Oh man I love this book. There's a blurb from Larry McMurtry where he admits that it "strains one's powers of de...more"Get away from me yer stupid chicken."
Oh man I love this book. There's a blurb from Larry McMurtry where he admits that it "strains one's powers of descrition" which pretty much sums it up. The Collected Works explores the interior life of Billy the Kid and his relationship with Pat Garrett. It's raw, funny, and frightening all in one go. Because 1) it's so interior, 2) Ondaatje excels at this sort of characterization, and 3) Billy is bat shit crazy, the exteriors are hyperbolic and grotesque. Billy might as well be on Mars the scenes are so strange and distinct.
It's like getting a phone call from a relative from the hospital when they're hopped up on pain medication and all this beautiful/scary talk comes tumbling out. It doesn't mean anything, but then again maybe it does.
There's a scene where Billy is puking during a sandstorm where the vomit is a "pack of miniature canaries" torn out of his body, buffeted by the wind, and all the while he's trying to keep the dog from going after it eating up his mess. It's sad and brutal and hilarious all and there are many more scenes just as sharply layered and angled against expectations. So throw away all the received wisdom you may have picked up regarding BTK over the years and saddle up for a ride that's slick and weird. (less)
Pay close attention to the title/subtitle. The Adderall Diaries: A Memoir of Moods, Masochism, and Murder. Well which is it: diary or memoir? The answ...morePay close attention to the title/subtitle. The Adderall Diaries: A Memoir of Moods, Masochism, and Murder. Well which is it: diary or memoir? The answer is tricky. Elliot doesn't do "or." Everything about him is multiple. It's a diary in the sense that it covers a very specific period of the author's life, but rendered in the style of a memoir where the relevant storylines are fleshed out in a highly disgressive manner. (The frame of the book is time-bound, the story is not.) I guess you could call it a meta-memoir, a memoir that is aware of itself as memoir (at one point Elliot writes about a discussion with an editor interested in acquiring the book), but Elliot's Adderall abuse hangs over the narrative like a cloud that calls any kind of self-awareness into question. That's not a knock on Elliot, that's just how addiction works.
So what is it? Ostensibly, it's about a murder mystery that Elliot covers for a news outlet, but mostly its about the malaise of his days before, during, and after the trial. For all the discussion of his drug use, it's not a recovery memoir and it's not a kink memoir and it's not a memoir of his dysfunctional family (though it wants to be) because he's told that story many times already. He acknowledges that his relationship with his father is the most important relationship he's ever had. This relationship defines who he is as a person, a partner, and a writer. But was this by nature or by design?
It's questions like this one that makes memoir-writing so murky and Elliot takes up different versions of it throughout the book. Who am I? How did I come to feel/not feel this way? Is my sense of self reliable or is it yet another one of the flawed and broken systems that have let me down my whole life? One of Elliot's subjects is a man who confesses to a number of murders he didn't commit, a charge Elliot lays on his father at the beginning of the book and confronts him about at the end. I can't help but wonder if Elliot wants the reader to draw similar conclusions about the author. Is Elliot copping to having made a false confession?
Maybe. If we don't know the answer it's not because Elliot is trying to hide it from us. One suspects that he more than anyone would like to know this about himself. I'm not going to say The Adderall Diaries is honest or brave because I'm not in a position to know these things but it's certainly an arresting book. At times it feels as if Elliot is burning through his material so that afterwards there will be nothing left to say, forcing him to seek out new stories and stop looking for answers in places where they'll never be found.
I've been a fan of Mary Miller's work since an essay I wrote appeared alongside her short story "Leak" in Oxford American. That story opens Big World...moreI've been a fan of Mary Miller's work since an essay I wrote appeared alongside her short story "Leak" in Oxford American. That story opens Big World and introduces the reader to the funny-if-it-weren't-so-sad situations that her characters always seem to find themselves in. I wrote a short review which you can check out in The Believer. Here's a taste of the review:
"Miller’s characters tend to be introverted women whose appetite for alcohol and/or desire for sex make them extroverted, but only for a little while. They get involved with men who aren’t available, emotionally or otherwise, and are invariably treated like kitchen appliances: 'convenient, yet out of the way.'"
Where does an outsider artist go once the taboos of drug abuse and man/boy love have become played out?
Sexualized cannibal porn.
Frankly, I...moreWhere does an outsider artist go once the taboos of drug abuse and man/boy love have become played out?
Sexualized cannibal porn.
Frankly, I'm baffled by all the accolades Cooper receives. If you stripped away the outsider lit attributes (illicit sex, fetishized pain, etc.) and substituted it with say long-distance running or extreme hoarding, i.e. something equally dangerous and crazy but doesn't require a victim, would it have the same effect? I can't answer that question because I don't know what that "effect" is namely because fetish art is seldom interesting to those who aren't invested in the fetish either as fantasy or in practice.
I came to Ugly Man having read only one other Cooper novel, God Jr., which most consider his most mainstream novel. So I probably brought some misguided and/or naieve expectations to my reading of Ugly Man. While God Jr. is a brilliant look at what happens when people go "off the map" (a bereaved father seeks consolation after his son's death by getting stoned and playing his son's favorite video game in seach of the creatures who knew him best), Ugly Man is a scattershot investigation of teen boredom, male manipulation, and sexualized cannibalism.
I wish I'd read the interview with the author at the back of the book first to help put some of Cooper's predelictions in context. For example, Cooper explains how his affinity for Bresson led to his use of subjects one wouldn't ordinarily consider worthy of art. I also am intrigued by the way Cooper's characters often appear in some altered form after they die, a continuing exploration of realms "off the map."
Ultimately, however, I'm not convinced the whole corpse-eating thing isn't an absurd extension of the protagonists' oral fixation with the male anus, i.e. a sick joke.
A trifecta of stories of booze-addled losers haunted by lost loves. While there's something narcissistic about these characters the scope of their pai...more A trifecta of stories of booze-addled losers haunted by lost loves. While there's something narcissistic about these characters the scope of their pain is so much greater than anything than they ever believed possible that it's almost fun to watch them figure out what suffering is all about. They kind of revel in the stink of the lush life but when they find out they can't wash it off, that the stench clings to them, they don't know what to do. The characters are too young to be down for the count, but they're indisputably shattered. This is my favorite passage, I think: "When you left, I no longer had a right mind of the world. The imminent collapse we'd all be waiting for to come to Los Angeles finally came, but my name was the only one on its list." (less)
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to have sex with a bunch of porn stars (and who hasn’t?) then Zak Smith’s memoir-in-porn is...more4.5 stars...
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to have sex with a bunch of porn stars (and who hasn’t?) then Zak Smith’s memoir-in-porn is the book you’ve been waiting for. It may come as something of a surprise that a porn actor not named Sasha Grey (who makes several appearances in Smith’s book) has their shit together enough to write coherently about their experiences, but Smith proves to be the notable exception. Not only is he Yale-educated and fiendishly smart, he’s also a visual artist whose work has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Biennial, and galleries around the world. Not bad for a guy who draws naked chicks. Smith is more than a one-trick pony. We Did Porn is Smith’s third book, but “his first with writing in it” – and is lavishly decorated with over 100 pages of illustrations – mostly of girls in their unnatural habitat. We Did Porn is the story of how an overeducated, super-talented artist came to get involved in alternative porn (think: pale skin, piercings, and lots of tattoos) and a behind-the-scenes look at the pernicious and predatory world of pornographic film. (For example, here’s a producer’s idea of humor: A man goes to the doctor and says “I feel great but look terrible. What’s the matter with me?” “Easy,” the doctor replies, “you’re a vagina!”) Readers accompany Smith to the doctor’s office to get tested, to Las Vegas for the adult video awards, to Barcelona for a humiliating shoot where he can’t keep it up, and back to Los Angeles for a delirious and unexpectedly dangerous threesome. Smith, whose porn name is Zak Sabbath, doesn’t tell his whole life story; he just focuses on his involvement in the industry during a time that produced an average of 36 new pornographic videos a day. Of course, it helps that Smith is an outrageously talented observer, which makes his writing (“Wit consisted of coming off as the least bitter complainer”) almost as arresting as his images, which are superb. Smith’s detailed descriptions of “life in the zeros” both on and off the set make We Did Porn a fascinating x-rated document of a cynical age. (less)