A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
Saturday Shorts Week 32
Welcome to our weekend series for 2014. Every Saturday this year one of our staff will suggest a favorite short story from the library’s collection, all of them a great choice for quick weekend reading.
I have a lot of readerly ambitions in this life. I’m happy to have accomplished a fair share of them. A few of the seemingly daunting tasks of my youth like War and Peace and Ulysses turned out to be real joys that I’ve returned to over and over. Others like Remembrance of Things Past and Finnegan’s Wake remain half finished.
The newest glimmer in my eye is La Comédie humaine, Balzac’s loosely connected series of novels, novellas, and stories that add up to 91 individual works. I don’t really expect to finish them all, but then again, considering how much I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read already, why not start picking away and see where it takes me?
“Facino Cane” is my favorite of the few Balzac shorts I’ve read so far. Our nameless narrator meets the old, blind clarinetist Marco Facino Cane at a wedding. With a kind of sixth-sense for great tales, the narrator asks the clarinetist for his life’s story. Facino Cane does not disappoint with his adventurous tale of riches to rags. It’s got burglary, gambling, jailbreaks, romance, and treachery. It starts in the Doge’s Palace in Venice and ends in a Parisian asylum. But it’s much deeper than that all suggests. Balzac’s empathy for the haggard old man telling the tale comes off the page even more clearly than the adventure. “Let’s leave,” Facino Cane begs of the narrator. “Will you take me to Venice? Will you lead me there? Will you put your faith in me?”
“Facino Cane” is a great place to start (even if you know you’ll never finish) Balzac’s huge human comedy. It puts me at, let’s see now—3 of the novels, 4 short stories, and 1 I’d call a novella—that’s only 83 works left to go. That’s doable, right?
Review by Matthew