Welcome to my first stop on the tour for Of Life, Death, Aliens and Zombies by Dario Cannizzaro. Today as well as my review I have Dario answering some questions about his book and once you’ve read that there is a giveaway that will hopefully pique your interest, but first here is what it’s all about.
Misnomer on purpose, this amazing debut rocks nine short and amusing stories – a Zombie Apocalypse without zombies; the Vatican announcing contact with Aliens; a heroin junkie that loves poetry; a timeless love, and much more.
Ordinary characters facing extraordinary situations, dry humor, philosophical musing dressed as whimsical, offhand commentary, and a fairy-tale like writing; those are the key elements of the style of this funny and thought-provoking collection.
The collection comprehends three previously published stories (“The Galway Review”, “Trigger Warning”, “Two Thousand Words” and “Chantwood Magazine”); five new unpublished pieces; and for the first time in English, the best-selling story “Impurità”, which was Selected Work in 2012 by Apple iBooks.
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The short story, the best I’ve written in my brilliant but short career as a writer – I’m gonna be sixteen next week – was supposed to be a dark critique of the insane gun culture, the shallow system of values, the rat-race lives, the fortune-cookie enlightenment solutions. I thought it was smart. Turns out, what I thought was smart here is called weird. Is called dangerous. Is called worrisome. – The Best Place To Plan A Mass Shooting.
I think there is something special about a collection of short stories, even after you read the blurb you know that there is always going to be some stories that come as a complete surprise. Of life was definitely a surprise in the best way.
Each story grabbed my attention, there was something very refreshing about the outlook of what was happening. It was thrilling because there was nothing predictable about any of these tales, they seemed at the same time plausible and implausible, creating a very original view of the world.
The writing is phenomenal, almost lyrical at points, managing to create a different atmosphere every time that pulls you deeper into the story. It is quite a short collection, however in my opinion, this just shows the talent of the writer, that he can create such feeling with so little words.
There is almost a cautionary tale aspect to some of these stories, giving us a critical but at the same time humorous look at the direction our world could take. There is perhaps some content that certain people may not be comfortable with but personally, I liked seeing the subject being written about with an alternative perspective to the one so often portrayed.
I think my favourites if I were to narrow it down would be…
Yet another zombie apocalypse – a very unique look at how a zombie apocalypse would play out.
The best place to plan a mass shooting – a boy writes a satirical short story and nobody takes it quite the way he thought.
Summers ended – An unexpected experience is shared between three people in a library.
This is a brilliant collection of stories and it definitely left an impression on me. I can’t wait to see what the author comes up with next.
So now you know what I think, it’s over to Dario who was nice enough to answer some questions about Of Life, Death, Aliens and Zombies…
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I’m a very curious person. I am always wondering how an object is made, how something works, what kind of life do they have in rural China, will we ever live on Mars. Stuff like that. And while I wonder, sometimes in the middle of nowhere my brain goes What would happen if…? – and usually there’s something very unlikely after the if, and that’s how a story starts. The exceptional seeps in the ordinary, and I am there to see how it plays out.
For me some of the stories have a cautionary tale quality, is this something that you think about before you write a story or is this something that has evolved naturally?
I grew up with Greek mythology and Disney movies. There’s always a message there somewhere, and we can really boil it down to Don’t be evil and Try to be happy. When you mix those two you end up with that cautionary aspect you’re mentioning, like in the fairy-tales of yore. Also, I think there’s a mandatory caution when exploring the questions of what is Evil? What is Happy? – and there’s so many answers to those!
Some of your stories in the book deal with subjects that some people might find taboo; do you ever worry about the response to your work due to these topics?
I do and I don’t. I write the stories as they come to me, and know that some topics might be borderline. I don’t write to shock – I don’t look for the cheap thrill. This is the key element – if in my story something taboo happens, it’s because it’s pivotal for the story, for the character. The shock element might be there, but it’s secondary to the emotional development of the characters. I think this kind of exploration of the taboos is a very important part of literature; understanding something that scares us or upsets us gives us more power to deal (and prevent) bad things.
Do you have an idea of what stories will go into a collection beforehand or do you group them together afterward?
This is my first collection, and I didn’t really think about it when I was writing the stories, they sort of came together without effort. I think that the sense of being part of a unique book is given by the style of the narration more than from the topics – be it a SciFi story or a gritty pulp piece, the focus is always on the character, on how he/she sees the world.
How do you find writing short stories compares to writing longer pieces?
The start of a story is always the same for me – What if…? – so I don’t know what I am getting into when I start.
Short stories for me are like peeking into a window for a very short time; you see just a brief moment, witness something unusual happening, just before everything turns back to normal, or becomes the new normal. A short story is a brief interesting bang in a world of whimpers.
Longer pieces are more complex. Instead of looking into the window, I’m catapulted into a character’s world, and here I am, following his story. And sometimes – most of the times – you have to sit down with them and listen to everything they have to tell you, and if you’re strong enough to be there until the end, through thick and thin, and listen to the boring parts, you’re rewarded with a full story. That’s when the real work starts, which is, making that character’s story compelling for the readers. So it’s cut cut cut until you only have the best available.
Being bilingual do you write in Italian and then translate to English or write in both?
Funnily enough, when I was fifteen I started writing in English as my favorite authors were mostly English-speakers. I didn’t have the vocabulary back then, so I switched to Italian which is my mother tongue. When I moved to Ireland, it felt natural to write directly in English. I learned that many great authors (Nabokov, Conrad) were bilingual and wrote in English. They found that mastering a foreign tongue gives you a special edge which made their style unique. I understand what they meant by now and am happy I had to master English, instead of being born into it.
Do you feel like your stories translate well? Or is there occasionally a message or bit of humour in your work that gets lost in translation?
I’d say the majority of my stories won’t feel the difference, as they are born in one language directly. There’s a bunch of work I wrote in Italian. I think it’s going stay in Italian. The only translation I made is “Impurita”, which was originally written and published in Italian. I think English is a more direct language, so when translating that particular piece, I felt the need to cut a lot of corners to make it work – to give the reader the same feeling as they would have by reading it in the original language. Translating is hard, but translating literature or poetry is an entire different game I think.
What do we have to look forward to from you in the future?
You will be able to read my first full novel soon. It is called Dead Men Naked, and I like to define it as an urban fairy-tale. The premise is similar to the ones in my short stories – what if a normal, everyday man could talk to his angel of Death beforehand?
It’s really my literary attempt to deal with death, and learn to love the time we have. It is dark but humorous and full of poetic passages. The title is actually drawn from the poem “And Death Shall Have No Dominion” by Dylan Thomas.
If I had to make ambitious comparisons, I’d say it takes a lot from Neil Gaiman and Cormac McCarthy.
It’s going be available in print (paperback) and digital (Amazon) around March 2017. I hope you will like it!
I have a sneaky suspicion that I will! Now to the bit that you’ll really like…the giveaway!! So if all of the above really has piqued your interest then you should click the link to win…
DARIO CANNIZZARO was born in the sun-eaten Naples, Italy in 1982. He moved to Ireland in 2011, and has called it home ever since. He started writing short stories at seven, which are shamefully lost forever, but has never stopped writing since. His works have been published in Italian and English in Literary Magazines such as The Galway Review, Two Thousand Words and Chantwood Magazine.