- Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
Fable: A short narrative in prose or verse which points a moral. Non-human creatures or inanimate things are normally the characters — “The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory (4th Edition, 1998)
Normally, but not always: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is a fantasy or fable and all the people in this story of a man who was born old but grew younger are humans. Perhaps the fable most people are familiar with — because they studied it in school — is George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” and of course, there’s “The Little Prince” by St. Exupery. O’Henry’s stories are often cast in the form of fables or fantasies and I know Shelly Reuben is a big fan of William Sydney Porter — O’Henry. William Faulkner won the 1955 Pulitzer Prize for his 1954 World War I novel “A Fable,” viewed by many as a precursor to Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22”.
Shelly Reuben’s “The Man With The Glass Heart” (Bernard Street Books, 218 pages, $12.00, also available in an eBook, from Amazon.com and other sites) is a book you should read with an open mind and no preconceptions. As T.S. Eliot advised in “The Love-Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”: “Oh, do not ask, ‘What is it?’/ Let us go and make our visit.”
I’ll depart from my usual reviewer’s practice and use the description Shelly Reuben has written for the back cover:
Not since The Little Prince fell in love with a rose has a book captured the magic of a world where love longs for what it cannot have, recovers what it has lost, and the unimaginable flutters with luminescent wings out of crystal caves. Panache, an exuberant road gypsy, is on her way to the mountains. Benjamin Pencil, The Man With The Glass Heart, has no use for mountains. But their paths cross, their lives intertwine, and Benjamin follows her up, up, up, to where hills are smothered in poppies and a man can reach out and write his name in the sky. As they travel, they first encounter the beautiful but predatory Woman with the Breeding, a collector of hearts who tries to add Benjamin’s exquisite heart to her pitiable hoard; the malicious Man who Laughs, who lives only to create fear and kill dreams; and unpredictably Panache’s iconoclastic, unreliable, and utterly irresistible father. Papa plays his saxophone with the same wild abandon with which he lives his life, and cautions Panache that if the mountains are in a man, he will go there … and that mountains are in the man with the glass heart. It is in those mountains that they meet the melodious laughing bird. Melody, with her irresistible song and aquamarine eyes, lures Benjamin to an Arabian Nights world where hypnotizing creatures dance and sing late into the night. At what peril does Benjamin Pencil follow the melodious laughing bird? To what end? Can real hearts be broken? Is a shattered heart the end of all love? Or can it be a new beginning?
That’s a lot to absorb, but take my word for it, you’ll love this book and read it over and over. A fable is often the best way to tell the truth about something.
Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of the book, when we first meet Benjamin Pencil:
The first time I saw him, he was standing tall, straight and handsome beside his wheelbarrow with its enormous silver-spoked wheels gleaming like wet spider webs in the sun. Inside the wheelbarrow was a cushiony pillow of thick, luxurious blue velvet, and on that pillow, out-shining both the silver wheels and the sun, was Benjamin’s glass heart.
About the author
Shelly Reuben’s first novel, “Julian Solo”, was nominated by the Mystery Writers of America for an Edgar Award, and by the Libertarian Futurist Society for a Prometheus Award. Her crime novel, “Origin & Cause”, was nominated for a Falcon Award by the Maltese Falcon Society of Japan. The ideas for many of her books come from the cases she investigates as a licensed private detective and certified fire investigator. Use the search engine on the right hand side of this site for my reviews of Shelly’s books; for my reviews of her novels “Tabula Rasa” and “The Skirt Man”: http://www.huntingtonnews.net/columns/060605-kinchen-review.html
“The Man With The Glass Heart” is her first fable. Shelly also writes two newspaper columns, including one for Huntington News Network, and regularly contributes short stories to The Forensic Examiner. She lives in New York City. Shelly’s Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Shelly-Reuben/e/B001HON45G/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0