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Blue Has No South [Paperback]

Alex Epstein

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Book Description

April 1 2010
"Epstein has a singular voice. The Moment that he decided to write prose was a blessed moment for the Hebrew literature of our times."
-Gilad Saari Levy

"Their love story ended many years ago. He still writes her name as a solution to crossword puzzle clues of suitable length."

Alex Epstein's miniature stories are indeed love stories, puzzles, stray clues to puzzles he never finishes, the beginnings or ends of philosophical treatises, parables, jokes, modernized legends, or perhaps a vivid handful of images thrown together, then allowed to disperse. This is a form of which he has been hailed as a master, a form as singular and intricate as a collection of fingerprints. His stories are populated by angels, chess players, mythical figures, Walter Benjamin, Franz Kafka, lovers young and old, writers of disappearing languages; they are set in airports, trains, the sites of legends, hotels, bookstores in countries that no longer exist, dreams. In each of them, Epstein draws precisely the smallest possible world, and revels in the great possibilities of a single sentence. In each of them, we are invited to celebrate everything that can happen before "the tip of the pencil breaks against the bright paper."

Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Clockroot Books; 1 edition (April 1 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566568064
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566568067
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 14 x 1.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 181 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,410,929 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quiet beauty in lovely verse for modern times Aug. 20 2010
By Amy Henry - Published on Amazon.com
Translated from Hebrew by Becka Mara McKay

I can't decide if these are short stories, lyric essays, or poems. In any case, Epstein has compiled little moments of mystery and romance, history and humor, into this slim volume from Clockroot Books. There are no dramatic flares, and no heartbreaking losses. Instead, the situations and events he describes in these short pieces are simple, personal, and honest. There is emotion, but the quiet kind endured by quiet people, an emotion that reads far more realistic than some authors can describe effectively.

In "Memory Card":

"In the winter they buy a digital camera as a surprise for the grandchildren, but they don't know how to connect it to the computer they bought the year before....the old couple takes pictures of each other. In March the woman dies in her sleep. Her husband finds the instruction manual that came with the camera and reads about pixels, about digital zoom, and jpeg and avi files, and other strange, miraculous concepts. In May he finishes the instruction manual, and removes from the camera the 1-gigabyte memory card. He places it in his deceased wife's jewelry box and closes the lid." The picture he has created in so few words reveals the enthusiasm of this couple to share with their grandchildren, the shock of death, and the quiet picture of a man diligently trying to figure out how to save her face. That he doesn't wish to share this "memory card" illuminates how deep his feelings are. I could easily picture him in a chair, trying to decipher the jargon and afraid of messing something up and losing the photos forever. Epstein puts all that into a deceptively simple little paragraph.

In "Another Way Out", he tells another picturesque story.
"A king once imprisoned a poet in a cellar and demanded he find the most beautiful word in the world. This legend has infinite endings. In one, the poet dreamed he carved the word on the cellar's ceiling. When he awoke, he didn't remember it-only that it was written in the font now called FrankRuehl.* In another, the poet doesn't discover (even in a dream) a hint of the word. All he manages, completely by accident, is to invent the game of chess." It has a fairy tale quality, dungeon and all, but the revelation of finding the most complicated game, the game of kings, in a search for beauty, is somehow exactly right.

Alex Epstein breathes life into a variety of topics in this collection: cosmonauts, lost cell phones, dreams, and an escaped elephant heading to another zoo in search of lost love. They are quirky and youthful but lack the sarcasm and edginess that sometimes settles into modern verse.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really-really short fiction at its best Oct. 20 2010
By Liath - Published on Amazon.com
The shortness of the stories belies their depth. With titles like "Another Conversation with Death," "The Last Dreams in the Garden of Eden," "The Crippled Angel," and "A Short and Sad Imaginary Guidebook for the Traveler to Prague," Epstein's stories are minimalist yet nuanced. When the end result is so short, every word matters, and Epstein plays with his words, coaxing multiple images out of a single phrase.

More of my review: [...]
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing! Jan. 8 2013
By JPP - Published on Amazon.com
Whenever I forget this book for too long, I'll remember "Continuity" in which "The time traveler returns home to discover that his wife has changed the locks again." And that that sentence can only be as much as it is, contain as many possible stories, all of them ultimately the same story, because it's the only sentence of the story. And that reminds me of his three-sentence story about writing love stories, in which if the first line can make the second obsolete, then it becomes the only line necessary, and that the sentence following that sentence points out that the future (which is the if) separates them (once again) more than distance. And then the title story, and "Positions of Sleep" and all of them. I love this book.

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