Reviewed by Lauren Kirk

Brighter Graphite, by Michael Horvath, is comprised of two novellas, both with dark undertones and dry humor. I somewhat noticed the dry humor in the Graphite section of the book, but a lot was lost on me in Brighter. The interesting fact about this book was that the two novellas had very different writing styles. Graphite was easy to follow, the plot unfolded nicely as it continued on, there was never a dull moment, and Horvath wrapped up the story nicely at the end.

With Brighter, I could not maintain my focus, there were large chunks of punctuation accentuating the action (or lack thereof), the story seemed choppy, and I was honestly a little unsure about what was happening throughout. In Graphite, the main character was an enjoyable art snob on a mission, with a dry sense of humor, but I did not feel that there was one character in Brighter that I even had the desire to follow.

In Graphite, an artist embarks on a mission to the town of Graphite to find out why his favorite expensive pencils break after every use. The pilgrimage is one full of small adventures for the man. I don’t recall that his first name was ever mentioned, but every detail of his meals, his view, his laundry were. Usually, I do not enjoy overly descriptive stories, but this level of intense description of the mundane was perfect for the man and his character.

Upon arriving in Graphite, he notes that everything is covered in graphite dust and he is given a tour of the factory in which his precious pencils are made. No answer can be found as to why they are breaking upon use. However, he does not give up, and rather stumbles onto the reason that the lead is not up to par. He takes the matter into his own hands and commits violent actions to correct the problem. The violence is fleeting, and his discovery is easy to miss; I needed to go back and reread some pages to discover the answer. The conclusion, while morbid like I mentioned, is almost comical because the man is so devoted to ensuring that his precious pencils will not break and that they can be used by all.

I would be lying if I said I was not completely lost in Brighter. I was very disappointed, especially after really enjoying the first novella. I felt as if Horvath shifted his focus and tried to do too much in a short amount of space. I think the story would have worked much better with minimal characters and action. It was almost as if there was too much going on, even if the text itself was rather sparse.

Essentially, Brighter focuses on the world of art dealers who are in an uproar because the economy has crumbled. Things turn violent, panic sets in, and darkness prevails over all in the industry. As factions of artists and dealers get entangled in the mess, Jano Gambon, and artist/dealer who acts as the narrator, fills in the reader.

In spite of not enjoying Brighter as much as Graphite, I would like to read more from Horvath if it is written in the same style that Graphite was. For fans of dark novellas and even graphic novel enthusiasts, this book would most likely be enjoyable all the way through.

Rating: 2.5/5

Lauren Kirk is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.com.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Tatra Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.