Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Brubury Tales by Frank Mundo

NB I received a copy from the author for review.

The Brubury Tales is an homage to literature set in the form of a "big poem", in Frank Mundo's words. It follows the shape and form of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, updated to Los Angeles in the 1990s. A group of security guards working the night shift engage in story-telling to win a paid vacation, basing their stories on classic tales from literary history. Some of the tales I recognized, some were new to me.

I have to applaud this attempt to recreate Chaucer in modern America. Mundo has an earthy style that lends itself quite well to the bard's frankness in sexual matters and detailed depictions of the common man. Like Chaucer, Mundo mixes in a a poetic style (Chaucer took his from the French poems common in the Middle Ages) and this is where I think the book was less successful. I have to admit to skimming through the Brubury Tales version of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, but then I always found that poem hard going and repetitive.

The other thing I noticed was that the poem could have used some editing to cull out a few mistakes and obscure turns of phrase. But, sigh, I notice that kind of thing a lot.

In the end, what stood out from this work was the deep understanding of the ordinary guy in the street, and the ability to get literary concepts across in that language. If Mundo can focus his talents in that direction, I think the result could be some very interesting novels. I'll be watching.

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