Wednesday, February 13, 2013

American Decameron

by Mark Dunn

I assume that Mark Dunn likes to challenge himself as a writer. For him, it doesn’t seem like just writing a great book is enough of one though. He’s got to find a way to tell his story in a way that’s unique, original, and that adds an extra level of enjoyment for those who read it.

With his first and probably most widely read book Ella Minnow Pea, he wrote a story in epistolary form while progressively limiting the letters of the alphabet that he could utilize. With Welcome to Higby he prefaced every chapter of the book with an obscure biblical verse that foreshadowed the contents of the chapter. In Ibid: A Novel he writes a fictitious biography of Blashette, a three-legged circus performer and deodorant salesman. On almost every page of the book Dunn includes footnotes. And the footnotes are what tell the true story Dunn is writing.

With a nod of his head to Giovanni Boccaccio, a 14th century Italian author who wrote Decameron, a book consisting of 100 tales, Dunn uses for the subject of his story, 20th century America. Dunn's 100 tales are independent stories that span the years 1901-2000 with at least one story taking place in every one of the 50 states. In some stories Dunn makes up his characters and has them experience actual historical events. Other times his character were real and the events that took place in their lives truly happened, but the events are very obsure and highly entertaining. Some of the stories are funny, some are tragic, some contain a twist, and many will make you pause and think. But they all bear the qualities of a Mark Dunn tale.

I loved this book and highly recommend it. But it’s not short. With 100 stories averaging 6-7 pages each, the book as a whole is a doorstop. But it’s the type of book you can pick up whenever you have a few minutes of free time and read a complete and entertaining story from start to finish and then go about your day.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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