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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Missing Persons, Animals,
and Artists

Roberto Ransom

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To purchase Missing Persons, Animals, and Artists

Title: Missing Persons, Animals, and Artists
Author: Roberto Ransom
Genre: Stories
Written: 1999 (Eng. 2017)
Length: 175 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Missing Persons, Animals, and Artists - US
Desaparecidos, animales y artistas - US
Missing Persons, Animals, and Artists - UK
Missing Persons, Animals, and Artists - Canada
  • Spanish title: Desaparecidos, animales y artistas
  • Translated by Daniel Shapiro

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Our Assessment:

B : finely wrought stories; interesting variety

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
World Lit. Today . 11-12/2018 Ryan Long

  From the Reviews:
  • "Ransom employs anaphora especially well. (...) Ransomís stories set free at least as many wonders as they define." - Ryan Long, World Literature Today

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The ten stories in Missing Persons, Animals, and Artists live up to the collection's title, many of them haunted by persons missing in various ways, as well as featuring animals (some of them, such as the crocodile in the first one, responsible for the missing people ...) and artists. An almost understated calm leads readers into these worlds -- some that remain placid, and others (such as in that first story ...) that reveal an unsettling and often dark deep behind them.
       Lizard à la Heart is a strong, short opening act, a woman nominally addressing the overgrown family pet that has taken over the bathroom -- a space beautifully evoked in its transformation from everyday bathroom to reptile-habitat. It's a lament of resignation, mourning, and then ultimately surrender: the animal has, in every way, grown beyond all initial expectations -- indeed as the woman has come to learn:

I also read that you never die of old age. If it weren't for accidents (someone killing you for your hide), you'd keep growing and would live forever. You're the closes thing to a god in the natural world.
       And man (and woman and child ...) here stand little hope in the face of god .....
       'The Dwarf Bull' also features an unlikely and unsuitable domestic pet, an undersized bull kept in an apartment -- a stair lift installed for the previous landlady who couldn't climb the stairs anymore, with its platform-seat moving along the stair-bannister, sufficient to also carry the bull up and down (since it can't manage stairs) so that it can (charmingly) be taken out for walks. In contrast to the creature from 'Lizard à la Heart', there's no menace to it; Ransom beautifully sums it up at the outset, too:
The bull was a bull. He didn't require mystery or labyrinth.
       The story also involves artists and art, as do several others; indeed, the creation of art is explored in a number of these pieces, such as 'Three Figures and a Dog' -- a two-part tale bridging past (creation) and present ((re)discovery and, to some extent (re)creation) -- and 'Vasari, Do You Hear Me ?'
       There are a multitude of vanishings, from the shadowy ones of the painting-story 'Three Figures and a Dog' to the all too easily imagined fall into the abyss of 'Snakes and Ladders': "When he fell into the pit, she leaned over it and saw that it was bottomless". Elsewhere, the absences are of a simpler, more everyday sort, such as in 'The Taste of Salt', where the old narrator struggles to write on a computer, about the death of a friend of his (which seems to be connected to the disappearance of files that the important figure had). Among the most successful stories is the extended and entirely unsensational 'Chanterelle', narrated by a student spending a summer working at odd jobs for a Mr.Vogel in Switzerland; Vogel's daughter is the flighty Chanterelle (he's very much into mushrooms and fungi) and she is an on- and off-again presence, her absence as weighty as her presence. 'The Midnight Man' similarly -- if much more darkly -- features a figure -- a photographer -- and a relationship marked, among other things, by separation and absence.
       There's an impressive steadiness to the voices -- first, second, and third person -- in Missing Persons, Animals, and Artists, even as their worlds, or pieces of them, at times are disturbingly shaky. Ransom's own steadfast command, and Daniel Shapiro's English rendering, reinforce that -- intensifying the sense of menace where it arises, but also adding depth to those scenes and tales that are otherwise surface-calm (i.e. suggesting ocean rather than pond).
       Most of these stories don't rely on sharp twists or outsized action; even where there is dramatic action -- plunges to death; violent attacks -- Ransom continues to focus on presenting atmosphere (and does so well). But the stories do also go beyond that, involving creative (often literally so, in the case of art being made) and inventive action. They are stories of ideas, more than character, too, the human (and animal figures), even where they feature prominently, remaining in some ways shadowy and elusive -- helping also to give the stories a fable-like feel to varying degrees.
       A fine, and finely wrought, collection

- M.A.Orthofer, 2 January 2019

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Missing Persons, Animals, and Artists: Reviews: Other books by Roberto Ransom under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Mexican author Roberto Ransom was born in 1960.

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© 2019 the complete review

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