A pretty perfect first novel. A granite narration amid the chaos of a war with no clear enemies. Taut and clear sentences. I kept waiting for him to s...moreA pretty perfect first novel. A granite narration amid the chaos of a war with no clear enemies. Taut and clear sentences. I kept waiting for him to swerve out of control, but he doesn't; the distance from the author to the paper remains beautifully static, something rare in debuts. And the comparisons to Hemingway and O'Brien are not exaggerations, but the sort of oblique yet lucid narrator mostly brought to mind Camus' The Stranger. It's just a really gripping (and short) read, flying by in a sitting or two. I'd recommend it to anyone wistful for their high school classics, but at the same time want something new.
Whaapow! Jealous and inspired. The book starts out phenomenally and then just gets better and better. It’s like watching someone tiptoe out onto a fro...moreWhaapow! Jealous and inspired. The book starts out phenomenally and then just gets better and better. It’s like watching someone tiptoe out onto a frozen pond, then slowly gain confidence, and soon he’s jumping up and down, trying as hard as he can to smash his safety, inviting his friends out there, inviting a marching band, just confident and having a great time. A deft, highwire act of a book, never mind debut.
Quick synopsis: God comes to earth in the form of a Darfur refugee and is killed by humans and eaten by feral dogs. Heartbreak, confusion, violence, loneliness, world war ensue.
an alcoholic writer of very successful romance novels is running out of perfume in a backwater Slovenian industrial town. plays it a little fast and l...morean alcoholic writer of very successful romance novels is running out of perfume in a backwater Slovenian industrial town. plays it a little fast and loose at the end, but highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys O'Hara, Fante, etc.. there's a character called Poet and another called Hippie. (less)
"The heart of Keith Banner’s America smells like cat piss and is littered with unpaid bills. At work, his characters wear humiliating uniforms with name tags that have their names spelled wrong. K-Mart is doing well in Keith Banner’s America. So is Old Country Buffet and Lay-Z-Boy. The pills people take are not the fun ones. The colors are institutional green and cement gray. When there is carpet, it’s shag. The citizens are uniformly overweight, gay, and pale. They drive small, unpaid for cars, live in tiny apartments in crappy apartment buildings, dream minor dreams—like to stop working at a mental institution. They are the smallest people alive. But they have big, achy desires. And they love in varied and endless ways.
The title story, which was awarded an O. Henry prize, has a young man coming to terms with the botched suicide of Ben, his best friend and first lover. Ben tried to asphyxiate himself but only succeed in killing off parts of his brain and is now stuck at home with his parents, trying to relearn everything. In “The Wedding of Tom & Tom,” lifelong institutional inmates and obsessive lovers are about to be separated because a manager thinks their passion has made them a danger to each other. The narrator, who witnesses Tom B. on his knees in front of Tom A. during her first night shift at the institution, takes pity on them and throws the lovers a wedding before they’re forced apart. In “Spider in the Snow,” a father traveling to his ex-wife’s house for Christmas to see his children has a detour on the way: he blows a stranger named Spider in the bathroom stall of a Greyhound station. The gorgeous, sad story “The Doll the Fire Made,” depicts a man going through the motions of being a good friend to his ex-lover after the lover has decided to go straight and get married. In the resulting loneliness, Banner finds the moment when even the best-intentioned middle-aged man crumbles before his desires, and forces his lips on a teen-age boy. In “Where You Live,” an EMT saves a boy from suicide only to seduce him. “Holding Hands for Safety” is narrated by Brian, a fat awkward boy, a boy people suspect of being gay not because of some particularly fey quality, but because he “has the look in his eyes of someone who wants things way too much.” Brian’s problem is he loves the wrong man: Trent, his psychopath of a cousin. After Trent confides in Brian that he has killed his younger half-sister and thrown her in the dumpster, Brian can’t bring himself to turn Trent in.
If Banner keeps writing these stories, he will float up into the stratosphere presently reserved for the likes of Mary Gaitskill, Katherine Anne Porter, Denis Johnson, and Flannery O’Connor. He’s not scared of drama. His touch isn’t particularly light. He doesn’t lean on the quirky and clever as so much of contemporary writing does. These stories don’t burp out some subtle bittersweet truth in the end. They are bold and harrowing and, starting with the first sentence, they will make you ache. They will ask you to laugh your ass off, then immediately feel bad for laughing, then laugh some more. Keith Banner has found the loneliest and scariest paths to beauty. His characters travel these paths with passion, grace, and a wicked humor. And the map of contemporary American literature is larger because of them." (less)
If you go into any bookstore in Idaho worth its salt and ask for a book about the state, they recommend this book. And they do this like they're letti...moreIf you go into any bookstore in Idaho worth its salt and ask for a book about the state, they recommend this book. And they do this like they're letting you in an amazing secret. Because they are. Idaho for the Curious is more than just a guide book. It's informative but also fun and insanely well-written. The sentences are wry and lucid. It's 700 pages and you still get the sense Cort knows more than he's telling.
I've had the book for 5 years and find myself going back to it again and again. I strongly recommened it for anyone living in Idaho and anyone interested in the West or just good writing(less)