Sam Pink is one of the best writers living today, in my opinion. The mixture of absolute hilarity and absolute beauty in his work has never ceased to...moreSam Pink is one of the best writers living today, in my opinion. The mixture of absolute hilarity and absolute beauty in his work has never ceased to astound me. Pink himself has described HURT OTHERS as a collection of "anti-stories," which seems accurate in the context of some of the stories in the book. "Bees" and "Crackheads," for example, read more as informal anecdotes than full-fledged short stories, whereas "Love" and "Juliana," for instance, are much more narrative and seem to contain more thematic significance. Every piece is memorable, however, regardless of whether its style or content resembles something that you would read on Twitter or something that you would read in a literary journal. "Fun" may be one of the greatest stories I have ever read, if only for its incredible ending. Sam Pink is a master of observation and of presenting those observations with his own brand of absurdity, humor, and sadness. I cannot recommend this book (or any of his other books) enough.(less)
Judging by the title, I had been expecting some sort of extremist radical fiction examining the damnation of a particularly promiscuous group of model...moreJudging by the title, I had been expecting some sort of extremist radical fiction examining the damnation of a particularly promiscuous group of models. Such ended up not being the case with Gina Ranalli's "Suicide Girls in the Afterlife," however, and I was instead presented with a tongue-in-cheek tale of one condemned gal's quest to extinguish her boredom in the realm beyond death. The characters are traditionally bizarro and interesting enough, as they include a naive former junkie with maturity issues, a pale pussycat who becomes tired of Purgatory's dullness, an ex-Rockette whose glory days have long passed, and a certain celebrated hippie who loves to play Mario Kart. As the protagonist's journey into the afterlife is followed from destination to destination, the mood/style of the plot shifts uncomfortably from grim and mystical to silly and satirical then back again, but as saturated and downright stupid as some moments may be, this brief novella does manage to achieve one of bizarro fiction's primary goals: to entertain. For that reason, it is worth reading overall.(less)
Just as one of Stephen King's best short story collections encourages the reader to work the "Night Shift," this riveting anthology from Jeremy Robert...moreJust as one of Stephen King's best short story collections encourages the reader to work the "Night Shift," this riveting anthology from Jeremy Robert Johnson encourages the reader to enter the "Angel Dust Apocalypse." Reading this book does indeed have the feel of entering a newfound, blissful end of the world (or, more accurately, of the world as we know it). Johnson's writing clearly pulls influence from not only great horror authors such as King but also great satire authors such as Vonnegut, literary authors such as Wallace, and even occasionally, experimental authors such as Pynchon. With these influences in mind, however, Johnson also manages to clearly present a unique style of his own. Each of these 20 or so short stories, be it classified as bizarro in the context of a man's determination to shock the most residents of an already shocking world, or as tragedy in the context of an irrational phobia gradually consuming a life, or as slice-of-life in the context of a burdening brotherhood driven by spite and circumstance rather than love, is narrated with a conversational yet captivating voice that perfectly accompanies the hilarious, heartbreaking, or horrific plot.
The only short story collection I've read that seemed absolutely flawless to me has been James Joyce's "Dubliners," and literary fanatics ought to know the obvious reasons. "Angel Dust Apocalypse" comes very close though, for these stories range from surreal to unreal to ugly to beautiful, and everywhere in between, and regardless they are always gripping and powerful. They serve as proof that Jeremy Robert Johnson possesses an unparalleled talent for storytelling and deserves to have a great writing career ahead of him.(less)
Jeremy Robert Johnson seems to pride himself very much on how esteemed author Chuck Palahniuk spoke of him and his collection "Angel Dust Apocalypse":...moreJeremy Robert Johnson seems to pride himself very much on how esteemed author Chuck Palahniuk spoke of him and his collection "Angel Dust Apocalypse": "A dazzling writer. Seriously amazing short stories - and I love short stories. Like the best of Tobias Wolff. While I read them, they made time stand still. That's great." I myself have never read anything from Palahniuk, nor have I been exposed to the short story within "Angel Dust Apocalypse" which apparently precedes the plot of this novella, but regardless, I am thoroughly impressed with Johnson's writing ability and with "Extinction Journals."
The post-apocalyptic survival scenario is always so fascinating because of how broad, how devastating, how wonderful the storytelling experience is. It is a situation that usually begins (or...ends) very similarly, then continues completely upon the author's individual imagination. The settings of most bizarro fiction pieces have a tone teetering on the brink of an apocalyptic nightmare, but tend to keep a steady course of otherworldly dystopia. (See "Ass Goblins of Auschwitz," "The Baby Jesus Butt Plug," etc.) What makes "Extinction Journals" so much more extraordinary than some other bizarro novellas is the balance of realism in spite of the necessity for weirdness. Yes, Dean does live day by day wearing a suit constructed of live cockroaches, but his personality and his strive for survival in a meaningless wasteland and his doubting the value of bothering to continue on are all immensely relatable to the modern pre-apocalyptic human condition. "Extinction Journals" manages to not only entertain with moderated absurdity but also attach the reader to an adventure not far off from those of our own. So quote Palahniuk as much as you'd like, Johnson, because I will gladly keep reading as long as you keep writing.(less)
Fact: Most artists have posses. Salvador Dalí had Man Ray and Brassaï, among others. Andy Warhol had Edie Sedgwick and Freddie Herko, among others. Pr...moreFact: Most artists have posses. Salvador Dalí had Man Ray and Brassaï, among others. Andy Warhol had Edie Sedgwick and Freddie Herko, among others. Presently, Scott MacLeod has Peter Ganick, Andrew Topel, Jukka-Pekka Kervinen, Sheila E. Murphy, and Jim Leftwich, among others... So no one would suspect a man who now associates himself with such syntax-butchers and visual poets of the literary world to ever have hit the streets with his primarily abstract, experimental mindset of creation, right? Well, it just so happens that theater and performance art greatly compose MacLeod's past(, present, and future) as a creative entity, and "Text As Entertainment" is the proof.
Cataloging numerous selected scripts and outlines from 1982 to 2008, this book serves partly as the personal history behind one of America's most underrated playwrights and performers, and partly as a rich archive of the person's body of work. Traces of influence from Beckett and the Theater of the Absurd are easily recognizable throughout, each individual play or performance piece expressing a similar fusion of tragedy and hilarity in its own unique scattering of light and essence, and always with little to no explanation. My own observation is that several of these scripts contain tales of deterioration and denouement: "The Drunken Jungle" follows three people as they detach from sanity in a devouring setting fit for Joseph Conrad. "Necromancy" may be the only fictional take on patriarchy that I haven't found somehow tired, but dangerously fresh instead. A personal favorite without any doubt would be "Road Kill," a powerfully nihilistic, transgressive crusade against the death of sexuality that had come with the AIDS crisis. Also contained within this anthology is one of the most perfect lines I may ever read: "Without Scheherazade, James Joyce and Stephen King would be clerks in the livestock department."
Strangely enough, "Text As Entertainment" is a self-published collection, though it certainly carries enough merit to be more officially distributed. Nonetheless, there are the occasional typos that inevitably result from self-editing, so if you are unlike myself and you cannot handle even the most mild spelling error, I...encourage you to read MacLeod's scripts and commentaries anyway. I strongly hope that a second anthology will be published in the future, for MacLeod still in fact has plenty of pieces eligible for archiving, such as the immensely sad "A Violin in this Dark Shed."(less)
First, I would like to review "Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet Remixed," the novel within this volume. Then, I would like to review the volume itself.
T...moreFirst, I would like to review "Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet Remixed," the novel within this volume. Then, I would like to review the volume itself.
There are many gifted storytellers out there who understand that a truly compelling story needn't always a thick layer of explanation spread onto it. Plots ought to be plots as they are, and characters ought to be characters as they are. Some of these storytellers include David Lynch, Samuel Beckett, and now, Nigel Tomm. While his most known literary exploit will ultimately be "The Blah Story," I feel that Tomm's greatest work is undoubtedly "Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet Remixed." The novel challenges its reader with a form of abstract grammar, but simultaneously weaves a fable of actors and spectators who blossom into lovers and romantics via a series of unexplainable phenomenons during a theatre performance of the classic play. With each passing moment of either tragedy or comedy, the characters individually find something to love that they hadn't found before. As Nigel Tomm states, "This is not a book about Love. This is the book where Love is." He is absolutely right. The fountainhead of all love lies within this novel, as far-fetched as the statement may seem. In addition to the love that each scene somehow unfolds or unlocks, "Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet Remixed" also contains a purely beautiful poeticism that I've read from no other author. Tomm presents syntax and sentence structure in a manner that could not be conjured from the average mind. Tomm's mind is far from average, as is his remix of not only Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," but also love and life as a whole. It is a novel that I wish every living person would read once.
My only issue with the volume itself, "Romeo and Juliet by Romeo and Juliet," is that it does not explore much further than the novel itself. The volume known as "Hamlet by Hamlet" contains both the original Shakespearean play and Tomm's remixed novel. Being able to read the original basis of "Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet Remixed" as a companion piece would empower the novel so much more. Overall, any insight into Nigel Tomm's masterpiece of literary love is an experience that should not be ignored.(less)
Rarely before has a book of any sort served as such an otherworldly experience. Much like "A Crackup at the Race Riots," these collected fanzines chal...moreRarely before has a book of any sort served as such an otherworldly experience. Much like "A Crackup at the Race Riots," these collected fanzines challenge the separation between fantasy and reality--loveliness and repulsion. For instance, a great majority of this collection consists of celebrity rumors (such as "LLARY KINGS FEET STINK" and "The Oak Ridge Boys smile upon incest") that certainly blur what is merely from Korine's warped mind and what is actually true. Some of these 'zines are wonderfully heartbreaking, while others are morbidly humorous. Nonetheless, each page of each fanzine unlocks a socially despised door or opens a clouded, misty window of contemporary life without compromise nor reason. In this manner, the collection greatly reflects "Gummo" with its inspirational presentation of what usually is left unmentioned. Certain pages of these fanzines (especially "My Friend or Sheep Boy") appear as direct companion pieces to the film and even its screenplay. They read like naiveté anecdotes from Solomon's next door neighbor or Tummler's imaginary friend. Manipulated photos of wrecked jalopies and decrepit homes move far enough to suggest themselves as documents on the tornado aftermath in Xenia, Ohio.
A musing on the omnipresence of anti-reality and an essential counterpart to "Gummo" are only two levels of this anthology. The ridiculous sentences, the disheartening confessions, the $125 Nike Air Jordans--it all proves that even as a 16-year-old boy drinking flowery pink wine in his grandmother's basement, Harmony Korine had a true (mis)understanding of existence that only he and professional skateboarder/chair wrestler Mark Gonzales will ever know. Thanks to "The Collected Fanzines," I will never be able to think of Richard Gere without also thinking of the fact(?) that he said, "Fuck Tibet!"(less)