101 Detectives by Ivan Vladislavic
'How toxic are you?' is the formidable question raised by South African author Ivan Vladislavic in his latest short story collection. Vladislavic commentates on his country's historic hardships by tapping into different visions and perspectives, providing insights into the suffering of a group of people who just happened to have black skin. By placing his characters in an appropriately chosen setting he exposes their versions of the world.
In one, a South African in San Diego is confronted with another person's strong perceptions of what he thinks South Africa is like. The author makes the point that this view of a non-native is a common one. Another story focuses on a woman hired as a corporate storyteller for a multinational. She feels she can never quite live up to the standards of the corporate poet who often appears out of the blue, delivering faultless speeches, always elegant. As the storyteller is left to think up the most fitting narrative she wonders if people realise she still exists. Will the big bosses ever even use her content? In 101 Detectives, Joseph Blumenfeld tells us things are tough in his competitive line of work, that what he really needs are more dead bodies to supply the demand.
Vladislavic's enjoyably imaginative writing style is tempered by the fact his characters remain largely underdeveloped, meaning that by the end, reading develops from a pleasure into a chore.