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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great short stories..., 27 Dec 2010
By 
J. Everington (Nottingham, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Oblivious (Kindle Edition)
I stumbled across this self-published (I presume) collection of short stories somewhere on the forums... There was a comparison made to Raymond Carver. Oh god, I thought, yet another writer who doesn't really understand why Carver was so good...

Well, guess what? I suspect Neil Schiller DOES know why. Obviously this isn't as good as Carver, but it is really very good, and in a similar style. The stories here touch on themes of depression, angst, divource, music & memory and illness. But the writing itself is stylish and and stops the whole thing becoming too drab and downbeat.

My favourite is 'Fugue' about a stag-do in a drab seaside town, but I've enjoyed nearly all of the stories here. A real lucky find, and at less than a quid a bargin.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quietly dazzling, 24 Mar 2011
This review is from: Oblivious (Kindle Edition)
I came across Neil Schiller's work a month or so back now, and have enjoyed dancing around the subjects of Bukowski and the Beats in the forums with him. Reading the work of people you have got to know is always a risky business, because as a reviewer you must be honest, and knowing someone you must be decent. But, 1. I had resolved to reda and review this before I knew anything about the man behind it, and 2. a good writer and a good person will never mind honesty.

Thankfully there is absolutely no cause for worry, because this collection is stunning. What Schiller does best is understatement. There is a quiet confidence in his prose, a simplicity, a levelness of tone that covers a depth and complexity of emotional content that is quite dazzling. This is the kind of writing I love, because it deals with life in all its messiness, but it does so without ever going down the road of bleakness and despair. it does justice to life's complexity but it does so without ever falling into the trap of "needing a good edit".

Thoroughly thoroughly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heart of Darkness, 26 April 2011
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This review is from: Oblivious (Kindle Edition)
Oblivious consists of twenty-one stories, almost all first-person male narratives. The narrator is seldom named. He could be anybody. He is anybody.

There is the prisoner in his cell, there is the man crushed by grief and guilt over the death of his daughter, there is the grown-up son paying a rare visit to his disintegrating father. Schiller makes us look at those bits of our lives that shame us and embarrass others - the saddest bits, the bits that can never be put right; the bits we must hide from the world, because the world doesn't want to see them.

For the most part, the anonymous narrator reveals only gradually, or perhaps only at the end, what is really going on. And all the tales, like all our lives, are really about the past. Something has happened, or has always been happening, and this is where it has led to: "Nothing ever starts. Not really. At some point you simply realise that you're in the middle of something that has been going on forever."

Every story in Oblivious presents us with a bleeding chunk of someone's existence, and in it we see the whole life. There is a reason for the brevity of the tales (one is only six words long): they are distillations; more words would only dilute.

Oblivious presents a bleak picture of human life. If there is redemption here, it comes through meaning. All these lives, Schiller says, really matter; they are worthy of our attention. It may not be much, but it's something.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Subtle, furious and dark, 17 May 2011
This review is from: Oblivious (Kindle Edition)
Hmm...where do I start?... so many individual stories/aspects/personalites to be encountered...each and all worthy of the author's feelings/intentions.
Emotional, hard hitting facts of life. This book is not a bed of roses, "La Vie En Rose?"... no way! A sincere portrayal of captured life through the kaleidoscope of the "captured"....
Profound but never profane.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Atmospherics in gray, 11 April 2011
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This review is from: Oblivious (Paperback)
I bought this book because the proceeds were going to charity, and I had no great expections of it, nor had I much of an idea what I was getting. If I had known, I probably wouldn't have bought it, and I would have missed out on something well worth reading.
This is not an easy fun read... I usually read very fast and wait until I have finished to absorb the meaning , but with this book I couldn't do that. I found myself stopping after each story to let it sink in, and I could only read two or three at a time. This is partly because they are quite gray and gloomy in mood, but also because there is so much more in them than the bare words. The writing is very economical, and never explains when it can suggest and leave you to fill in the gaps. The atmosphere was there from the start, but gradually a theme emerged, of relationships that are not working , and people who have given up. There is not a lot of hope here. There is despair, or desparation, or apathy, but no suggestion that the characters can find a way out, or even that they are looking for one any more.
I loved that language that I found here - several times going back to savour a phrase or sentence and enjoy the sound and sense of it. In one place there was one plain short sentence, followed by one that was beautifully rich and expressive, that stayed with me for a long time 'I don't know what happened. Eighteen years circled round me like some elliptical predator and herded me through a twisting labyrinth of snap decisions and arbitary career choices.' I feel like that sentence, and in fact the whole book, took me on a journey through several lives of darkness and I emerged blinking into the light of day at the other end.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fly on the wall look at ordinary lives, 6 April 2011
This review is from: Oblivious (Paperback)
This is a wonderful collection of short stories. I enjoyed the sparse prose, the evocative description, and the fact that although the stories are all about different people, male and female, they could almost merge into one. All the main characters are struggling in some way. The themes of difficult family relationships, addiction, regret, depression, guilt, repeat themselves over and over. Schiller has created real characters; these could be people you pass in the street. Schiller has stripped away the layers that ordinary people use to hide their true circumstances or feelings, and gone beneath to examine and reveal the underbelly of human nature. We are taken right inside the characters' homes, hearts, and minds. Schiller has mastered the art of short story and likes to show off about it too. He has included a one sentence story, `Trapped', and a half a page story, `Half'--both of which are perfect--and the latter is one of my favourites in the collection.

The descriptive prose is fresh and original. An example of his writing, from, `Brand Awareness', a story about a man facing redundancy: "I've squandered six years of my life on this job. More if you count the myriad of spoiled hopes it pulled into the swirling vortex of its black heart. I've commuted over twelve thousand miles; I've missed my daughter's first steps, first words, first school play; I've worked and slept and stressed myself into an isolation around which my wife has built a new life to compensate. And it was all for nothing."

And from, `Sabotage', about a man estranged from his young son. "In the midst of the other families, in the kinetic frenzy and shrill excitement of the afternoon, we are silent and desperate and miserable. A dark stain on the gaiety of life. Two broken pilings of rock in a glinting sea of youthful energy."
There is much more where that came from in this fabulous collection.

This is a book that will give you a fly on the wall look at ordinary lives and the common scars and ties that bind us. It will reveal to you the hidden side of life, the side most people will never reveal, and of which we are usually 'oblivious'.

Highly recommended
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Oblivious by Neil Schiller
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