Ms. Gray is sending me a copy of this book because I set up a monthly contribution to the ACLU. Here is the Tweet with Ms. Gray's announcement. I totaMs. Gray is sending me a copy of this book because I set up a monthly contribution to the ACLU. Here is the Tweet with Ms. Gray's announcement. I totally took advantage--and YOU SHOULD, TOO!
The Bitter Life of Božena Němcová: A Biographical Collage is organized beautifully andMy full review is now up at Grab the Lapels! Here's an excerpt:
The Bitter Life of Božena Němcová: A Biographical Collage is organized beautifully and helpfully. In “Introduction: This Is Not a Biography,” Parker Ervick explains her obsession with Božena Němcová, a Czech fairy tale writer from the 1840s who influenced Kafka. Parker Ervick began visiting Prague in 2003 and has been back many times, seeking not only to find all things Němcová, but her extended family. Due to political and historical factors, Němcová’s writing has remained largely untranslated, and thus unknown to English language readers....more
*UPDATE* I interviewed the author about this collection; you can read our conversation HERE.
“Russians do not surrender…we suffer and survive.”
I can’t*UPDATE* I interviewed the author about this collection; you can read our conversation HERE.
“Russians do not surrender…we suffer and survive.”
I can’t even remember how I was introduced to Zarina Zabrisky’s work, but we’ve been in contact for so long now that I consider her a friend whom I would love to meet some day. Zabrisky is a Russian-American woman living in California. Her work is art meets the political, a mashup of filth and beauty. I commented on the horror in her short collection, Iron. American decadence contrasts the difficulties of navigating government institutions in Russia in the novella, A Cute Tombstone. Later, Zarina asked me to put together a virtual book tour for A Cute Tombstone, and I learned more about funeral portraits in Russia and the band Pussy Riot. Zarina later asked me to put together another virtual book tour for her first novel, We, Monsters.
Explosion is more like Zarina’s earlier short collection. There are 14 very short stories in Explosion, and all are from the point of view of a Russian. Sometimes the setting is California, but it’s almost always Russia.
Right away I notice all the drug use; there is so much heroin. “Why?” I ask. Truthfully, my knowledge of Russia is as deep as a puddle, so I made use of my college’s database and started hunting around for articles. Hours and hours later, I felt mad but a bit enlightened. John M. Kramer, author of the article “Drug Abuse in Russia,” notes that a study from 2010 found”Russia has almost as many heroin users (1.5 million) as all other European countries combined (1.6 million)” (31).
While most of Zarina’s stories have characters addicted to heroin, the story with the clever name “Heroines” stands out. The narrator speaks to the reader, explaining that she wants to tell us about her friends. She says, “I have a lot of friends. I’m Russian and my girlfriends are Russian.” Next is a list of tragic stories: Alina, dead from a heroin overdose; Marina with Hep C (“We all got Hep C together”); Anna, whose husband abandoned her and their daughter, forcing her to marry again (“In Russia, if you don’t have a man, you’re a waste”); Lana the mail order bride. In many of the 14 stories, women must attach themselves to men to survive. While most of the stories aren’t about drugs, it’s always there, always present, and Zarina captures the essence of the setting because so many Russians are actually addicted.
Disease, like Marina’s Hep-C, is a massive problem. According to Gregory Gilderman, author of the article “Death by Indifference,” a study conducted in 2009 found that somewhere “between 840,000 and 1.2 million are HIV-positive” in Russia, which has a population of around 143,000,000 (44). A lot of the spread of HIV has to do with dirty needles. While some countries like the U.S. have needle exchange programs to slow the spread of people contracting HIV or hepatitis, “nongovernmental organizations [in Russia] that advocate harm reduction strategies—needle exchanges, providing condoms to sex workers—face police harassment and criminal penalties” (Gilderman 45, emphasis mine). Zarina’s collection of stories points out the dark times of the Soviet Union resulting from the leadership, without being an in-your-face condemnation that comes off as “preachy.” Truthfully, based on the articles I read, Russia today and the Soviet Union aren’t really that different.
If you’re using or dealing drugs, mum’s the word. But in Explosion, if you’re thinking anything you shouldn’t, you must be silent, too. A girl in 1986 writes in her diary, “Be silent, hide and keep secret your feelings and thoughts. … The thought spoken is a lie.” When the girl starts asking her father, a scientist, questions, he praises her, but the mother scolds them both for saying things that are not acceptable in the Soviet Union, including questions about God. The mother also warns, “And you better only discuss such things like [God] at home, not at school.” More research reminded me that the Soviet Union declared the nation atheist, so God talk was forbidden.
Silence, silence everywhere. In another story, a woman won’t phone the police at the request of a foreign man because she believes the police and the bad guys are the same thing. He asks, “Are you refusing to call?” and she thinks, “I’m refusing to die.” Zarina, ever the supporter of Pussy Riot, also fits the story of the band recording their punk prayer into one of her stories. “For the government, men with voice are more dangerous than drug pushers,” she writes, “And women with voice — even more so.” Sometimes, Zarina’s voice is more forceful, such as the reference to Pussy Riot, which stands out as being obvious protest in literature, but the subtle undercurrent of silencing remind me again of 1984 and the Thought Police. Such moments are as quite as the citizens, creating a parallel in content and the message.
Explosion creates an array of women surviving the Russia that Pussy Riot protests. “You have big boobs and speak English,” one woman is told. She could work as a prostitute and get intel from foreigners. “The just under one million sex workers in Russia, for instance, live at the whim equally of pimps and the police, and have no practical recourse if they are raped or assaulted,” Gilderman writes (48). The other option is to marry foreigners. “What’s love?” one woman asks her sister, “I’ll find you a husband. I’ll get you out of here.” Women have no autonomy in Zarina’s collection, not even when they move away. “Unfortunately, for many adolescent boys and even adult men, the shaping of their male identity involves the debasement and suppression of girls,” (61) adds T.A. Gurko, author of “Underage Females’ Experiences Of Sexual Relations, Motherhood, And Married Life.”
Women are often seduced by the promise of marriage because they are “whores” and “sluts” and compromise Russia’s traditional values when they are single. One character is in love with a drug dealer, who promises to marry her. She feels no concern when she discovers she’s pregnant, but T.A. Gurko notes, “As the men [in the survey] put it, ‘promising her you will marry her does not mean you will.’ At best he may offer to get her an abortion; at worst he will do everything he can to cut off the relationship” (67). I don’t mean to imply that I’m fact-checking Zarina’s work; men abandon women in all countries. But the situations present in her collection, because they reoccur so much, made me want to learn more. Very few books encourage me to be more knowledgeable. In this case, gaining information made me sympathetic for the plight of women in Russia — they don’t even have tampons, one character points out.
Poverty is a big factor in survival, especially for women and their children, who are almost always abandoned in these stories. Poverty can be conveyed in simple descriptions, and Zarina always picks just the right images: “watery mud covered everything in view: a playground with iron bars and broken swings, homeless dogs, and a skinny cow by the broken fence, chewing on a plastic bag.” That bag may not mean much to you (except concern for what it will do to the cow’s intestines), but check this out:
If Russia represents poverty, America is wealth. A young girl covets a plastic bag a schoolmate has — I know, right? — and finally trades a great deal for it. She is so happy:
I took the bag and sniffed it. It definitely didn’t smell of all-purpose Russian soap … the smell of grease, dirt, and poverty. … This bag smelled like chewing gum, like a dream: foreign, delicious, the aroma of unknown tropical countries, coconuts and pineapples I have never tried, of exotic sea ports. … Weakly, vaguely, the bright plastic smelled of America.
Zarina mentions good teeth and iPhones as symbols of doing well in America, choosing examples that are subtle, but easy for this American reader to compare.
Again, the theme is subtly in each story, but over 14 stories it adds up to a strong, unmistakable picture of an oppressive, anti-female Russia. There isn’t a single quote that can capture the feel of the whole collection, but when it adds up, you start to get a gross feeling in your stomach — a totally appropriate response to the massive injustices, poverty, starvation, dismissed lives, and deaths that could have been prevented. Though it is an unpleasant feeling, imagine the people who are living it and remember that literature is meant to teach us about those unlike ourselves, to open our worldview and do something about it.
I want to thank Zarina Zabrisky for a copy of Explosion in exchange for an honest review. Please come back tomorrow to Grab the Lapels to read an interview I conducted with Zarina about her newest collection!
Gilderman, Gregory. “Death By Indifference.” World Affairs 175.5 (2013): 44-50. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 11 May 2016.
Gurko, T.A. “Underage Females’ Experiences Of Sexual Relations, Motherhood, And Married Life.” Russian Social Science Review 45.3 (2004): 58-77. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 11 May 2016.
Kramer, John M. “Drug Abuse In Russia.” Problems Of Post-Communism 58.1 (2011): 31. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 13 May 2016....more
Ghost Box Evolution in Cadillac, Michigan — a flash fiction chapbook whose name I had trouble remembering despite having visited Cadillac many times —Ghost Box Evolution in Cadillac, Michigan — a flash fiction chapbook whose name I had trouble remembering despite having visited Cadillac many times — is a chapbook at only 44 pages. There doesn’t appear to be a theme beyond “things are going badly most of the time.” The definition of “things” is pretty loose; it might be a moment or an entire lifetime that’s broken.
The chapbook begins with an introduction by Pamela Painter, the judge who chose Forrest’s work to win the 9th annual Rose Metal Press chapbook contest. Though she praises Rosie Forrest’s flash fiction, I didn’t see much point in this introduction. Painter mostly delivers a line or two about certain stories and then quotes from them, which actually tainted my reading experience. When I read a story, I felt like I’d read it before because Painter already quoted the best parts. Painter writes that readers will need to be “ready — brave enough, really — to venture into Rosie Forrest’s next luminous world.” Honestly, I rolled my eyes. Painter would have done better to explain how the chapbook appealed to her over other entries to the contest instead of quoting so extensively and writing hyperbolic claims about bravery.
As for the stories themselves: Forrest really works best when she implies what she means on a sentence level. For instance, an adolescent receives ceramic trinkets from her mother’s boyfriend, and she notes, “the smaller the statue, the more impossible to break.” This implication says a lot; the narrator doesn’t want her mother’s boyfriend to try and win her over, to crowd into her life, and so she’s destroying his gifts.
Almost none of the flash fictions have dialogue, which may be a good thing. When Forrest attempts to write like a group of adolescent boys talking, she comes off like an adult with only a shallow understanding of how teens communicate. Perhaps Forrest is writing how she remembers her male friends speaking, but that says more about her friends than an honest portrayal of boys. When the boys break into an abandoned box store, they verbally spar:
How long this place been closed?
Since before you could get yourself hard.
Your mom got me hard late last night.
Right, and then she left you like that.
Ready for your sister.
The word that immediately popped to mind was “dorky.” The progression of the thoughts comes from the laziest possible connections between an erection and who to stick it in.
While flash fiction authors don’t have much page space, the meaning of the entire story cannot be implied. After those boys break into various big box stores, they immediately turn their “new worlds” into schools with homeroom and dodge ball. Forrest writes, “The rise and fall of ghost box schools have depleted countrywide education funds…” So, the schools are not a metaphor, they’ve reached into the realistic territory of funding. What am I supposed to take from this?
In another story, kids sneak into a basement to pretend they’re dead while the kid who arrived first (a privilege?) does things to them: lick them, shave them, pee on them, pour chemicals into their mouths. One kid refers to it as “subversive counterculture,” but what are they countering? The reader knows nothing of these kids’ lives and what they would need to subvert. The entire piece is implying something, but what, I don’t know.
In this way, the reader is often asked to do the work of writer. For instance, in “Taps,” three individuals head to a lake, though it is “forbidden.” A girl leads, and a boy named Eli walks with his hand on her shoulder, rambling, “Josie, I won’t fail ya, I won’t fail you, have no fear. Josie, I won’t fail ya, give me one more chance, the day is near.” How did he fail? What day is near? Why is the lake forbidden? We know the girl is from Arizona, but it’s snowing where she is (Michigan, I assume, based on the chapbook’s title). The third character, Josh, is following behind, but heads “back to campus.” Okay, so these are college students? Why would Josh follow a fighting couple? Flash fiction need not be a guessing game, nor is it effective when it is.
Rosie Forrest does write some beautiful moments. In “Gun Moll,” the characters are dressed as Bonnie and Clyde for Halloween, and the narrator describes how she “would have made out with [him] in the bathroom longer, but it was the sink, it creaked away from the wall like a bad tooth, and [she] felt beanbag heavy from the rice [they] ate.” The metaphors here really penetrate into the imagination and make the story unique, even when the premise — making out at a party — is familiar.
In a vivid flash called “Where We Off to, Lulu Bee?” a mother buys and installs one of those playground horses that sit on a big spring for her daughter. The mother is this bold splash of color on the page:
Mama hiked her nightgown up around her waist, well above the worn elastic that barely harnessed her underpants, and before she straddled the helpless creature, she looped the extra cloth into a floppy side knot.
Look, Lulu. You just ride the fucker.
And she did. Knees bent to her breasts, and her large heels seared against the blocks designed for softer feet unmarred by ragged earth.
But, Forrest often destroys these beautiful moments by being too “clever” in the end. Lulu Bee’s last thought in the story is about a split in the metal seam of the horse: “I fanned the horse’s hindquarters, blew at the dint with puffer cheeks to free the tender frenzy trapped inside.” THE END. Now, why end with the horse having some sort of inner turmoil? That just killed it for me; the mother was the dynamic character, but the story’s payoff was given to a broken toy.
In another story, two girls examine an abandoned church that scares them a bit. There’s a great moment describing terrifying rules the girls have invented:
We’ve convinced ourselves of many truths: 1) From the outside, the church is open, but from the inside, it’s locked; 2) Time moves differently in there; 3) The organ still works; 4) There’s no such thing as God.
Essentially, the girls have set up a scary story in their own lives, which is really interesting, but the end of the list is shot dead by the boring “emo” claim that God isn’t real. But a paragraph later, one of the girls explains that she prays for her parents to stop fighting. The narrator notes, “When I ask who she prays to anyway, she speeds up [her bicycle] to coast down the hill.” Isn’t that a much more beautiful and subtle way to say the girls don’t believe in God? I certainly think so. The fourth item wasn’t needed on the list of scary principles of the abandoned church.
Overall, Rosie Forrest’s Ghost Box Evolution in Cadillac, Michigan suggests she could go far with a ruthless editor and a better sense of audience. I would pass on this book but keep an eye out for Forrest in the future.
Thank you to Rose Metal Press for sending me a reviewer’s copy of Ghost Box Evolution in Cadillac, Michigan.
Scattershot: Collected Fictions, by Amy L. Eggert, was released this past March from the new indie publisher, Lit Fest Press. Scattershot clocks in atScattershot: Collected Fictions, by Amy L. Eggert, was released this past March from the new indie publisher, Lit Fest Press. Scattershot clocks in at 112 pages–14 pieces in all–which gives you an idea of the length of each story.
There were 2 themes that guided Eggert’s collection. First, change results in terrible confusion. An accident in a swimming pool causes a woman to feel confused about her relationship with her brother. A grandfather must live in a nursing home, causing confusion and denial that where he lives should be called home. An traffic/bicycle accident of some kind confuses both a boy (and the reader) as to what state the world is in (apocalyptic?). A brick changes a man’s world and sends him spiraling into confusion–and violence.
The second theme was death–and it was everywhere. Accidents, homicide, suicide, abortion; children and animals are not spared. Just mowing down lives (no zombies required). A child dies, a woman dies, another child dies, a baby dies, a mother and father die. Only one piece didn’t have death, and that one was about beating a mother and son until the boy is holding his teeth in his hands.
Getting to the death wasn’t always a straightforward route. Eggert tells a story backward or gives details without context and then slowly fills the reader in. Some pieces filled in the gaps using repetition, given the story a Sestina-like quality that I very much enjoyed. I wanted to quote some, but the stories are so short that I would have to quote the whole thing (a reviewer faux pas, yeah?).
Because the stories were often told unconventionally, I had to put the book down after each one and give my brain space to regroup. The language is so tight that losing my focus, even for a second, meant I needed to reread parts. One story was lean enough that it didn’t use the word “the”:
This was after Billy standing at top of stairs, ears plugged like cotton balls, a humming sound, watching mama’s silence, purple bruising her face, her arms, her body lying on the foyer floor, her eyes staring up at ceiling, one leg twisted beneath her, other leg propped up on stairs, head still balanced on second step.
Such phrasing made the story harder to read, but it also gave the form a disconnected, splintered feel, much like the content itself, which is violent and tragic.
In a couple of cases, the stories concluded in ways that seemed designed to shock-and-awe rather than follow the logic established in the plot. Most noticeable in “Chalk Dust to Dust” and “Parallel Play,” these stories were solid beginnings and middles that sped along, making me curious about what happened next, but left me thinking, “Well…huh” instead of an actual emotion.
Overall, Scattershot feels like a diary of psychological damage, one that tinkers with language and, occasionally, form (some of the “fictions” read more like prose poems). If you read the stories too fast, you may become desensitized to the death and violence, which is a bit like cheating your emotions. Scattershot is a recommended read that I suggest you ingest very slowly, perhaps in between bits of another novel.
*I want to thank publisher Jane L. Carmen for sending me this collection in exchange for an honest review. I have no personal, familial, or professional relationship to this author.
Lauren Becker's book is quite tiny. I have to say right away, this is something I really enjoy--that ability to stick a book in my purse or pocket andLauren Becker's book is quite tiny. I have to say right away, this is something I really enjoy--that ability to stick a book in my purse or pocket and go. The only thing I love more than the tiny book is the tiny book that comes with the ribbon bookmark attached to the binding (even though it looks like a book with a tampon). Those are the best! Though small, the quality of paper and binding of if i would leave myself behind is excellent. Curbside Splendor makes books that make you happy to hold in your hands.
The content of Becker's book is quite interesting. Rather than a novella + stories, really what we have here might be more aptly called a story + flash fictions. The longest piece, the title story, is 28 miniature pages. Such brevity makes it easy to ingest Becker's book in one sitting, as I did. This is not to say the collection is an easy read. Becker's lines often lean toward the poetic. Example: "We do not know safety. Though I should know, I look to him for guidance. He looks to a bottle and climbs into the bottle and becomes the bottle and comes out another boy." The rhythm and repetition lead the reader to a conclusion, one that need not so many words to reach, but would be boring and cliched if said in straightforward language. I admire this manipulation of simple ideas into lush images.
The title story can be difficult to get into. I read the first paragraph then reread it. I read 5 pages then went back and started over. Part of the confusion comes from the way the setting shifts. Is the speaker a girl, a young woman, an older woman? Clues tell me it changes. Sometimes names appear, though I am not sure I’ve met that person who might only exist in one scene. Sometimes the speaker refers to “we,” and other times “you” or “I.” Much like the boy who becomes the bottle, Becker leads us to conclusions using poetic language, but without more concrete setting indicators, the story becomes like a dream. This is not to say it is a poorly written story–far from it. It is a story that challenges readers. The speaker admits, “I know when I tipped to past tense. I sat on the toilet and broke in half, maybe more. I’ve rubber banded myself okay for now. The pieces don’t match up exactly, but close enough. This might be helpful information.” Rather than tell readers I am not okay, but I am trying to be okay. Beware, because I’m really not okay, the speaker describes in abstract images that she is broken and trying to fix herself. This was one of my favorite moments in the title story, one where I felt like the speaker was talking to me. Who else would the information be important to? To whom would she be speaking?
Becker’s flash pieces read like they are more straightforward prose, but are conceptual in nature. In “What Morning Is,” the electricity goes out. People in the area eat or sleep or clean to pass the time. When the lights do come on, there are those who forgot what light even looked like. The tiny flash piece felt like a conceptual bit on depression or loneliness.
Depression and loneliness are themes throughout if i would leave myself behind. Other repeated ideas are women who all look the same and therefore can be replaced easily. Many are described as broken, bent, snapped, or cracked. If one were to ask “What is in a name?,” Becker’s characters would say a lot. Individuals decide they hate their own name and change it, or hate someone else’s name (and mentally change it). Suicide appears more than once, making the collection hurt the heart more than it would have prior to Robin Williams’s death.
Becker’s style of prose that flows like water continues in her flashes, making some of the hardest punching I’ve read in the genre. It’s like she puts down a nice path and then throws pebbles in my way to trip on. Check out these lines: “My aunt and uncle were rich. My mother called my uncle a slumlord. Their family spent most winters in Florida. For two weeks, when school let out for Christmas, when my cousins were young. For weeks or months when their children left for college.” At first, readers are give nice subject + verb simple sentences. Then, Becker starts leaving out the subject and verb, making the sentences stutter. We start to stumble a little, as if the writer is asking us if we’re awake and paying attention. Good for her–keeps us on our toes, Lauren Becker!
I enjoyed if i would leave myself behind, which challenged me and asked me to leave my reading assumptions at the door. Though it wasn’t always easy, when it was banging on all cylinders, the collection felt like someone poking a bruise and asking me to address where it came from.
Face Value (self-published, 2014) is a collection of ten stories by Paula Margulies. This fairly short read is set mostly in San Diego and often featuFace Value (self-published, 2014) is a collection of ten stories by Paula Margulies. This fairly short read is set mostly in San Diego and often features a woman who cares for an aging father, though not all stories have this character.
Many times, the stories end when they’re just getting going. More than once I turned the page to find a new story and was surprised in a bad way. In the title story, an incestuous relationship later leads to the main character living as a shut-in, but the story ends when she lets a stranger in her door. Who is he? Why does she just now let in a person–one she doesn’t know? This information isn’t really a spoiler, as it’s not very informative. The same abrupt ending happened in “Weatherman,” “Labrador Blues,” and “Have You Seen Me?”
Margulies asks for an emotional response from readers when she has not invested the time to elicit such a response. In “Bird Song,” the narrator finds a wild bird that has knocked itself out on her window, so she decides to keep in. After buying tons of supplies for the animal, she finds it predictably dead the next morning. Only when she is burying the bird’s body in her yard does she cry for her lonely father, dead mother, ex-boyfriend, and the bird. However, I didn’t know enough about these characters to cry with–or care about–her pain.
“Obedience Training” and “Bird Song” both make use of easy metaphor. While the bird’s death connected the narrator’s other experiences with death, “Obedience Training” linked a bite from a strange dog that looked trustworthy to the narrator’s decision to not meet again with her husband who has left her. The author so carefully does all the work for the reader to make sure we don’t miss the connection that the metaphor loses all credibility. Had Margulies spent more time establishing who the narrator was and what her husband was like, the link to the dog wouldn’t be so obvious.
Face Value does provide some interesting ideas. In “Portal Gallery,” a woman who typically dumps crap art on a gallery promises that some kaleidoscopes she has are of great value. The story ends too quickly, too easily, and with little food for thought, but the kernel of something good was there. “Weatherman,” too, was an interesting concept: imagine being the guy who reads the weather for San Diego, a place where the weather pretty much never changes, and then one day a snow storm changes everything. While an interesting idea, the ending was quick and made little logical sense within the world Margulies had created.
There are two stories that definitely needed more development, but both had some genuine dialogue that I wanted to see a lot more of. In “Free Fall,” an aging man running away from home meets a young Latina named Leticia. At a restaurant, they discuss what the world has handed them. Leticia feels things are pretty clear for her:
“I can educate myself all I want, but the world’s still gonna see me as a dumb chola. No one cares about me. Maybe if I was born in another time and another place, it’d be different. But, hey, I’m here. This is where I got thrown down.”
That expression–“where I got thrown down”–was like magic in the middle of this story, magic that worked on so many levels: Leticia is where she is because that is where she was born, but she was already abused–thrown down–before she even was formed as a person.
“Have You Seen Me?” also had a special moment in dialogue. The narrator, a grown woman caring for her aging father, arrives home from volunteering at the animal shelter:
“There was a new rabbit at the shelter tonight,” I said. “I got to watch it give birth to two babies.”
My father grunted. He was allergic to cats, a convenient excuse for not allowing me to have pets at the house.
“You spend so much time there,” he said. “I’m surprised you don’t give birth to a few rabbits yourself.”
“It’s not that much time,” I said. “And if I wanted to give birth, it would be to something better than a rabbit.”
“I thought nothing was better than a rabbit,” he replied, the hint of a smile in his voice.
This little banter between father and daughter was delightful, as both a present love between them and an understood history of the narrator’s life as an unmarried and childless woman shine through. The exchange does double duty.
Face Value is a collection that needs revision in order to fully work through plots, make readers care about characters, and avoid cliches and stereotypes. When a story began with a unique concept, it showed promised, but that promise never fully turned into something memorable.
The stories start out beautifully, and I wonder what will happen next, but somewhere along the line Barker loses track of the setting. When things getThe stories start out beautifully, and I wonder what will happen next, but somewhere along the line Barker loses track of the setting. When things get intense, it's hard to picture what's going on. How is the young man in the first story suspended in a house? What does the stairway to hell look like? It's all so quick. I have many other books to read, so I'm going to move on for now! :)...more
Follow along with Bonnie's virtual book tour here!
June 2nd Bonnie discusses why she wrote about this particular crash site at [PANK].
June 3rd Read anFollow along with Bonnie's virtual book tour here!
June 2nd Bonnie discusses why she wrote about this particular crash site at [PANK].
June 3rd Read an interview about ghosts and mental illness at Book Puke.
June 4th Bonnie rants about the elderly and sexy lovin' time at HTMLGIANT.
June 5th Read an excerpt + insights at Booked In Chico to see what Bonnie was thinking when she wrote What Happened Here.
June 6 The last day of Bonnie's tour! We conclude with a video that includes interviews from those who remember the crash and photos of the wreckage. Compare the old neighborhood with the new and see how things have changed. Thanks to The Next Best Book Club blog!...more
"I slit the sheet, the sheet I slit, and on the slitted sheet I sit."
I feel similarly about the title of Robert Vaughan's newest chapbook. Once upon a"I slit the sheet, the sheet I slit, and on the slitted sheet I sit."
I feel similarly about the title of Robert Vaughan's newest chapbook. Once upon a time my husband and I giggled because he couldn't read the title properly. Don't be fooled, though: the title isn't rhyming for "cute" sake, it really is selling content.
Itty bitty stories (prose poems, flash fiction, what have you) are divided into (mostly) two (diptychs) or three (triptychs) sections. The pieces are broken up and have titles to reflect that, with names such as "Two Faces" or "3 C's" or "Mother/Father/Clown" or "Lawyers, Guns, & Money."
Some of the pieces had lines that read more like prose poetry, such as a question posed in "Three for Carol"--
The dance has hands that reach into us like hunger. Where did you go after we burst against each other?
The lines' poetic quality comes through in the imagery of hands and bursting, a quality I remember in his collection Microtones.
Other pieces have lines that are just fine as prose poetry, but I can see that the opportunity for line breaks might have been there. Still, Vaughan chooses to use prose poetry to tell a brief story, and one about bocce ball narrates but still surprises by creating breaks with commas--
This was before my father died dancing, on the end of a rope.
If you associate dancing with joy, like I do, they you will be just as surprised as I was when I made my pause with the comma and came to the hanged father. Yikes!
There were places where the comma use threw me off, and I wished the piece had been written with line breaks. One place that I re-read many times was in "Planes, Trains and Automobiles"--
We come, like soldiers in the camps, barbed-wire barrier. Or I do. Either you or me.
Since the piece is formatted like a story, my brain was prepared for the links that make a story go from A to B; however, the further into this piece I went, the more the lines got shorter and like poetry without line breaks, and so my brain started tripping on its shoelaces.
Vaughan also captures humor (often using dipshits) in a collection that takes on a love and lust. One dipshit leaves a relationship and "signs" it with his personal stench--
The weekend before you moved out, you farted in my sister's elevator and other people got on and you said my name and fanned the air. I pretended it was funny. By then you farted so many times I honestly thought it was me.
There is a broken heart that lingers under this collection, but one that tries to rise. Images of flying and wishing and hoping run throughout the collection and made my heart a little happy and a little hopeful....more
Tracy DeBrincat's characters are people of the earth, the kind who will comment not on ideas, but appreciate bodily processes as something to which onTracy DeBrincat's characters are people of the earth, the kind who will comment not on ideas, but appreciate bodily processes as something to which one should pay attention. Her stories take readers to a perhaps uncomfortable place we thought we left behind when we became "adults." I still remember a joke my uncle told me when I was a kid: two woman are hoeing potatoes in the field when one woman pulls a potato from the ground, looks at it, and says, "This looks like my Issac's taters." The other woman responds, "That big?" and the first says, "No, that dirty." Ha ha ha, right? Where did this "low-brow" humor go, and why did we once like it so much? I loved that joke. DeBrincat reminds me why.
I discovered Lucy Corin when several years ago I was scrolling through the FC2 catalog, looking for some new treasure (based on title and description)I discovered Lucy Corin when several years ago I was scrolling through the FC2 catalog, looking for some new treasure (based on title and description). Then, there it was: Everyday Psychokillers: A History for Girls. How can you not love the title alone?! I bought it. I loved it. I taught it at an all-women's Catholic college. They hated it. I loved that.
One Hundred Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses is quite a different kind of read. While Everyday Psychokillers had short stories within the novel, this new collection consists mostly of flash fiction pieces. The more I read, the more I felt that Corin's strength is in telling those short stories.