Picks and Pans Review: Despair
A fine-tuned sense of dread links these eight stories by highly regarded Canadian newcomer André Alexis. In "The Night Piece," the collection's most haunting excursion, foreboding underscores the wary but earnest narrator's every word; it tells of a young man's desire for a soucouyant—a beautiful, vampire-like creature. "Horse," told brilliantly and with subtle humor, conveys the confusion of a man who doesn't know that he's a zombie but only that his soul has been separated from his body. The more whimsical "The Road to Santiago de Compostela" features train passengers reciting unsettling fables of love, both erotic and surreal.
Who knew Canada was a northern Twilight Zone? In Despair, Rod Serling meets Franz Kafka, and readers find disturbing visions that chill beyond the page. From dreams, wordplay and Caribbean folklore, Alexis—a native of Trinidad who now lives in Toronto—creates smart, dark stories. Only a creepy soundtrack is missing. (Holt, $23)
Bottom Line: Eerie Canadian export