Beirut

I loaded up my Goodreads to-read list. Here’s one of my favourites from that exercise, called The Mehlis Report, as reviewed on NYRB.

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Review: Brief Encounters with the Enemy by Said Sayrafiezadeh

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I got this book free through NetGalley, and I am sort of struggling with what to write here. I enjoyed reading the stories – they have a bit of Wells Tower and George Saunders in them – but I didn’t think that they had anything really special to them.

He writes on three themes repeatedly in this collection: war (and people who fight in them), people who are sort of failures after high school, and people who fill in spreadsheets in boring jobs. But he seems to write about these somewhat flatly, and it made me think he has no experience in any of these key themes. Specifically, while I was reading, I thought to myself, “This is a person who has not been to war and who has not spent much time with spreadsheets”, which of course is fine… unless you want to write about war and spreadsheets. I haven’t been to war either, but I wonder what people who have think of this book.

That said, some of the writing is good and most of the stories flow well. Some of the characters are done really well, particularly the foreign ones (an illegal immigrant, for example, in “Paranoia”). The women are not as strong of characters – mostly nonexistent but otherwise relegated to supporting roles.

In general, I felt that these stories are somewhat mundane examples of the short story genre, and not really excellent. But I will check out more stories when I see them, in case I change my mind.