Frederic Tuten's series of linked short stories, most titled Self Portrait (followed by such varied qualifiers as "with Bullfight", "with Cheese", "with Icebergs"), examine love and adventure in magical ways. The narrator, the I of these pieces, is variously a lover, husband, father, son, and a man spending time alone in a public place where he can observe those around him. Tuten makes frequent allusions to paintings and films, which must either alienate the inexperienced, or draw closer those for whom these arts are familiar.
His story The Park Near Marienbad, for example, refers to Alain Resnais' film "Last Year at Marienbad", in which at a spa a man approaches a woman with intent to seduce her, insisting on details of what they did "last year at Marienbad." She has never seen him before, and knows this, but though she puts him off, gradually his stories insinuate themselves into her thoughts. The narrator weaves his fondness for this film into his museum-going travels with his wife: they too are among the few who have the time to visit places for no purpose except pleasure. He watches his wife hoping to see a repeat of Delphine Seyrig's enchanting gesture, so singular in the film. If she can slip across the boundary between the closed reality of a story and the larger world in which they have wed, perhaps their marriage will touch him on that deeper level where he seeks consonance between artistic vision and life.
Often a story's setting is a restaurant or cafe; a newlywed couple's interactions with their waiter are key to the progress of Self Portrait with Bullfight:
"...[I]f you turn you may notice [the waiter's] appearance, accompanied by two guests."
"Just a coincidence," I averred, deigning not to seem amazed by two bulls, festooned with garlands of garlic and roses, being ushered to their table.
"It is the custom," our waiter explained, finally returning to us, "to host a banquet for those bulls who survive the day. Of course, they may stay the night, on the house, naturally, and leave when they want and return to their mothers, if they wish."
In this brief exchange we see Tuten's method: his mingling of familiar and fantastic in ways that challenge the reader's comfort with what we think we're used to, and also question whether the magical is as removed from daily life as we might prefer.
The cycle's progress takes us from a man recalling his grandmother, to the death of the narrator's mother, and his son's pursuit and rescue of her soul from pirates. In that first piece, stories are the binding skein that holds a child to his grandmother. In the last, the grandmother's fond final desire was to be alone through eternity with the Borges-sized library of stories she loved so well.
Tuten's spare precise language is a marvel, the stories he tells the more wonderful because of the delights of his prose. Seek, and enjoy!