Within the body of work that Hrabal produced in the Moravian's life (ended tragically when he fell out of a fifth floor window whilst feeding some pigeons), Dancing Lessons... is more like one of the stories that Hrabal told whilst holding forth at his favourite watering hole, than his "hyper-realistic" novels like Closely Observed Trains. In style, it is one very very long sentence that surges forth like the source of an experiential river carving a valley through the life of a small town, through the eyes of its cobbler, a bawdy, burlesque character so typical of the "wise fools" with which Hrabal populated his novels. And in a sense, this choice of style could be its undoing. It's challenging to read, quickly mutating from its original theme like a stymied version of Joyce's stream of consciousness, or like a very drunk person digressing during a particularly involved history. In truth, there are several points where the sentence has actually ended but for the punctuation to signify such a stop. But this doesn't stop the novella from being a superbly entertaining and endearing piece of fiction, and a showcase for the talents of the man who in my opinion tops Kundera and Kapek as the Czech Republic's greatest author.
This one sat on my shelves for some time, being all orange and vulgar and putting me right off. But, as I was moving house and realised the extent to which my library consisted of books I may or may not read but are loathe to throw out, I came to the conclusion that chance would have to play its part in the selection of the next book I read, rather than good old fashioned logic. So, when I opened my eyes, dizzy from spinning, and saw my finger pointing to this giant orange tome I was a bit perturbed. Nonetheless, I am as stubborn as I am ridiculous, so onto the train it came, and stuck into it I got.What I found was nothing like what I expected. Okay, that's not strictly true. I expected a cop thriller with twists and turns set in a Disney-esque theme park, and that's exactly what it is. What surprised me was the totally accomplished voice, the effortless creation of suspense and the verisimilitude of the two LA cops, Lomax and Biggs (composites from a million TV shows, but still good solid cop type fellows). This is good stuff, and I must admit I read it pretty much straight through, with only minor detours into the daily duties of a retail manager, and a quick stop for lunch. Great value for the money, and a groovy way to spend a day becoming myopic.