The Life of Polycrates and Other Stories for Antiquated Children

Written by Brendan Connell
Review by Eva Ulett

Eleven tales are collected in The Life of Polycrates and other Stories for Antiquated Children, ranging in period from ancient Greece to the 20th century. The stories take place in Germany, Italy, and the Mediterranean, each detailing the human condition, or more particularly, a human frailty. These run the gamut from mundane (a shoe fetish in “Maledict Michela,” a quietly desperate motorcycle stuntman in “Peter Payne”) to the outright violent (“The Life of Captain Gareth Caernarvon,” “Molton Rage,” “The Life of Polycrates”). Weird happenings occur in foreign cities in “The Chymical Wedding of Des Esseintes,” and the strange life of a truly pious medieval holy man is detailed in “Brother of the Holy Ghost.”

“The Life of Polycrates” is the central piece of the collection, and the tale of the Greek ruler is a chronicle of lust for power, vanity, and pride, but also of nobility. The story is cunningly told in straight narration, epistles or letters, graffito and song; “Said Anacreon: Love, like a smith, hits with a huge hammer.” Many of Brendan Connell’s bizarre and intriguing tales were previously published in journals and anthologies. These are brought together with “The Life of Polycrates” and other stories original to this collection.