The Dreamkeeper by Robert Ingpen
Published by Minedition, 2006 (first published in 1995)
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
I’m a big fan of Ingpen as an artist and particularly like to collect his illustrated editions of children’s classics. This brief original tale started life as a project to entertain his granddaughter.
There’s no real narrative to speak of; it simply describes the various tasks of the eponymous dreamkeeper, an enigmatic character responsible for capturing and returning any monsters that attempt to escape from our dreams into the real world. It’s simple yet charming, with world-building that holds real potential for further development.
People from My Neighbourhood by Hiromi Kawakami, translated from the Japanese by Ted Goossen
Published by Granta, 2020
Rating: ⭐ ⭐
I knew heading into this one that it would be a gamble, since magical realism doesn’t often work for me. But, when it does it tends to be when it’s in short story format, and having heard such good things about Kawakami’s other work, I decided to give this collection of micro fiction a shot.
In order to suspend my disbelief, I prefer fabulist elements to be grounded by a strong narrative, a compelling character, or to at least have an obvious thematic meaning. But these interconnected tales fall firmly into the weird for the sake of being weird category that simply does nothing for me, and they are are all so fleeting that there’s no time to establish an emotional connection. There’s no denying the presence of fascinating and visually striking concepts, but it feels more like a scrapbook of ideas and jumping off points than a fleshed out, cohesive collection. It also falls into the trap of having an opening piece that is by far the most compelling; this initial promise heightening the later sense of disappointment.
Not for me, sadly.