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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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Visible Empire
Hannah Pittard
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Robertson Davies
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Snow in May

Snow in May: Stories - Kseniya Melnik

The matryoshka doll on the cover is perfect for Kseniya Melnik's Snow in May. Like all short story collections I've had the pleasure to read, the stories are not equally weighted. There are some I love and some I think are only okay. In Snow in May, the best stories are found at the middle, nested between the rest, waiting to be found and bring joy to the one who loosened their casing.


The opening stories didn't impress me. The problem, I felt, was that the narrative style was much too summarizing. Events and back story were encapsulated within long meandering texts that did not in themselves move. As far as style, the stories were akin to oral tales passed down through the generations, being told by your grandpa. Some of these stories could've been fleshed out, descriptive text could've been acted out, and these tales could've been made into novels themselves. As they were, I found them to be tiring.


But then the surprises come, the stories that are smallest in scope: a boy at a piano recital, a girl in a dance class. These stories, “The Uncatchable Avengers” and “Rumba,” didn't have the broad scope that their predecessors had. They were tiny dolls at the center with all the heart. They were funny, heartbreaking, and thoroughly entertaining. They were two of the best short stories I've read in some time.


Moving away from these, the stories once again became broader and broader until the end, when the final story is a grandpa telling a story to his granddaughter. Ironic. Having already seen what was at the center, however, these stories didn't bother me as much as the first few. I'd found the joy at the center, and I was happy I'd read the book if for no other reason than these two stories.