I don't know how anyone found this book "readable." Marche succeeds in creating three meaningful stories: "Pigeon Blackhat" (which somewhat successfully echoes Defoe),"Sufferance Row" and "The Master's Dog." Almost all other stories are uninteresting, amateurish and seem like exercises in style. Overall, I was left completely disinterested in Sanjania and its literature. The concept had so much potential...
I picked up this book solely on the precis on the dust jacket. I was curious - could the author pull off this conceit, or would it simply turn out to be a clever gimmick that went horribly wrong? I must say I was MORE than impressed by this clever yet READABLE "novel". Its very form makes me question what constitutes a novel.
There is no linear plot, per se. Instead, the book is an anthology of short stories which chronicle the history of literature on the fictitious island of Sanjania. And yet, these short (fictional) stories by (fictitious) Sanjanian authors manage to evoke for the reader a believable history of the island while giving him a feel for the life and customs of its people. Extraordinary.
Mr. Marche easily changes stylistic hats - and the breadth of his writing style is truly astonishing. While it may be true that not ALL of the stories are first rate (perhaps intentional?) there are quite a number which have a freshness that I found quite appealing.
I cannot think of another book which has so pleasantly surprised me in recent memory. A truly delightful book.