"When I say that Miss Christina Steads Salzburg Tales are far better than the Decameron, I intend nothing but disrespect to Boccaccio, the prince of bores.
No rating (didn't finish) It's worth reading some of this if only to learn how powerful an author's character description can be - superb! I gather this is written in the style of The Canterbury Tales, another work which has never captured my imagination, although I am generally fond of short stories. Because I read only the first part of this, I cant rate it in good conscience, but I would like to share a sample of her extraordinary 5star style.
One day Ill reread The Salzburg Tales, and Ill pay more attention to the storytellers. I enjoyed Ms Steads descriptions of each storyteller (The Personages) but there were so many of them that by the time Id got to their particular story, I needed to go back. As I finished reading it, I wondered whether Id have enjoyed it more if Id felt that The Personages were somehow more connected to the stories they told?
The Salzburg Tales is a 1930s take on Chaucers famous Canterbury Tales, following the same pattern of a group of strangers meeting (in this case they are all attending the opera at the Salzburg Festival) and deciding to tell stories to pass the time. As a result, Steads characters are all the sort of middle class people who might attend an opera festival and so, although she has a keen eye for detail, there are none of the great individuals like the Miller or the Wife of Bath who stand out. Because the characters are all very similar, so are their stories.
Stead in my humble opinion is one of Australias greatest authors and having read this novel just seals the deal for me. The characters are beautifully realised It is an extraordinary collection of stories and I was moved, engaged and transported into these diverse lives.
Although the quality of my high school English teachers varied significantly, I was fortunate to be placed under one of the modern masters of Philippine literature in my English subjects for college. Because he was a good teacher and a kind person, I tried my best to excel in his subject (especially because I also love literature). It was one of the few times I got a score below B+ in a literature paper, because he told me I was verbally incontinent: I tried so hard to emulate Faulkner's writing style that instead of being concise and clear with my statements, I instead contracted Montezuma's revenge - on words. So if you expand those types of sentences and stretch them into five hundred pages of below-average stories, you'll get The Salzburg Tales. I bought this book primarily because of its attractive cover, and because of the lofty comparisons to Decameron and The Canterbury Tales.
Careful reading and judicious underlining slowly brought the threads together as I made my way through the Prologue which gave us our sense of time and place, through to The Personages, where Stead introduced us to her storytellers. Stead obviously enjoyed the intellectual exercise that is The Salzburg Tales. The thing I missed most whilst reading this book though, was character development.