Read The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios by Yann Martel Online


The appearance of a young storyteller with a unique fictional voice is cause for celebration. Yann Martel's title story (described as "unforgettable...a truly stunning piece of fiction"*), won the 1991 Journey Prize to universal acclaim. The intensely human tragedy that lies at its heart is told with a spare, careful elegance that resonates long after it has ended--and isThe appearance of a young storyteller with a unique fictional voice is cause for celebration. Yann Martel's title story (described as "unforgettable...a truly stunning piece of fiction"*), won the 1991 Journey Prize to universal acclaim. The intensely human tragedy that lies at its heart is told with a spare, careful elegance that resonates long after it has ended--and is matched through all the stories by an immediacy an dazzling freshness....

Title : The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780739455319
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 208 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios Reviews

  • Orsodimondo
    2019-02-10 17:16

    ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRLEsisterebbe un film tratto da questa novella, con lo stesso titolo, è del 1994, con Michael Riley nella parte del narratore e Michael Mahonen in quella di Paul. Ma non riesco a trovare notizie attendibili.Novella scritta nel 1993 che in Canada faceva parte di una raccolta più ampia intitolata The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios, credo una delle prime opere narrative sull’AIDS, sicuramente la prima che ho letto io.Una storia di amicizia, gioventù e morte. L’io narrante va regolarmente in ospedale a trovare l’amico Paul, 19 anni, malato di AIDS, contratto dopo una trasfusione a causa di un incidente d’auto.Si parla della malattia e dei suoi progressi, ma non lo si può fare tutto il tempo: allora, si guarda la Tv – si gioca a carte, a scacchi o a Trivial – l’amico legge a Paul i quotidiani. Ma anche queste attività non possono riempire l’intero tempo, che in un letto d’ospedale, in una stanza d’ospedale non passa mai.Così, quando hai fatto tutto questo, quando non ne puoi più di tutto questo, e sei chiuso tra quattro mura, il tuo amico caro steso sul letto, che fare?Yann Martel è famoso per aver scritto “Vita di Pi”, vincitore del Booker Prize nel 2002, da cui dieci anni dopo è stato tratto un film di successo diretto da Ang Lee.Ecco che inventano un gioco, un passatempo:creare qualcosa con l’immaginazione, una storia che potessimo raccontarci l’un l’altro ogni volta che stavamo insieme. La storia avrebbe riguardato una grande famiglia e ogni episodio doveva riecheggiare une vento di un anno del XX secolo. Al contrario del Decamerone, noi, i narratori, saremmo stati i malati, in fuga da un mondo sano. E ci saremmo raccontati storie l’uno con l’altro non per dimenticare il mondo, ma per ricordarlo, per ricrearlo.È Paul a raccontare l’ultima storia: dice che la regina Elisabetta morirà nel 2001. Un anno che lui non vedrà mai.A proposito di Helsinki.È una storia commovente. Una delle stranezze dell’arte è che quello che ci devasta contemporaneamente ci guarisce, o perlomeno ci conduce là dove abbiamo bisogno di andarescrive Merma Summers sul Canadian Forum.PS“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”, orrendamente diventato nella versione italiana “Quel fantastico peggior anno della mia vita“, è un bel film del 2015 diretto da Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, che ha vinto sia il premio della giuria che quello del pubblico al Sundance Film Festival e racconta l’amicizia tra tre adolescenti, con la ragazzina malata terminale di leucemia. Divretente e struggente.“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”, 2015, di Alfonso Gomez-Rejon.

  • Glenn Sumi
    2019-01-28 22:10

    This is Yann Martel’s first book, published eight years before his breakthrough novel, the Booker Prize-winning Life Of Pi.Turn to any page in the collection and it’s obvious that he has talent, passion and a keen philosophical spirit. The stories feel personal in the best way, urgent dispatches from the trenches of the examined (young) life. Take the opening novella, which gives the book its title. It’s about a university student whose friend, Paul, has contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion. To pass the time and avoid discussing Paul’s rapid decline, the two begin telling each other an epic story about a fictional family, the Roccamatios, who live in Helsinki. They take turns telling the story, but here’s the twist. Each of their tales is inspired by a single event that happened in each consecutive year of the 20th century.The narrator gives us the event – everything from the hope-filled birth of the Dionne quintuplets in 1934 to various wars and invasions – but we’re spared all but the most general details about the Roccamatios. As readers, we do the work to connect how the news event relates to the characters’ situations, especially as Paul’s body is invaded and worn down by various diseases.The story is smart, original and deeply affecting without being sentimental. My favourite piece is the collection’s second story, which has the fantastically unwieldy title: “The Time I Heard The Private Donald J. Rankin String Concerto with One Discordant Violin, by the American Composer John Morton.”It follows a young man who’s visiting a friend in D.C. and stumbles upon a concert being put on by Vietnam veterans in a derelict theatre. He’s incredibly moved by the world premiere of the title piece, even though it’s badly performed and the composer/violinist doesn’t even finish it. He’s so revved up by the work that he follows the composer to his job as an overnight janitor in a bank and they discuss life, art and the swift march of time. The ending, in retrospect beautifully set-up, made me gasp it was so powerful.The final two stories aren’t quite as effective.“Manners Of Dying” consists of letters written by a prison warden informing a woman how her son was executed for a crime he committed. Each letter is slightly different, but they’re all written in a calm observational style that still manages to communicate the immediacy and violence of the prisoner’s death. We’re left wondering: What did the man do? And would that justify these executions? What’s the mother’s reaction? What kind of society do we live in where this kind of thing happens?The final story ventures into sci-fi territory, as a young man talking to his grandmother discovers a device that creates mirrors. The style is amusingly stream-of-consciousness (you've got to see it on the page to fully appreciate it), but I didn’t quite get the point of it.Still, I highly recommend these stories to readers of literary fiction. In the introduction of the edition I read, Martel writes about his early attempts to write, his dozens of rejections and his few acceptances.“I would soldier on with my writing until something else came up,” he tells us. “Nothing did, nothing has – and I’m happy for that.”Dear Mr. Martel: we're happy for that, too.

  • Jacob
    2019-01-24 20:26

    "The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios"The narrator and his friend, Paul, an AIDS patient, spend Paul's last few months constructing an elaborate story about an Italian family in Helsinki and their lives throughout the Twentieth Century--elaborate, but ultimately unfinished."The Time I Heard the Private Donald J. Rankin String Concerto with One Discordant Violin, by the American Composer John Morton"The narrator, visiting a friend in D.C., attends a concert of Vietnam War veterans in a ruined theater, and hears a musical piece that changes his life."Manners of Dying"Nine letters, all from the warden of Correctional Institute to the mother of Kevin Barlow, each varying in the details of the twelve hours up to and during Kevin's execution by hanging. Each time, Kevin accepts or refuses religious counsel, eats decadent or strange last meals or nothing at all, spends the night sleeping or awake, and faces his execution bravely, cowardly, stoically, or not at all. Each letter is numbered, suggesting thousands more unpublished and unread variations on the events."The Via Aeterna Mirror Company: Mirrors to Last till Kingdom Come"While searching his grandmother's cluttered house for a pair of moccasins, the narrator comes across an old mirror-making machine that runs on memories--but he ignores most of his grandmother's monologue, a story about her marriage to the narrator's grandfather, and doesn't notice the magic until it ends.The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios by Yann MartelI read Life of Pi almost ten years ago, long enough to forget everything but the basic story (and how I wish I had kept a reading log back then!), so I didn't really think of this as "a short story collection from the author of Life of Pi." But I kept coming across it in the usual places--library sales, used bookstores, clearance shelves--that I was interested, a bit intrigued, and slightly put off by the title. I mean, how could stories titled "The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios" and "The Time I Heard the Private Donald J. Rankin String Concerto with One Discordant Violin, by the American Composer John Morton" not be pretentious? But whatever. Recently came across a nice copy at a library sale, bought it, read it--Loved it.These are great stories. Not perfect, of course, but well-written and powerful. I could probably point out enough flaws to justify giving this collection four stars, but I've given out too many four-star ratings lately, and this feels like it deserves five. So five it is.

  • Bettie☯
    2019-01-27 21:25

    (view spoiler)[Bettie's BooksThe rating, any status updates, and those bookshelves, indicate my feelings for this book. (hide spoiler)]

  • notgettingenough
    2019-02-01 21:18

    Warning: I'm going to talk about the content of the four stories making up this early steffort by Martel.I do wonder at the notion we have of marking a line between artists whose commitment involves a profound continuing investigation of a Thing, and commercial hacks who are formula writing for no more than mere money. How do you tell which is which? How do I know that my friend Petrus who spent years making pots, dashing them to the ground and then sticking the pieces back together was of the former class? Is it that if you fail to make money at it, this failure maintains your integrity? This book comprises four stories which explore the act of repetition. I guess it is a vital part of successful writing, to be able to repeat one's self without the audience getting restless. The title story is about the narrator watching a close friend die of AIDS. The repetition is in the horrific detail of his decline. It was strangely gripping and I wished I hadn't been in a cafe at the point where it had me in tears. rest here: https://alittleteaalittlechat.wordpre...

  • Kathy
    2019-02-19 16:30

    From a blog post I wrote in 2005:I was browsing the new fiction section at the library and saw a book of short fiction by Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi. I was a little leary when I found they were stories he had written before Pi. The thought crossed my mind that maybe he was just cashing in on his popularity by putting out some old stuff that wasn't that good. I was wrong, though. The stories were very well written and I'm glad I took the chance and checked the book out.The title story was the most affecting. The first person narrative recounts the tale of a young man dying of AIDS and his friend's (the narrator) efforts to keep him engaged while making up an ongoing story of a fictional family, the Roccamatios. Mixed within the summaries of their made up story's chapters (none of the details are divulged) is how the family, the young man and the friend deal with the illness, hospital stay, drug treatments and the inevitability of his death.As I was getting to the end of the story, I realized tears were silently rolling down my cheeks. The story could not help but bring back memories of our great friend, Danny, who left us several years ago. The story captured the same scenarios we went visits, different drug therapies, morphine and its side effects, trying to find anything positive to focus on, Danny's determination to beat the disease alternating with the despairing reality that he would not.

  • Trish
    2019-02-13 18:23

    After Life of Pi was published, I sought a remainder copy of this title from somewhere in Canada. It was perplexing in the way that I now know all Martel books are. I didn't like it. After Beatrice and Virgil was published, I bought an audio version of this so that I could have another crack at it. I find reading Martel's works and listening to them are two distinct pleasures. Indeed, this was something new, to hear it spoken, and I see many of the themes Martel has touched on in his other work. He certainly doesn't take the easy road, but steps right up and roars in God's face. He looks into the blackest nights and at the most exquisite pleasures with the same exploratory eye, and questing tongue. I enjoyed hearing this book, not only because the reader was better than most, as are all Martel's readers, but because the emphases helped me to hear, to slow down enough to listen to what was really being said. Martel is one of a kind, and we are damn lucky to have him with us.

  • Michelle Teoh
    2019-01-24 16:05

    this book is only about 200 pages long but it took me sooooo long to finish it. not because it was bad. it was the complete opposite of bad. it was brilliant. but it was scarily so, and very, very realistic and terrifyingly devastating that i had to take multiple breaks in between pages to calm myself down.these breaks apply to both helsinki and manners of dying, obviously because of the morbidity, but don't get me wrong, they were both so amazing. manners of dying was only about 20 pages long i think? but it was so brilliantly written and i'd never read anything like it before. i was equally afraid to turn to the last page of helsinki despite knowing what was already in store for me, but i was still left feeling a crunching sadness as the story favourite would be the time i heard... because while it wasn't as impactful as helsinki or manners, i loved it because it resounded with my current excitement for big cities, and the way martel described the main character's need to discover and experience every nook of the city, including the ones that are hidden from plain sight, was something i could relate to at that moment. my never experiencing a life-changing moment from a performance before made me want to find out if i could truly see stars where there aren't if i did.

  • Nathan
    2019-01-25 17:15

    It's only four stories and in the introduction Martel makes it clear these are the best of his earlier works. They're all good picks. The characters are interesting and the writing is beautiful. For me, the best feature of these stories was their structure - how the author chose to put them together; there's a great variety here. Each one has its own fun and creative quirks. The stand out for me was the title story which is endearingly self-aware of the cumbersomeness of its own title.

  • Kirsty
    2019-02-12 18:13

    I found the title story of Yann Martel's The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios to be very cleverly structured indeed, and the rest of the contents rather varied. I did like a couple of the stories collected here a lot, finding them inventive and creative, but the second did not capture my attention at all. I feel that Martel's style is better suited to the longer novel or story.

  • Seth
    2019-02-17 15:20

    While I enjoyed Life of Pi much more than these short stories, this is a gem of a book. There are four short stories. The title (The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios)is one of them. I will only discuss this story. The story is about two friends Paul and the narrator. Paul is infected with AIDS from a blood transfusion arising from a car accident. The narrator (Paul's friend) tells the story of their friendship as Paul dies. The news of his death leads to a meaningless spout of depression. Its all despair in Paul's home. Paul's friend decides to create meaning by sharing an ongoing series of fictional stories based upon events spanning the 20th century. This ritual of telling one another the story brings meaning to Paul's fading life and provides a wanted distraction from his self pity. Martel's insights about death and fear are very compelling. The AIDS treatments are so ugly and destructive that Paul's friend finally loses his optimism. In a fit of frustration and despair he rants:"After the hospital I go tramping about the streets of Toronto. I catch the headlines at a newsstand-blood in Sri Lanka, the West Bank, Haiti, Iran, Iraq; the Ku Klux Klan wins an election in Louisiana (book takes place in 1986); a science magazine rings the alarm bell on the health of oceans-and I am delighted. It sets me off. The world is metastasizing! We are not a viable species! The environment is our worst enemy! Long live the green house effect and acid rain! Down with animals! Let us all rise to the defense of the shrinking tropical forest and the expansion of the Sahara and the emptying of the oceans. All stocks will be replenished with starvation. Everything will be made better with pollution and human blood. Our mission is a cleansing one; we must scour the earth of anything living. Death is our destiny and destruction our greatest talent. So hip-hip-hooray for war! Three cheers for poverty! Boo Amnesty International and the white rhinoceros and Mother Teresa! In Pol Pot and Shining Path we trust! LONG LIVE DEATH! DEATH TO INTELLIGENCE!"While this is the melodramatic rantings of a despairing friend it also conjures a resonating emotion. Although mankind can create beauty when in a state of enlightened discipline, our natures desire destruction. When we are at our lowest the base destructive nature dominates our rational and disciplined facade. Another gem is Paul's friend's observation of the family's grief. Paul's dad Jack becomes obsessed with History. While the narrator has no interest for Jack's research he converses with a pretended interest out of compassion for Jack's pain."I love the man because of his pain. When we talk about the Battle of Queenston Heights or the tragic Tecumseh or the tireless John Graves Simcoe, I come away with the impression that we have been talking about Paul all along."Its a sad and insightful point that a father should never have to watch his child die. Finally, my favorite thought is on how we die. I have always hated the idea of dying slowly and pathetically. The narrator feels the same. After watching Paul deteriorate into a 78 pound feeble mass of rotting green flesh he asserts a better way:"Not in bed for me for sure. I have thought about it. Better a bang than a whimper. Better a car crash with metal screaming and glass exploding, than slowly in bed. Better no goodbyes than slowly. Better a bullet than slowly. Just not in bed, not in bed."I think Martel is one of the greatest modern writers. His style is so real and vivid. He is efficient and his metaphors are a critical part of the themes. It makes for a wonderful and profound read. AIDS and lack of adventure are the only reasons I don't rate this 5 stars. The topic is so unappealing to me. I prefer a more manly story and only read because of my respect for Life of Pi. However, despite my lack of immediate interest on the topic, Martel's writing is so compelling and crisp that I was hooked from page one. This story was written before Life of Pi and is no less genius in wisdom or style. Martel's powerfully focused themes of death and friendship left me with moist eyes. Its a beautiful story.

  • Abby
    2019-02-17 14:33

    This is a collection of 4 works of short fiction, what Martel considers (according to the Introduction) to be the best of his early work, and I'm sure I'd agree; these stories are great. I like the each of the varying styles and formats of the stories, and the different voices he gives to the narrator. Each story was driven by emotional truth, and each made me think. The best of the bunch was the title story: "The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios" which is a brilliant tale of suffering and loss, about a boy with AIDS."The Time I Heard the Private Donald J. Rankin String Concerto with One Discordant Violin, by the American Composer John Morton" has perhaps too long of a title, and although I enjoyed reading it, it left no lasting impression on me, except for this wonderful saying that was observed graffitied on a wall, "I am magical. I can bleed for five days and not die.""Manners of Dying" was bewildering and fascinating and exhausting, and it never even explained itself. But I could not keep from turning the pages, and I could not help speculating about its significance; I have no idea what it means. It was wearying to read, and the ending came as a relief, even though I never got the explanation that I crave even now."The Vita Aeterna Mirror Company: Mirrors to Last till Kingdom Come" is thoughtful and very worthwhile. It says exactly what needed to be said.

  • Sam
    2019-01-25 16:23

    This is in an interesting collection of four short stories written by Yann during his earlier attempts at penmanship. The initial story that give the collection its name is moving, humorous, sad and brings home the reality of AIDS, not just on the sufferer and their family but also on their friends. The second story tells of a man who goes through the back streets of Washington and chances upon hearing a piece of music that stays with him but one that he can't portray or explain to his friends and shows the power a piece of music can have whether perfectly played or not. The pendultimate story is a collection of letters concerning the execution of a prisoner (the same one each time) to his mother detailing her son's last day, with a different scenario in each spanning the spectrum of human emotion and ways of dealing with Death. The last story tells of a machine that makes mirrors using the spoken word to do so. The man in this story doesn't realise this until the end by which time it is too late to listen to what his Gradmother is saying, a small lesson for us all I think. These stories are enjoyable to read and indicate Yann's unique writing and story telling style.

  • Matt
    2019-02-10 21:33

    This book consists of four pieces of short fiction. Basically, it is a 50/50 deal: two of the stories are okay and two are extraordinary. The title story and the third one, called "Manners of Dying" are the ones that are just okay. The title story is unique in concept but not terribly so in execution. "Manners of Dying" is something almost experimental and, while interesting, did not move me in any particular way. The other two stories, "The Time I Heard The Private Donald J. Rankin String Concerto with One Discordant Violin, by the American Composer John Morton" and "The Vita Aeterna Mirror Company: Mirrors to Last till Kingdom Come" are flat out fantastic. At the conclusion of "The Time I Heard The Private Donald J. Rankin String Concerto with One Discordant Violin, by the American Composer John Morton", I was so deeply moved I rather gasped; a heartbreaking, beautifully-conceived piece of work."The Vita Aeterna Mirror Company: Mirrors to Last till Kingdom Come" is a wonderfully imaginative thing, simply and oddly rendered, simply and oddly touching.

  • Eric
    2019-01-21 14:29

    A collection of short fiction by Yann Martel. In “The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios”, a novella of about 85 pages, the main character describes how he touches the life of his friend (Paul) dying of AIDS. Together they write stories based on historical facts from each year of the 20th century. I wanted to know more about the story within the story, the story that they wrote together, but that wasn’t what it was about. It was about the tragedy of the young man’s early death. It is fitting that the stories they create are absent. It leaves the impression of things left undone or incomplete; the same way Paul’s life is cut short.The title of the next story is “The Time I Heard the Private Donald J. Rankin String Concerto with One Discordant Violin, by the American Composer John Morton.” If that title doesn’t catch your interest then I don’t know what will. Or maybe you just don’t have an interest in contemporary orchestral music, but in any case it caught my interest. I wanted to be there to hear that music. What does a concerto sound like with an intentionally discordant violin? I’m still dying to know. Reading the story just made me want to hear it more. It’s really too bad because I did a Google search on “Concerto with one discordant violin” and I couldn’t find any real concertos. If it’s not on Google you know it doesn’t exist.“Manners of Dying” is a collection of alternate letters from the warden of a prison to the mother of a man executed for his crimes. Each letter presents an alternate version of how the man faced his punishment.The final story, “The Vita Aeterna Mirror Company: Mirrors to Last Till Kingdom Come” is told in a type of stream-of consciousness style. And the most common word in this story is “blah”. I’m not making that up. Perhaps there is something about the brevity of these stories, the compressed format, that both touches me and bothers me. There is so much more I want to get out of them, but it is precisely because they are so short that they are so potent – all superfluous details have been left out. In all of these stories Martel is trying to deal with Big Things. Death. AIDS. Memories. Art. Music. Dreams fulfilled. Dreams wasted. The fact that these stories are short doesn’t diminish them – it enhances them.

  • Ria
    2019-02-09 22:09

    Four great stories / novellas by Yann Martel the first The facts behind the Helsinki Roccamtios tells the story of Paul who is slowly dying of AIDS.The second The time I heard the private Donald J. Rankin string concerto with one discorant violin, by the American composer John Morton tells of a 25 year old attending a concert at a partially knocked down theatre and the emotions he feels listening to the music and a chance meeting with one of the performers afterwards.The third Manners of dying tells over and over again in slightly different incarnations the story of Kevin Barlow and his execution and the manner of it, his thoughts, feelings, mental state at his death.The fourth story, The Vita Aeterna mirror company: Mirror to last till kingdom come is probably my favourite, slightly edging ahead from the first one, The Roccamtios.This has a slight advantage for me personally in that is a tale of fantasy, whimsy and the past in general.It is the story of an old lady whose grandson discovers a machine for making mirrors when his grandmother asks him to search out a pair of old snow shoes.The grandson is bored by the past and her never ending tales of her life, this is highlighted by a technical device used by the author in that when the old lady speaks the grandson mentally cuts into the narrative and inserts "blah, blah, blah" whenever she is speaking thereby intimating disrespect, disinterest and downright boredom with the family history.But this changes when she describes the working of the mirror machine how it only works on memories spoken over it as it is magically making a mirror, thereby trapping the essence of that person's memories within the magical, finished item.Through this process the grandson understands and respects the past a lot more and proves that an older generation can teach something valid in the modern day.A charming set of stories with a hint of darkness and melancholy around each but personally I find this fascinating and a wonderful read.

  • Angela
    2019-01-31 15:10

    Life of Pi is one of my all-time favorite books; however, Martel's most recent novel, Beatrice and Virgil, was incredibly disappointing. So I was a little reluctant to pick up this earlier effort, and didn't have high expectations for it. That said, I really enjoyed this compilation. There are four short stories in this volume. I found three of the four to be very worthwhile. I struggled through the fourth one - titled "Manners of Dying" - which is simply many versions of a letter written by a prison warden to the family of a death row inmate following his execution. I especially enjoyed the "Helsinki Roccamatio" story and found it to be a unique approach to describing the AIDS-related death of a young man. Anyone who has had a late night philosophical discussion, usually in a college dorm and almost always with an overeager group of twenty-somethings who still believe that an opinion can have real weight in the world, can appreciate the imaginative creation of this Roccamatio family as a diversion from the more pressing, inescapable, real-world business of death. At the same time, the march of the story to each year of the twentieth century takes a friendship confined by death to a discrete, brief amount of time and stretches it. The "Donald J Rankin String Concerto with One Discordant Violin" gives us the idea of a life history behind someone who might otherwise be forgotten. It's almost as if you can see the author looking through a bank glass window, watching the night janitor work in between sips of "cleaner", and constructing/composing a life behind it. "The Vita Aetna Mirror Company" is an abstract story about the point in our lives at which our family stories change from being annoying interruptions into being valued recollections and treasured stories and memories.

  • Martin Boyle
    2019-01-23 14:24

    Four short stories, each with a good idea ready to come out. But having an idea isn't enough to make a book.And certainly not short stories that are padded out so much that they become tedious to read. Youthful efforts, I wonder whether anyone would have published them if it hadn't been for the superb Life of Pi. Certainly the stories could have done with a lot more reflection, a little work on honing the execution of the ideas so that they actually felt like short stories, so that they encouraged some serious thinking on the side of the reader. Or perhaps some work to develop the theme to make a novella?Of the stories, "The Time I Heard the Private Donald J. Rankin String Concerto ..." engaged me the most; "The Vita Æterna ..." was also quite effective, but columns of "blah-blah-blah-blah-" sort of make you feel the author is filling space, not creating an effect.And the weakest by far is the title story: again it felt like too much (rather random) padding. There was a good approach to capture the emotional drain of witnessing a friend dying, but this was suffocated by an apparently random series of incidents from 20th century history. Or was it a badly explained connection of historical events that got squashed by what came to feel like a mushy chronicle of a terminal illness? Better linking into a longer novel or complete divorce into two short stories might have been more satisfying...I didn't mean to go on so long, but somehow I really felt that Martel could and should have done better, that this was simply a publisher capitalising on success. Having now written this, I think I understand why I felt so disappointed to a point of actively not liking this book.

  • Jenny
    2019-01-29 21:30

    I agree with Katelyn - this book is a bit difficult to rate because I really liked the second story, thought the first was good but tried too hard, was okay with the fourth and really wanted to vomit while reading the third (I'm against corporal punishment). I hadn't read anything by Martel before (never did get around to reading Life of Pi, though I didn't have any desire to) and these were interesting. I also have to admit that I'm not a huge fan of short stories, but these were easy reads.The second story, the one about the Discordant Violin, was lovely and simple - about the weird effect war has on people and how life afterward might turn out. (It also makes me wonder what nighttime janitors do or look at while they're working - John Morton's look in the drawers for tampons was a little weird yet insightful.)I'm glad the third story, "Manners of Dying" was the shortest. I think I might have missed the point because I was horrified by the subject matter (prison warden writing hundreds of letters to an inmate's mother about the final hours of her son's life). There are so many letters, each a little different, about how Kevin reacts - in some instances he's sad, some he's agitated, and in a couple, (view spoiler)[he dies before the hanging is scheduled to occur, either by his own hand or by a heart attack. (hide spoiler)]The title story was good, but the ending was inevitable. I thought the unnamed narrator's idea of coming up with stories was a good one. Probably intentionally a distraction mechanism. This apparently was based on real events.The fourth story about mirrors was almost too quick - I wanted to know more about the narrator's grandmother! I didn't really get what was going on till almost halfway, though that was almost certainly intentional.

  • Melinda
    2019-02-08 14:17

    Concise, exact, strange and engaging. It’s hard to describe Yann Martel’s writing, but it leaves the reader with a feeling, a deeper sort of understanding of the world, or perhaps a recognition of the confusion by it. In this collection of four totally different novellas, Martel turns bits and pieces here and there into four, complete-yet-not-complete, first-person accounts. The plots are vague, the emotions are present but not overdone: they are what create the stories in the end. Readers expecting another Life of Pi will be disappointed. Not only is this not a novel, but it’s also a different style than Martel’s best-seller. It’s not so much the story but everything behind the story. Martel chooses his words well; he raves over the meticulous art of punctuation; and the corollary is a mix of light-heartedness and humor in the face of despair and hopelessness. It’s a strange combination, but everything about Martel’s book is strange. The characters and their stories come out of nowhere; then they leave you behind with a turn of the page. The novellas come in order of longest to shortest, but in all of them, carefully, Martel sprinkles specific details about. He sees writing as not the flow of endless words, but as an art, and with close attention paid to the syntax, punctuation, and dialogue, he ties threads of life together into four delightfully different and unique stories that end quickly on the pages but linger in the reader’s mind.

  • Roger DeBlanck
    2019-02-02 17:23

    Canadian writer Yann Martel became a literary sensation when his novel Life of Pi went on achieve worldwide bestseller status while also winning the distinguished Booker Prize in 2002. Many readers were elated to learn that Martel, although virtually unknown before the success of Life of Pi, had actually published his first book in 1993, an unceremoniously-received collection of short fiction titled The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios. With his newfound stardom, his publisher re-released his first book. Martel states in the introduction to the new volume that the four stories act as the best of his early writing. They resonate with deep compassion and burst with creative energy. All four pieces demonstrate the early skill and daring of a writer experimenting with different literary styles. The first piece is the best. It charts the crushing impact of watching the slow, destructive decline of a young man dying of AIDS, which he contracted from a blood transfusion. Martel provides a numbing and accurate depiction of the range of emotions the victim goes through as he suffers against the unrelenting viciousness of the AIDS virus. The other three pieces may not reach the same emotional standard as the first, but they are all singularly impressive in their exploration of what it means to be human. Anyone who enjoyed Life of Pi will certainly find interest in these unique and powerful pieces.

  • Betsy
    2019-01-28 22:18

    A stunning group of stories that continue to haunt me to this day. The first, The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios was so incredibly poignant and moving, that I, usually not an emotional reader, cried while reading it, on an airplane no less. I will not tell you what the story was about, because the emotion was not about the result, but the process. Read it. In fact all the stories were very moving and definitely struck an emotional cord. The second story was about a concert performed by war Veterans written by one of their own. Very interesting on many levels; different. The next set of stories were my least favorite. They are set in a prison and was a series of letters written by the Warden of a correctional facility to the family of an executed prisoner. It is the same prisoner, but each letter is written slightly differently and tells a slightly different story. Clever idea and shows how a slightly different word or way of expression can tell an entirely different story about a life. The final story, The Vita Aeterna Mirror Company is a story of a Grandmother and her Grandson. Again, an incredibly moving tale, one that is more about the process rather than the ending. Very captivating use of blah, blah, blah that is more descriptive than can can be imagined. Yann Martel is a genius, I cannot wait for book number 3!

  • Brida
    2019-02-09 19:20

    This is a book of four short stories, told in the first person. That makes them very intimate, and drags you into the story. They're all simple, but very beautiful in my opinion. There's one thing I noticed while reading Life of Pi, and I've noticed it here as well. The love. I know it sounds cheesy, but yes - love. I'll concentrate on the first story ''The Facts Behind...''. The narrator's love for Paul (the AIDS patient, but more importantly his best friend) is incredible. I don't quite know how he creates it, but it seems so real, and so painful. Hell, I loved them both! As I've mentioned, I felt like I was dragged into the story - as if I were one of the characters, living through all of the mess together with them.The first story and the last one (''The Vita Aeterna Mirror Company: Mirrors to Last till Kingdom Come'') are my favourites. Also - love in the last one The stories are a bit weird, so it made me think - what was this really about? But at least it made me think about it, which means it was good.It's an enjoyable read, an easy read despite dealing with serious subjects, but certainly a good read for people who like Yann Martel's work.''I like walking dogs. It gives purpose to aimlessness.''

  • Mallory
    2019-02-15 19:26

    I loved "The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios" as I think almost everyone would.Then I was blown away by the writing in "The Time I Heard the Private Donald J. Rankin String Concerto with One Discordant Violin, by the American Composer John Morton." Jaw dropping description of a musical experience, really, just incredible imagery as always. I love the way Martel writes - I can't think of any other writers who can capture a moment/experience/person/thing as vividly as he can. The actual story was much less important to me than the writing in this particular case.I was so enthralled by "Manners of Dying" that I went several stops too far on the subway without noticing. (That has never happened to me before.) (This was my favorite story.)The fourth and final story, "The Vita Aeterna Mirror Company: Mirrors to Last till Kingdom Come" was my least favorite; unfortunately, it pales in comparison to the other three stories in this book. Overall, a brief but mesmerizing collection. I'd highly recommend it. I've already thought of someone who will be receiving a copy for their birthday later this year.

  • Greg
    2019-02-09 16:28

    I found this at a Big Lots marked for $3 but it rung up 54 cents. A neat find and worth much more! I really enjoyed the whimsical experimental quality of these stories. The first wasn't my favorite but the rest were spectacular. The descriptions of the music in the second one really spoke to me and made me feel as if I could hear the music being performed, including the mistakes! Manners of Dying is hypnotic in its repetition. Really makes me wonder how this was made into a feature film! Finally, the mirror story was very comforting and thought-provoking. It just caused me to really reflect on (to borrow a phrase from my GA) what is simple in life.

  • Kathrine Holyoak
    2019-02-15 21:31

    I don't give stars lightly, so these 5 shine brightly (my last five spot was 7 months ago). Went to a second hand store for a used book that wouldn't matter if "summer" happened on it, recognized the author, hated the title, took a chance & won the jackpot. A short story is successful when the reader wishes it were longer. Martel batted 4 for 4 in this compilation. My favorite was the "Discordant Violin", but each had lines that made me dig deeper into myself to expand my depth and breadth.

  • Shannon
    2019-01-23 17:14

    I really liked this. It isn't easy to find good short stories and not every author can manage them, but Martel is a welcome exception. The Discordant Violin was my personal favorite. I'm so grateful my fabulous friend Katherine not only recommended it, but lovingly forced it upon me. Those are the best kind of friends.

  • Teresa
    2019-02-04 15:06

    I really enjoyed these four short stories, written by Martel before his "Life of Pi," which I loved. The stories are inventive without being gimmicky, and emotional and engaging without being sentimental.

  • Alexia
    2019-01-21 21:16

    The first story was fantastic. My favorites designation is based exclusively on that.

  • Sarah
    2019-01-21 21:29

    Some of these stories had promise, but none of them felt finished or fully fleshed-out to me.