Customer Reviews


6 Reviews
5 star:
 (1)
4 star:
 (4)
3 star:
 (1)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing but powerful
"Black Vodka" is a collection of ten previously published short pieces of writing by Deborah Levy, many first published in the early 2000s. The most recent is the piece from which this collection gains its title which has been shortlisted for the 2012 BBC International Short Story Award. As a compilation of her writing, obviously these were not written to appear together,...
Published 19 months ago by Ripple

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars The Art of Levitating Prose
Levy writes with a distinctively light touch, prose that almost seems to levitate (no pun intended) above the weightier substance of what her stories discuss. If you are looking for a clear storyline, you might be disappointed. Levy's writing is more about capturing a mood, a space in time, and a sense of an idea.

In this collection of 10 stories, the reader...
Published 18 days ago by J. Ang


Most Helpful First | Newest First

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing but powerful, 14 Dec 2012
By 
Ripple (uk) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
"Black Vodka" is a collection of ten previously published short pieces of writing by Deborah Levy, many first published in the early 2000s. The most recent is the piece from which this collection gains its title which has been shortlisted for the 2012 BBC International Short Story Award. As a compilation of her writing, obviously these were not written to appear together, but some clear themes emerge from the collection, namely a deeply disturbing look at the search for love, particularly amongst those on the edge of society.

The collection is described as ten "short stories" and while there can be no doubting the accuracy of the term "short" here - all of the pieces are short and some very brief - these are "stories" only in the widest sense of the word. It's probably better to think of them as creative writing pieces. They are more like vignettes or snippets of haunting dreams. They work on the reader much more like a poem does, providing images and set ups rather than what you might conventionally think of as stories.

The other part of the publisher's cover blurb that I take partial issue with is the reference to Levy's "razor-sharp humour". The "razor-sharp" phrase is accurate - her writing is indeed sharp and edgy, but I, for one, detected nothing that I would call "humorous". In fact, the collection as a whole is mysterious and more often than not, deeply sad. Perhaps the essence the publishers were trying to convey is a sense of playfulness about some of the settings, but I'm not sure you can have "razor-sharp playfulness" - but if you can, then this is a good example of it. Many of her settings are strange and if I hadn't known the author's identity, I would have guessed at a Latin American origin. It has that almost nightmare-like sense of strangeness.

The brevity of each story makes it tempting for the reader to want to "just read one more" but I'm not sure this is the way to get the best from these pieces. They work best if you dip into it and read one and then let the images play around in your mind. Taken together they can come over as a little too disturbing. One minute you are reading about a hunchbacked advertising executive seeking the love and acceptance of a colleague's girlfriend in "Black Vodka" and another you are reading about a wife's premonition of the end of her marriage in "Roma". In "Stardust Nation" Levy returns to the corporate world and has a weird transference of an executive's early life trauma seemingly switched to a colleague, while in "Cave Girl" the narrator is a boy who falls in love with his sister's new image. "Placing a Call" is a painfully sad story of loss which is perhaps the most creatively imaginative piece in the collection.

Strange and sad, yes, but this is an interesting collection of images about the search for love and loss of love in a very modern world. The sense is one of isolation in a busy world. Levy's prose is distinctively intriguing and highly original. Just be warned that if you read before bed, this might give you unsettling dreams.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short stories to savour, 31 Dec 2012
By 
Eleanor (Oxford, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
"Black Vodka" consists of ten stories, half of which can also be found in Pillow Talk in Europe and Other Places (Lannan Selection). In the title story an advertising man, known by his colleagues as 'the Crippled Poet', is tantalized by the promise of love from an archaeologist fascinated by his deformity. This sets the tone for many of the collection's stories in which the bonds which connect people are examined, both as they form and as they fall apart.

As in her recent novel Swimming Home, Levy's style is lucid but poetic. Surreality or strangeness often intrudes into her recognisable settings and one gets glimpses of the whole history of twentieth-century Europe in her characters. This is especially true of 'Vienna' in which a man of Russian descent imagines his rich lover as being middle Europe, specifically Vienna: "She is the sound of polite applause. She is a chandelier. She is a velvet curtain. She is made from the horn of deer found deep in the pine forests of middle Europe."

In other stories the strangeness takes centre stage. 'Stardust Nation' tells of a man who absorbs the life experiences of those around him, whilst in 'Cave Girl' the narrator is unsettled by his sister's desire to have a sex change - one which will turn her into a different sort of woman, a caricature of a femininity.

"Black Vodka" is an enjoyable collection and most of the stories leave a strong impression. I found myself re-reading several, savouring Levy's characters, imagery, and poetry.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short but disturbing, 2 Dec 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I read Swimming Home (Booker short listed in 2012) and enjoyed it a lot, then saw Deborah Levy at Charleston short story festival and bought this book on the strength of it. The best ones are Black Vodka and Placing a Call.
Although these stories were written separately over a period of more than ten years there is a theme of falling in and out of love and the impact of resulting loss.
The characters come across strongly and there is a tangible sense of place in many of them. I liked the European feel to the collection with settings in Vienna and Czech Republic, dreams of Rome, visits to Spain and Ireland and many of the characters being non British. The collection feels very fresh and modern and part of multi cultural UK.
My only beef is the ratio of pages (100) to price (12) - I wanted more!!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, 31 Mar 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Black Vodka: Ten Stories (Kindle Edition)
Don't usually go for short stories, but this kept me entertained for a couple of hours when I was in bed feeling quite ill. Some of the stories were a little frustrating and puzzling, but maybe I had a fever?!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3.0 out of 5 stars The Art of Levitating Prose, 10 July 2014
By 
J. Ang - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Black Vodka: Ten Stories (Kindle Edition)
Levy writes with a distinctively light touch, prose that almost seems to levitate (no pun intended) above the weightier substance of what her stories discuss. If you are looking for a clear storyline, you might be disappointed. Levy's writing is more about capturing a mood, a space in time, and a sense of an idea.

In this collection of 10 stories, the reader comes across a variety of characters, some that would more probably be standing in the margins of a conventional story, rather than right smack in the centre of a narrative. In the titular story, an advertising executive with a hump on his back, flirts with a colleague's date at a launch with the single aim of bedding her. There is something unnaturally subversive about the premise that makes the reader flinch and at the same time cast about guiltily for being squeamish about the man's salacious venture, not because it is immoral, but for presuming that his physical defect should naturally disqualify him from such feelings. The sense of unease is even more pronounced when his first person voice confides in the reader right at the start about his hump and that he has "an incredible facility to wade through human shame with no shoes on". One is not sure how to relate to this character who is so aware of his failings and yet agreeably so.

Another distinctive trait of Levy's characters is how their voices seem to overshadow any fixed and formed personality. In "Vienna", a man muses over his enigmatic married lover: "She is middle Europe... She is Vienna. She is Austria. She is a silver teaspoon. She is cream. She is schnapps. She is strudel dusted with white icing sugar. She is the sound of polite applause", each description as defining and constraining, and yet never getting any closer to grasping who she is. And yet in a sense, it is so telling of the man's inability to understand who she is.

The dreamlike quality of Levy's writing is perhaps most apparent in one of the shortest stories, "Placing a Call" which reads like a mood piece, or a shifting picture montage, where the narrator runs into a room to pick up a call and hears the ringing and dial tone simultaneously. "Someone is missing. Someone is trying to get through. And then I remember there is a bird in the garden that imitates a telephone when it rings" and the narrator runs back out. It is as inexplicable as it is compelling.

At the end of this slim collection, the reader is left feeling unsettled, and yet strangely blissed out, tossed about by Levy's prose and ideas. Not recommended for everyone.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars true scatterings, 27 April 2014
By 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Black Vodka: Ten Stories (Kindle Edition)
Scrambled characters living wandering lives. True dreams and reflections moving unfiltered through passionate moments. Detailed impressions flooding through minds and hearts and feelings, framing, illustrating, contrasting, to better show lovely people in real moments of real lives.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Black Vodka: Ten Stories
Black Vodka: Ten Stories by Deborah Levy
5.40
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews