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Dance on Saturday: Stories (2020)

por Elwin Cotman

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Mostrando 5 de 5
Esta crítica foi escrita no âmbito dos Primeiros Críticos do LibraryThing.
DANCE ON SATURDAY is a splendid collection of fantasy or fantasy-adjacent stories that play out in multiple veins. The mind of author Elwin Cotman proves itself to be intriguing, brilliant, and more than a little weird (in the best possible ways). There's a fairytale that takes place in "Job Corps," some kind of semi-punitive rehabilitation center for young men; a pantheon of forgetful immortals whose long lives are owed to fruit; a vision of Hell at a high school volleyball tournament; and a wild, hilarious ride through a landscape that's one part BDSM fantasy, one part D&D adventure, and one part zoologist jargon. Six lengthy stories in all, each one taking its own sweet time to unfold. I don't always like very long short stories—I can't stand when authors seem to be meandering self-indulgently—but Cotman's tales never flagged for me. Each one was a complete and self-contained world (although Cotman doesn't feel the need to answer every question he provokes, meaning the stories tend to linger and pulsate in the mind long after they're over).

His vision, centered on Black characters and Blackness, stands out as needed and expertly expressed, and his absolute technical prowess makes Cotman's brand of urban fantasy and magical realism truly essential 21st-century reading. Fans of Kelly Link will find lots of to enjoy here (and in fact this is published by Small Beer Press, which Link founded with Gavin Grant in 2000). The writing is excellent, the range of characters and characterizations sensitive (I especially appreciate how well Cotman captures genuine wisdom in the title story), and his meld of the troubling with piercing insight truly something special. ( )
1 vote Xiguli | Sep 11, 2020 |
Esta crítica foi escrita no âmbito dos Primeiros Críticos do LibraryThing.
Boy, did I hit the jackpot when I received an ARC of this book - it's such a thrill to discover an under-the-radar author with so much talent! I'm not his mother or his hostage, honest.

Cotman's stories have the same mix of ordinary and fantastical as those of Karen Russell or Kelly Link, but are in no way derivative of them. His imagination and his voice are very much his own, and his writing feels effortless and perfect. The fantasy/speculative genre has long been the whitest of white spaces, and Cotman brings some much needed diversity in character and sensibility. Here's a taste, spoken through one of his church-lady characters (who happens to be immortal):

"There was a time I was sad to be black. I would look around and all I saw was suffering. I would ask the powers, 'Why do they treat us so bad?' I hated the powers for what they had done. But I learned the pride. That I was of a people who could take all the hate and poison of this world, and laugh, and go dance on Saturday. And my brothers and sisters weren't just the ones I grew up with. Now I had many."

The stories are about 30-ish pages long (plus one superb novella), which gives Cotman the room to fully flesh out his worlds and characters. Each story is so different and so fascinating. My favorite is the novella-length story that gives the book it's title. It's about a small group of immortals who have established the Fruit of Jehovah Baptist Church in Pittsburgh, PA. They appear to be a bunch of black senior citizens, complete with church ladies in big hats and puttering deacons, but appearances are magically deceiving. The plot alone is entertaining, but Cotman gives each of these characters a depth and poignancy that takes the story to a whole other level. My next favorite story, "Among the Zoologists" takes us to a zoology conference that's like an X-rated, S&M Lord of the Rings. Seriously. Other stories involve demonic possession in a middle school girls volleyball game, life in a Pittsburgh juvie, a steampunk-ish African fantasy, and a Dickensian story of orphans in an early 20th century city. Like I said, an imagination with no bounds. The cover of the ARC says Cotman is working on a novel. I can hardly wait. ( )
1 vote badube | Jul 19, 2020 |
Esta crítica foi escrita no âmbito dos Primeiros Críticos do LibraryThing.
Loved the imaginative settings and strong characters. Transformation is the theme of these stories. Fantasy combines with science with the wish for change to create magic. I just sometimes had problems following the dialects.
  bgknighton | Jun 29, 2020 |
Esta crítica foi escrita no âmbito dos Primeiros Críticos do LibraryThing.
Great collection of speculative short fiction stories! Author Elwin Cotman has extraordinary gifts - an unbounded imagination, a fearless pen, and a personal capability to share both beautiful and terrible imagery. The six stories in this collection each have unique worlds (for me, best read and absorbed separately rather than in one sitting.) I loved the surprises and the slipstreams and the surreal elements - they seem to fit in with 'living in the weirds' of the summer of 2020 when the book will be published.
My favorite stories were 'Dance on Saturday' about a church with immortal congregants and life-extending fruit and 'Among the Zoologists' which is just crazy/profane/scientific/dark/funny.
If you like the writing of Karen Russell, be sure to check out Elwin Cotman.
(My only negative - IMHO, not crazy about the cover art of the ARC that I gratefully received from LibraryThing Early Reviewers. Seems like there might another cover that could work, e.g. would love to see an artist interpret that divine church of beautiful fruit.) ( )
1 vote KatyBee | Jun 27, 2020 |
Esta crítica foi escrita no âmbito dos Primeiros Críticos do LibraryThing.
The stories in Dance on Saturday were my first exposure to the work of Elwin Cotman, although some have evidently been previously published elsewhere. They range from a gritty magical realism (as in "Seven Watsons," a story set in the Pittsburgh Job Corps) to a surreal mythic high fantasy ("The Son's War," featuring magically incredible craftsmanship). The longest of the stories in this collection is the titular "Dance on Saturday," which treats a coterie of immortals in contemporary Pittsburgh, wearing the identities of a black church congregation.

Most of these tales have black protagonists, and the African-American experience furnishes notable and sophisticated inflections of Cotman's fantasies. The unusual exception is the story "Among the Zoologists," where the narrating character not only fails to signal a racial identity, but deftly avoids claiming a gender over forty pages which incidentally feature some hair-raising sexual escapades. That story also left me with an enhanced appreciation for Cotman's work, because it demonstrated his intimate fondness for the 20th-century canon of pulp and comic-book fantastic literature, and thus his own writing's remoteness from its conventions signals his active creativity and independence of mind.

He is a capable stylist as a writer. These six stories tended to be too long for me to finish in a single sitting, and I was consistently glad to pick up the book again at the earliest opportunity. The ends of his stories often break the narrative frame that he has established or transform its context. Each of the tales in Dance on Saturday is memorable for a different reason, and I'm glad to have read them all. ( )
2 vote paradoxosalpha | Jun 20, 2020 |
Mostrando 5 de 5
Cotman (Hard Times Blues) wields biting wit, powerful emotion, and magic large and small throughout these six superlative stories.
adicionada por karenb | editarPublishers Weekly (starred review) (Mar 27, 2020)
 
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