettling car ride of a quarrelsome couple going astray in more than one sense and 'New Science', an excellent piece about a young woman dying of cancer and her last love encounter with an old friend. A deep melancholy pervades the whole story, told with a gentle touch and great subtlety. 'The scariest stories I know' is by far the real stand out of Nemo 5, a masterpiece about life and death and the ambiguity of both, about loss and tragedy and the impossibility to discern between who's alive and who's not. An exquisite psychological study, the story discloses, however, the only sore point in the 'nemonimousity', namely that, ignoring the name of the author you can't go out and buy everything he/she has published as you'd like to do after reading such a little gem.

A second group of fair enough stories includes 'The hills are alive' an enigmatic piece featuring a house in the country, a frustrated wife, a mysterious neighbour ... and much more. Although a rather impalpable yarn, it manages to entertain and produce some disquiet. On the other hand 'George the baker', describing the encounter of a baker with an odd creature, despite the ingenious way in which the narration is developed, leaves the reader with a feeling of mild disappointment.

In 'Running away' the difficult relationship between mother and son, a carnival, a sinister clown and a horrible beast in a cage are the elements mixed up in a medley trying hard to become a story, while 'Soul stains' is an ambitious work, a bit on the fantasy side, a little too cerebral and detached to be really successful.

'Solid gold', the portrait of a woman worshipping beauty and of her inconsequential life, is a bit inconsequential too. As for the baffling 'Well tempered' ... if it has a meaning I've missed it entirely.

I'm mentioning 'Hunting season' only to tell that, although I'm well used to gore and splatter, I found it absolutely disgusting.

So, predictably, Nemo 5 offers some great fiction as well as some poor stuff, and of course anyone is free to disagree on what is the latter, but whatever your preferences may be, rest assured you'll never get bored while reading this magazine, attractively wrapped in a bright red cover. And, in spite of the obvious differences in opinion on the merits of the single stories I'm convinced that at least one of the three stand-outs will be eventually shortlisted for one of the next literary awards.

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