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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Without a Net

Ana María Shua

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To purchase Without a Net

Title: Without a Net
Author: Ana María Shua
Genre: Fiction
Written: (Eng. 2012)
Length: 125 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Without a Net - US
Without a Net - UK
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  • Translated by Steven J. Stewart
  • Most of the pieces collected here are taken from the collection Fenómenos de circo (2011)

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Our Assessment:

B : enjoyable collection of microfictions

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Without a Net collects ninety-nine 'microfictions' -- most of the pieces just a paragraph or two in length -- by Ana María Shua, all: "based on and revolving around the circus" (and most taken from the collection Fenómenos de circo), as translator Steven J. Stewart explains in his introductory Note.
       The circus-theme works fairly well: with the fictions grouped into sections such as 'It's all a Circus', 'The Performers', and 'Freaks', Shua offers an impressive variety of variations on the theme (the only real weakness being an over-reliance on alien (as in: extraterrestrial) elements in too many of the pieces -- not that many, but enough that it looks too often like a too-easy twist she resorts to).
       Despite their brevity, many of these pieces are more than one-point anecdotes or simple episodes. Only a few might really be called 'stories', but there's a lot conveyed in most of them.
       Shua has a nice touch with the unexpected turn or poignant observation, and many of them are quite amusing.
       In 'The Acrobats' there's a contest to reward a truly novel act:

     The winner is a lean Hungarian artist with thin blond hair who surprises everyone by somersaulting out of reality. It's too bad he can't come back to claim his prize.
       The ambiguities and disconcerting voyeurism of freak- and spectacle-watching are repeatedly addressed -- as in 'Circus Prometheus', which begins by asking
     Art or entertainment ? If the vulture digs his beak deep into Prometheus's liver, is it art or entertainment ?
       Among the most beautiful pieces is 'Who's the Patsy ?'
     Clowns work in pairs. Normally one of them is the victim of the jokes, tricks, and schemes of the other; one of them gets slapped around. The pairs might be Pierrot and Harlequin, Augusto and Carablanca, the pensar and the kartala, the stupid one and the smart one, the fat one and the thin one, the clumsy one and the agile one, the author and the reader.
       Without a Net is a solid, appealing collection, with a few stand-out pieces and some memorable observations.

- M.A.Orthofer, 3 November 2012

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Reviews: Ana María Shua: Other books by Ana María Shua under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Argentinean author Ana María Shua was born in 1951.

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