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Third Class Superhero
de Charles Yu
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Of this collection there were some I liked a great deal, and others that to me felt like they collapsed under their own stylistic weight. Your mileage may vary as to which ones have that happen.
The first story in this collection, "Third Class Superhero", is a fascinating little tale in which the protagonist has very mild superpowers – he can pull a little bit of water out of the air. He calls himself Moisture Man and he struggles to even be considered among the superhero elite. You see, there is a protocol for those who wish to be considered card-carrying superheroes and, until you are accepted in the upper echelons, you have to keep going back to be recertified. Without certification, you are nothing. But when you are a third class hero, it is almost as bad. Moisture Man is faced with choices, including some ethical dilemmas, on how to proceed. The story ends with him beginning to understand the ramifications of his decisions – both good and bad.
I am starting this review with a description of the first story (a very good story, I might add) because my reaction speaks to the skill Charles Yu shows within this collection. You see, I was living under the misconception (no idea why, if I had read the blurbs and the cover and the Table of Contents and just about anything else closer I would have realized the error in my assumptions) that this was a novel. Imagine my surprise when the next section turned out to not be Chapter Two of Third Class Superhero, but the second story in the collection.
I was disappointed. I really wanted to know what happened next. (And therein is proof of how good the story was.) However, a new sense of excitement began when I realized I got to explore a whole set of stories from the author.
However, as should be expected, the collection started with one of the strongest stories. And I quickly found myself feeling the themes being explored were redundant and, even worse, the thoughts and the conclusions from those explorations were redundant. There is nothing wrong with exploring the same ideas, but you have to bring something different to the table each time. (Look what Monet did with a bunch of haystacks.) The stories hit far too often on the child's relationship with mother, and with the hopelessness that exists within daily life.
But before you walk away, let me point out another thing. Yu loves experimentation. In fact, the different types of experimentation – many wild and bizarre approaches – are so consistently bizarre that the strangeness almost becomes redundant. (Just how many lists can you read?)
You see, because of this experimentation and because of the quality of his writing there are stories here that stand out from the repetition and weird-for-weirdness's-sake quality. In other words, when Yu is not doing so well, the stories are okay to just below okay. (Face it; that is pretty good in itself. How many collections have you read where, when the author isn't on, you want to throw the book out the window?) But when he is on, he is really on. "Third Class Superhero" is a great example. Another is "My Last Days of Me" in which an actor has to cope with the change of actors in the play that is someone's life. (To be honest, at first I couldn't tell if the story was meant to be taken literally. I think it is. But that is just my thought.) Another example is "32.05864991%" where the term "maybe" is explored with mathematical precision and the author delves into the impact of events from the past on today's possibilities.
And then there is "Florence", a story that seems to be science fictional (after all, it is taking place on the edge of the universe where time is doing strange things) and a story that I have yet to fully grasp the full meaning of. However, there is something real going on here. (A Lynda Barry quote I recently read – "Something [can be] meaningful even if we can't say what the meaning is.")
There are a couple of dips and swales in this collection. But there are interesting experiments and there are engrossing tales that lift the material beyond the type we far too often see. Ignore the stories that don't work; focus on the ones that do.
Sad and funny at the same time. "Problems for Self-Study," which is a standard middle-class relationship story done as physics problems, is wonderful.
This is an amazing collection of short stories. I was looking for something different, and I found it in Third Class Superhero. Yu eschews nearly every narrative convention, especially realism, and comments on doing so as he writes. Despite the utter disorienting profundity of the language and narrative, the stories are poignant, human, and down-to-earth, dealing in the complexities of every day life. I loved it. What a brilliant writer!
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Wikipedia en anglès (1)
Charles Yu experiments with form and genre to explore the stories we tell ourselves while navigating contemporary life. In "Third Class Superhero," a would- be good guy must come to terms with the darkness in his heart. A couple living in the Luxury Car Commercial subdivision in "401(k)" are disappointed when their exotic vacation turns into a Life Insurance/Asset Management pitch. The author struggles to write the definitive biography of his mother in "Autobiographical Raw Material Unsuitable for the Mining of Fiction." In these and other stories, Yu's characters run up against the conventions and parameters of their artificial story lines while tackling the terrifying aspects of existence: mothers, jobs, spouses, the need to express feelings. Heartbreaking, hilarious, smart, and surprising, Third Class Superhero marks the arrival of an impressive new talent.
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Classificació Decimal de Dewey (DDC)813.6 — Literature English (North America) American fiction 21st Century
LCC (Clas. Bibl. Congrés EUA)
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Some of the stories are tight, finely crafted. Some of the others are more prose poetry. And yet others are almost, but not quite, stream of consciousness with lashing of philosophy (possibly not great philosophy, but I am no great connoisseur) ( )