Summary

Here are four unforgettable stories by Yann Martel, the New York Times best-selling author of Life of Pi. In the exquisite title novella, a very young man dying of AIDS joins his friend in fashioning a story of the Roccamatio family of Helsinki, set against the yearly march of the 20th century. In "The Time I Heard the Private Donald J. Rankin String Concerto with One Discordant Violin, by the American composer John Morton", a Canadian university student visits Washington, D.C., and experiences the Vietnam War and its aftermath through an intense musical encounter. In "Manners of Dying", variations of a warden's letter to the mother of an executed man reveal how each life is contained in its end. The final story, "The Vita Eterna Mirror Company: Mirrors to Last till Kingdom Come", is about a young man who discovers an antique mirror-making machine that runs on memories.Written earlier in Martel's career, these tales are as moving as they are thought-provoking, as inventive in form as they are timeless in content. They display the startling mix of dazzle and depth that have made Yann Martel an international phenomenon.
©1993, 2004 Yann Martel; (P)2004 HighBridge Company
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Critic reviews

"These are stunning stories." (Booklist)
"Pathos is leavened with inventiveness and humor in this collection of a novella and three short stories....Richly satisfying." (Publishers Weekly)
"A small masterpiece....A serious and convincing work that demands to be read." (The Guardian [London])
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
2 out of 5 stars
By Douglas on 09-02-05

Tedious and disappointing

I really loved Martel's "Life of Pi"--a fascinating and engaging story. I had hoped to indulge in more fascinating stories by this promising writer, but evidently he hadn't yet honed his writing skills when he wrote these stories. I found all of the stories in this collection to be tedious and never really leading to an interesting conclusion. The "Helsinki" novella was so depressing, it took real effort to get through it. The "Discordant Violin" story just lacked interest; it was perhaps too ambitious for Martel to try to describe the power of a musical experience in his (here) underdeveloped style, and the way the main character hounded John Morton afterwards was a weak device intended to allow the author to express the anguish of the Viet Nam war second-hand, and it really didn't make any sense to me. "Manners of Dying" was an interesting concept, but I found the repetition of the warden's letters unnecessary and irritating. The continuous "blah, blah, blah" in the background during the "Mirror" story was an especially irritating device, although not completely ineffective.

If you read "Life of Pi", quit while you're ahead. If you didn't, make sure to read it, because Martel really made a lot of progress beyond this book. I wouldn't recommend this book, however.

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14 of 15 people found this review helpful

1 out of 5 stars
By Melanie on 12-01-06

don't waste your time

Boring, self-indulgent and pretentious; but mostly boring. Don't waste your time.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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