Matthew Louis Kalash
Helens: Not Necessarily About Sex
This entertaining collection of stories by Matthew Kalash revolves around themes of love and the arts, including painting, writing, history, mythology, and conversation, along with reflections about chess, cuisine, confectionery, travel, and literature. There’s even a little disquisition on the implications of pornography.
The stories are all set around the turn of the 21st century, before the rise of social media and the ubiquity of internet culture. A more innocent time…perhaps. Though they are related in tone and contain certain echoes between the stories, with one exception the characters inhabit their own narratives. The longest story – essentially a novella – is based around a couple honeymooning in Italy, who come across a manuscript that’s purported to be the personal diary of Francesco del Giocondo, husband of Lisa del Giocondo, the reputed model for the portrait known as the Mona Lisa. Does this prove Mona Lisa’s real identity? Is the manuscript the find of a lifetime, or just another con job inflicted upon on a hapless tourist? The story, which alternates between the text of the diary and events of the honeymoon, raises questions about identities not just historical but also personal for the newlyweds in Italy.