Reading Stephen Graham Jones is like being on a manhunt for a double amputee. Even when I get him, I (click to watch the video book review on YouTube)
Reading Stephen Graham Jones is like being on a manhunt for a double amputee. Even when I get him, I don't get all of him.
Nick Bruiseman is a has-been PI who lives in a storage locker in Stanton, Texas. A small town, 3,000 people, where everyone knows everyone. So when Bruiseman gets hired, things turn incestuous quickly.
The book will be released in March 2014. If you are a fan of detective novels and oral storytelling, then I definitely recommend it. But know, you’re going to have to work for your reward.
I've read a lot of Stephen Graham Jones (show stack), and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed just about all of it.
Jones is an evasive storyteller, very difficult to pin down and with plots that are often difficult to follow. And I think with Not For Nothing, his 18th book, I've finally figured out why.
First, his very conversational approach to storytelling, much like one would imagine a storyteller around a campfire. His sentences are often very beautiful, but made so by disregarding some grammatical conventions. He’s fine with sentence fragments and orders extra commas like their free. He’s an oral storyteller above all else, I think. He just happens to write the stories down.
Second, his dialog is full of non sequiturs. When used sparingly, a non sequitur can describe the relationship between characters better than anything else. Don DeLillo is the king of this. But when every exchange has that “inside joke” feel, it can be difficult for a reader to establish a firm footing with the characters.
Third, Jones uses very, very, very little “refresher” text, text used to reminder the reader of important characters and events. When you’re reading a 267 page book, it’s necessary to be reminded often why characters, events, or places are important, or even just to be reminded why we should care about a particular name. Jones doesn’t do this very often. I chalk this up to Jones being a mad genius. Honestly, I think Jones’ brain operates so quickly that to him, something briefly mentioned 250 pages ago is still as fresh in his mind as something mentioned 2 pages ago.
Fourth, characters are often introduced quickly only to be forgotten for full chapters before being introduced again. They aren’t allowed to stick. Now, for a book like Not for Nothing, where new names seem to pop up every few pages, I’m left trying to re-familiarize myself with characters constantly.
If all of these things seem to you like they’d contribute to a very confusing story, you're right. His stories can be confusing. Incredibly at times. But often, that’s the appeal. Much like tracking down our aforementioned legless fugitive, the thrill for me is watch the unfamiliar and at times erratic escape path. To fully capture the fugitive, all four limbs intact, might not be very satisfying. Because then you’ve got just another convict in custody. Where’s the fun in that? Who wants to read just another detective story?...more
This collected works volume of Gordon Highland stories has been a long time coming. Gordon’s stories never disappoint. The only problem is that they gThis collected works volume of Gordon Highland stories has been a long time coming. Gordon’s stories never disappoint. The only problem is that they generally appear in literary journals and anthologies only sporadically. With Submission Windows new readers can bypass the wait I’ve had to endure.
I’ll keep this review short (because, honestly, who reads lengthy reviews?). Gordon’s confidence of language, clever (but not too clever) wordplay, and perfectly measured plots make him an author to keep an eye on. Word on the street is that Submission Windows may be his last full-length volume. Please find him online and beg him to change his mind....more
I'm not religious, so reading what could be called a religious book goes against the expected contenClick the image below to watch my video review.
I'm not religious, so reading what could be called a religious book goes against the expected content on this channel (a channel, need I remind you, that sometimes features a character called the Heavenly Feather, which is a, yes, heavenly feather). But this book is different. It's more history than religious. Much is discussed about Jesus the Christ, but what about Jesus the person? Got your attention yet? This is what Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan explores. And it's incredible. Even to a non-religious person like me. The worldly origins of otherworldly belief systems is very interesting to me.
This paragraph sums up the book, and it's inherent interest, nicely:
The great irony is that in the beginning, the gut was all there was. “We’re basica
This paragraph sums up the book, and it's inherent interest, nicely:
The great irony is that in the beginning, the gut was all there was. “We’re basically a highly evolved earthwork surrounding the intestinal tract,” Khoruts commented as we drove away from his clinic the last day I was there. Eventually, the food processor had to have a brain attached to help it look for food, and limbs to reach that food. That increased its size, so it needed a circulatory system to distributed the fuel that powered the limbs. And so on. Even now, the digestive tract has its own immune system and its own primitive brain, the so-called enteric nervous system. I recalled what Ton van Vliet had said at one point in our conversation: “People are surprised to learn: They are a big pipe with a little bit around it.”
Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach, pg 325...more
There’s a loose “neighborhood” of writers that seem to come together, rather organically, to work on shared projects over and over again. First, thereThere’s a loose “neighborhood” of writers that seem to come together, rather organically, to work on shared projects over and over again. First, there was The Velvet, an online forum that brought together many bourgeoning writers with tastes for the noir, lushly descriptive, crime story. Relationships formed. That—still evolving—group then went on to be (and concurrently were) involved in projects like the Warmed and Bound anthology, The Velvet Podcast, and Manarchy Magazine. Other simultaneously evolving neighborhoods bred with The Velvet (Thunderdome, The Booked Podcast) until a solid, often unified, though rarely dignified, group of creators…well, just kept creating. There’s never been a single mantra. Never a single project. There’s just the many products seem immaculately conceived. The Booked. Anthology is one of those projects.
There are so many writers in here whose stories I always anticipate. I won’t name them all, as it would basically be a verbatim transcript of the table of contents. Rather, I’ll mention a few writers I was either unfamiliar or not very familiar with prior to reading The Booked. Anthology.
Mark Rapacz – I heard Mark read a few years ago at the Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago. His first novel, Buffalo Bill in the Gallery of the Machines: an Unbiased Historical Account, was just released by Burnt Bridge books. Me, not being a fan of Western books (nor being a fan of live readings, really; I don’t have the attention span for audio stories) unfairly considered Mark “just another of the night’s readers.” But his The Booked. Anthology story, “Manager Dog,” stands out as a great example of a writer’s confidence (re: readability) bringing life to a story.
Also, well, crap, actually I’m pretty familiar with everyone else in this anthology. So, I guess Mark gets all of the fame in this review. Definitely pick up the anthology. These are all NEVER BEFORE PUBLISHED stories by some of the best storytellers around. If you’re in to noir, slipstream, dystopian, and sometimes just plain weird, you’ll like this book.
(disclosure: my story, “The Removal Kind,” appears in The Booked. Anthology)...more
I read an early version of this collection, What Precision, Such Restraint, a few years ago, during which time I must have been drunk, since though II read an early version of this collection, What Precision, Such Restraint, a few years ago, during which time I must have been drunk, since though I recall enjoying the collection I don’t remember it being so front-loaded with genius.
I want to focus on the amazing story, “That Lombardi Thing” which encapsulates what I consider to be the absolutely best kind of story: voice-driven, thought-provoking, and never too full of itself. This is why I love José Saramago. This is why I love Brian Evenson (though his characters do tend to be a bit full of themselves, the stories aren’t). This is what I try to write.
“That Lombardi Thing” explores the made-up (I think made-up) concept of Freudhacking, which is the practice of switching a person’s conscious with their subconscious. Thought-provoking: check. The narrator is a one-time practitioner of Freudhacking who wants nothing more than to be left alone, never to practice again. Voice-driven: check. The occasion for the story is that this old man practitioner is approached by a man who wants to know what it’s like to live without language. The old man thinks he’s nuts. Never too full of itself: check.
The author, Phil Jourdan, tries to pawn this collection off as just a literary experiment without any merit beyond its own pages. He even calls the book a bunch of terrible names during a live reading in Boston a few months ago. It’s just proof of his genius that by telling the world of the book’s insufficient origins Phil can then be free to write whatever he wants, and the reader, having been briefed of the rubbish, can’t complain. Well, the reader won’t want to complain, so you failed, Phil....more
Full disclosure: I’ve known Simon West-Bulford online for years. We were part of an online writing group years ago when I read an early draft of The BFull disclosure: I’ve known Simon West-Bulford online for years. We were part of an online writing group years ago when I read an early draft of The Beasts of Upton Puddle. Back then, as now, I wasn’t much in touch with Young Adult fiction. I didn’t know much about the fantasy genre, and especially little about the popular-because-of-Harry-Potter sub-genre of child in a strange world fantasy. But the magic of a Simon West-Bulford book is that prior knowledge need not apply. The Beasts of Upton Puddle is simultaneously a fantastic introduction to and surely a pillar of its genre.
The Beasts of Upton Puddle is the story of a kind-hearted boy named Joe Copper with a predilection toward the magical (a la Harry Potter). One day, while hoping to find help for an injured raccoon, Joe is directed to a neighborhood veterinarian who cares for mythical creatures. This veterinarian, Mrs. Merrynether, quickly takes a liking to Joe, gradually introducing him to her world of fantasy animals. Together, they must fight against a local property developer with malicious intentions: to destroy Mrs. Merrynether’s practice in order to acquire the land for himself. Of course, nothing is ever as it seems.
What I especially like about The Beasts of Upton Puddle is that the book doesn’t rely on developing new worlds in order to tell its story. We are experiencing the magical in our own every-day world. Joe and Mrs. Merrynether aren’t necessarily fighting evil sorcerers bent on destroying the entire planet Earth, but rather a local evil bent on destroying the community that Joe loves. This closeness, this almost quaintness about the story works so much better for me than the stories that necessitate hundreds of pages of world-building.
Definitely read the book. It comes out in September 2013. You won’t be sorry....more