THIS trio of short novellas by Pietro Grossi deals with young men realising something profound about life and adulthood—and itself marks the coming-of-age of a superb new voice.
The intensity of sweaty-palmed set pieces—a boxing match, a Mexican stand-off on horseback—is paid off handsomely in brief moments when everything seems to make sense. The prose is clean, spare, unsentimental—leaving out the “mass of unspoken things that burn like hot coals”. Grossi, who is 32, says he doesn’t plan, eschews the “architecture” of the novel, and his tales are all the more authentic for it. It’s how we react that tells us who we are: one brother uses his horse to earn a living, the other sees it as a means of escape. The third story has an older narrator who returns home to find his parents liberated, his bedroom alien, and his best friend acting like a monkey. The tone is pitch-perfect: darkly comic conversations with agent, father and girlfriend, and the existential self-questioning, the “impulse to look round for hidden cameras and fake mirrors”. As the Strokes had it: Is This It?