About the Book
From the bestselling, award-winning author of The Winter Soldier and The Piano Tuner, a collection of interlaced tales of men and women as they face the mysteries and magic of the world
On a fateful flight, a balloonist makes a discovery that changes her life forever. A telegraph operator finds an unexpected companion in the middle of the Amazon. A doctor is beset by seizures, in which he is possessed by a second, perhaps better, version of himself. And in Regency London, a bare-knuckle fighter prepares to face his most fearsome opponent, while a young mother seeks a miraculous cure for her ailing son.
At times funny and irreverent, always moving and deeply urgent, these stories – among them a National Magazine Award and a Pushcart Prize winner – cap a fifteen-year project. From the Nile’s depths to the highest reaches of the atmosphere, from volcano-racked islands to an asylum on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, these are tales of ecstasy, epiphany, and what the New York Times Magazine called the “struggle for survival…hand to hand, word to word,” by “one of the finest prose stylists in American fiction”.
Format: Hardcover (240 pages) Publisher: Mantle
Publication date: 14th May 2020 Genre: Literary Fiction, Short Stories
Find A Registry Of My Passage Upon The Earth on Goodreads
I adored Daniel Mason’s novel The Winter Soldier so you can imagine my delight when the lovely Camilla Elworthy at Mantle offered me a proof copy of his latest book, a collection of stories intriguingly titled A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth.
Usually in a collection of short stories there are one or two that fall a little flat or which aren’t as engaging as the rest. Not so with this collection as each story offered something slightly different and had its own special appeal, whether that’s the immersive atmosphere of a period in time (such as in ‘Death of a Pugilist’) or a place (as in ‘The Ecstasy of Alfred Russell Wallace’), a quirky character (as in the Jekyll and Hyde-like ‘The Second Doctor Service’), unexpected touches of humour (as in ‘The Miraculous Discovery of Psammetichus I’) or poignant moments (as in ‘For The Union Dead’).
However, if I have to pick out a favourite it would be ‘The Line Agent Pascal’ which tells the story of the lonely existence of a telegraph operator stationed in the depths of the Amazon jungle. He maintains a connection with the outside world through the signals of his fellow operators up and down the line. Over the years, he comes to know them from small details such as requests for medication, instructions to their tailors or orders for favourite foods, until one day the absence of a message changes everything.
As you read the stories, and especially as you read the strangely compelling and poignant final story, the subtle links between them and their recurring themes become clearer: the desire to explore, the search for understanding or knowledge, the urge to record for posterity. The book had me searching for more information about many of the characters featured, as a result of which I can safely say I know more about a Brazilian who made art from found objects than I could have possibly ever imagined. Tip: search online for some images of the work of Arthur Bispo do Rosário.
As I was reading an uncorrected proof copy, I can’t share any quotations so you’ll just have to take my word for it that the book contains some superb writing. A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth is a tour de force of imagination and one of the most absorbing and satisfying short story collections I’ve ever read. Highly recommended.
In three words: Dazzling, imaginative, assured
Try something similar: Beautiful Star & Other Stories by Andrew Swanston
About the Author
Daniel Mason is a physician and author of The Piano Tuner (2002), A Far Country (2007), The Winter Soldier (2018), and A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth (2020). His work has been translated into 28 languages, awarded the Northern California Book Award for Fiction, and shortlisted for the Simpson/Joyce Carol Oates Prize and James Tait Black Memorial Prize. The Piano Tuner was produced as an opera by Music Theatre Wales, and adapted to the stage by Lifeline Theatre. His short stories and essays have appeared in The Atlantic, Harper’s, Zoetrope: All Story and Lapham’s Quarterly; in 2014 he was a recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.
A Clinical Assistant Professor in the Stanford University Department of Psychiatry, his research and teaching interests include the subjective experience of mental illness and the influence of literature, history, and culture on the practice of medicine.