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Zencore!: Scriptus Innominatus
editor: D.F. Lewis
Meganthus paperback £8

review by Mario Guslandi

Zencore! is nothing but the latest instalment in the Nemonymous magazine anthology series, created, edited and published by D.F. Lewis, the basic idea of which is to present the reader with a bunch of short stories whose authors remain temporarily unidentified. It's a very effective way to avoid prejudices related to the writer's fame (or the lack of it) and savour a piece of fiction for what is worth.

The present anthology, for the first time, discloses the names of the contributors but they are listed at the end of the volume in alphabetical order, thus making it impossible to connect the single stories with their authors, or create a further challenge to the reader and the reviewer. For instance, although aware that one of the contributors is Reggie Oliver, one of my favourite writers, I was at a loss to pinpoint which story might be written by him. By now the authors' names have been disclosed and I'm able to connect titles and names, although, of course, my opinions about the merit of the single stories remain unchanged.

More than ever, the new Nemonymous is a very mixed bag of sub-genres, featuring tales of extremely uneven quality, the yardstick for their acceptance being simply the editor's taste. Of course my own taste sometimes coincides, sometimes clashes with Lewis' editorial decisions. To me the best story in the book is by far The Awful Truth About The Circus by Scott Edelman, an extraordinary, insightful tale of loneliness and despair, in which the disappointments of life affect a small-town young girl. Another excellent piece is MMM-Delicious by Reggie Oliver, a very enjoyable story set in the world of commercials and featuring a very peculiar actor.

Very good contributions are Nick Jackson's The Secret Life Of The Panda, a fine psychological study about the difficulties of human relationships and the hardness of every day's life, Mark Valentine's Undergrowth, a short, affectionate tribute to book readers and collectors and their love for scarce volumes, and the offbeat Fugly by Patricia Russo, where an unknown creature breaks in through the bathroom window into the house and into the life of an unhappy couple.

Not entirely accomplished are The Nightmare Reader by S.D. Tullis, an elegantly written but slightly boring piece about a man obsessed with boll weevils, M.P. Johnson's Upset stomach, a surrealistic piece with a touch of black humour, Charles Black's The Coughing Coffin, a classical narrative taking place in a men's club, remarkable only for its tremendous anticlimax, and Brian Rappatta's The Plunge, the unusual portrait of a devil's daily job in a boiling hot inferno.

Although somehow less satisfactory to me than some of the previous volumes, the book constitutes a rewarding reading experience to anyone interested in today's fantastic fiction and in particular to lovers of short stories.

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