The Musical Illusionist: And Other Tales 

Alex Rose
 Hotel St. George Press
Available now

Had Borges ever hosted an episode of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, it likely would have looked something like Alex Rose’s new story collection, The Musical Illusionist. Amnesiac tribes, mnemonic landscapes, Pythagorian conspiracies — the book comes crammed with just the sorts of wonders the Sage of Buenos Aires might have delighted in putting on prime time. Unfortunately, it never really becomes anything more than that. Rose brings out his marvels, blowing through them in hit-and-run style, but with a few exceptions (the story “Fairos,” for one, is a quite nice re-imagining of the rise of Postmodernism), his tales remain essentially a simple catalog of curiosities. This is fine, perhaps, so far as it goes, but the result comes off as less a collection of fictions than a well-crafted version of the “Fun Facts” sections once found on the backs of your better juice boxes. Also dragging down the enterprise a bit is Rose’s unfailingly detailed but often imprecise prose. The Borges-Calvino mode is a notoriously risky one for imitators. Rose’s attempt is laudable. The end product, somewhat less so.

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