Brendan Connell was
born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1970. He has had fiction published
in numerous places, including McSweeney’s,
Ships, Black Sails (Nightshade
Books, 2008), and the World Fantasy Award winning
Ministry of Whimsy, 2002), and Strange
Press, 2003). His published books are: The
Translation of Father Torturo (Prime
Books, 2005), Dr.
Black and the Guerrillia (Grafitisk
Press, 2005), and Metrophilias (Better
Non Sequitur, 2010).
with Brendan Connell
nights he would beat her. She adored him. He grew bored and left her.
When she looked in the mirror, it seemed to her that her tears were
Reviewed by Annie Clarkson
is a collection of 36 very short fictions, vignettes or "chapters",
some only a paragraph long, others four pages. It's a collection
with a strong theme: each story has the title of a city, and in each
one there is a character or set of characters with some kind of
alphabetized, starting with ‘Athens' and ending with 'Zurich'.
Almost half of the stories are set in European cities, but also we
have stories set in as wide ranging places as Gwangju, Havana,
Kinshasa, Manila, Quito, Peking, Sydney, and Uberlandia.
not sure this collection is really about cities though, or that it
truly captured the characters of the cities. Yes, each story is
detailed with aspects of a particular city - the name of a river for
instance or its streets, native trees, drinks or customs - but the
people seem much the same wherever they were, and each story's
trajectory is very similar: we are introduced to a place and a
character, and by the end, their particular obsession or perversion
book is filled with drunks, miscreants and sexual degenerates. Many
of the characters seemed scarred or ugly in some way. We have stories
about masochists, sadists, cannibals, erotic-pyromaniacs, and
characters obsessed with carpets, noses, soft toys, and broken bones,
for example. There is a man who finds a woman's head in the trash,
takes it home and falls in love with her. There is a woman who,
literally, gets sexual pleasure from the holy cross.
are all kinds of boundaries crossed in this book, including fetishes
about animals, pain, eating human flesh and so on. It's not
sexually explicit or graphic as such. It's perhaps cleverer than
this (not subtle at all, but not predictable).
pieces of writing have an almost fairy-tale or fable quality (without
a moral ending). So, in Peking,
Prince Zhu is described as "His lips were as red as cherries, and
his skin as white as rice-flour. […] Skilled with the use of the
mace, he could have slaughtered a dragon". This is definitely,
fairy-tale language and imagery. His particular obsession is being in
love with a vase, so we have a mix of fairy tale, magic realism and
adult sexuality, creating one of the stronger stories in the
stories often have an odd feel to them, brought about by the subject
matter, but also that some stories are set in an ancient time
indicated by "the bleat of sacrificial lambs" or words like "vestments". The language is often grandiose or unusual as well,
which adds to the sense of weird that the whole collection gives out.
were a few too many "whores" for my liking. I also felt that the
approach to sexuality was over-focused on the bizarre, disturbing,
obscene (rather than, for example the funny, tender, or sad). But,
then, that's what this book is all about.
was one of the stories that struck me most, because it reminded me of
a real-life story from the city that I live in. In Connell's story,
a very rich man meets a woman on the street and buys her some very
expensive shoes. He trails her around Paris making her step in
puddles, mud and horse manure, and then pleasures himself by licking
her shoes clean. It's written beautifully, and captures the act
well. When he pays her there is a hint of the dynamics in the
version of the story is much sadder, more desperate, guilty and
shameful than this one. It's more human in a way, because when I
was told the story by the person who was paid to have his shoes
licked, the context came across: why a young man might be in a
position where he would say yes to a rich man who wants to pay money
to lick his skanky trainers, and the complex power dynamic in such a
think this is what's lacking in these stories, the complex human
emotion, a hint of the psychology, the capturing of the relationship
dynamics. For this reason, I would say Metrophilias
is not a book for everyone.
some readers will find this a very strong and entertaining
collection. These fables and tales are clever, descriptively rich,
decadent, shocking, and at times beautifully-written. They capture
moments of weakness or indulgence in cities around the world, in
different eras, revealing an underbelly of sexual depravity and