Writers are up for judgment on a whole raft of criteria. And, while writing as an activity may be both personal and cathartic, publishing is public and dangerous. Necks have to be stuck out and reputations have to earned, at least by any writer not pre-selected for the pulp route. Too often, the private does not does not translate into the public, and though the result might relieve, it does not communicate. Such criticism could not be levelled at Julien Haller’s intriguingly titled set of tales, Stories Of Who We Are And How We Eat.
In his autobiographical preface to the work, the author explains the origin of the title. It is an immediately enlightening connection, because the reader appreciates implicitly that for Julien Haller these short stories have much deeper significance and meaning than a few miniatures aimed at raising an odd question or pointing out a touching irony.
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There is undoubtedly a sense of catharsis throughout these stories. They are an examination of identity and dignity, often in the face of overwhelming power or odds. There is a strong sense of overarching morality, a vision of how things ought to be, usually from the point of view of an oppressed or down-trodden narrator or focus character. Even when the protagonist becomes the oppressor, such as in the last story of the set, there remains a sense of atonement, a ‘paying back’ for previous sins, a ‘getting back’ for inflicting previous pain. Retribution is definitely a theme.
A feeling of catharsis is inescapable, but nowhere does it dominate, nowhere does it descend into self-pity. The topics are serious, the ideas are grand and the oppression described and perceived is raw. But the writing style is light, often quite delicate, a quality without which the stories might appear one-paced. Combined with this lightness of style, these short stories, with their tortured emotions and pained lives, become eminently readable and, in their admittedly focused and limited way, enlightening.
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