The best Evenson work since The Wavering Knife. LAST DAYS is perhaps more accessible than his other work, which makes it all the more reason for those...moreThe best Evenson work since The Wavering Knife. LAST DAYS is perhaps more accessible than his other work, which makes it all the more reason for those unacquainted to jump on board now.(less)
Gordon Highland’s Major Inversion is a first-person meta-tale dominated by the seductive and confident Drew Ballard, 80’s tribute and Jazz fusion guitarist by night, commercial jingle scribe and drug enthused security guard by day. Highland writes with a narrative voice so full of wit and humor, it would be wise to read with a cynical cock-blocking fat friend at your side; the hair-metal spandex and verbal dexterity can make a persuasive cocktail.
Cynically sarcastic, though driven once the “pale and thin – bookish” (27) Layla enters the fold, Ballard jokes his way from jingles to a legitimate film score job, and ultimately into Layla pants, eventually shedding his rock-whore stage persona in favor of exclusivity. But despite the promise, Ballard’s upward trend does not last.
Major Inversions incorporates metafictional elements to immerse the reader, beyond even the ability of Ballard’s wit. References to the book itself permeate the text (“I’m getting better at this putting-one-word-in-front-of-another thing…Little periods every now and then to break it up for your short-assed attention span” [76:]) and casual asides jolt the reader into introspection (when discussing his own adoption with a therapist the idea of journaling his experiences opens for the seemingly innocent, “Now there’s a novel idea” [238:]). But the most obvious and unique meta-element is the inclusion of song lyrics, complete with chord progressions, which act as distilled moments of clarity, delivered perhaps in the way Ballard naturally thinks:
During a scene when DEA agents break into Ballard’s home (143): Am Bm7b5 Cmaj7 You can drown all your sorrows B/Eb Eadd9 But they learn to swim
(NOTE: GoodReads's editor doesn't allow the chords to appear directly over their corresponding lyric. Trust me, in the print version the chords appear correctly. Click here for an example.)
With the early introduction of Barron Vaughn, Major Inversions begins its true arc. The cable installer turned roommate, true to his “reptilian” (43) features, integrates his way into Ballard’s residence then life then personal arc in surprising ways. He is the story’s lurking demon, an arresting presence in all his scenes.
Major Inversions, from its “shitty” opening scene, to its final tragicomic pages simply works. You will likely not read a funnier book for quite some time.(less)
Not exactly a review, but I do mention this book in one of my book vlog videos. Click the image below to watch (opens in YouTube).
SCORCH ATLAS, more...moreNot exactly a review, but I do mention this book in one of my book vlog videos. Click the image below to watch (opens in YouTube).
SCORCH ATLAS, more than most of Butler's, really has the Brian Evenson dystopia going on. In a completely complimentary. Essentially, take Evenson's DARK PROPERTY and mix it with Cormac McCarthy's THE ROAD, and sprinkle some lush description, and you get SCORCH ATLAS.
Best line (out of so many great ones): "...she hummed in glitches, cuts of hymn he'd never heard..." (pg. 86)(less)
I'm the author, but it's cool if I review the book, right? True, it seems obvious that I would think this book is worth a 5-star rating, thus negating...moreI'm the author, but it's cool if I review the book, right? True, it seems obvious that I would think this book is worth a 5-star rating, thus negating the need for me to comment. But, when the opportunity to be an egomaniac arises, I take it.
Seriously, though, there's some good stuff on these pages.(less)
This novella was originally serialized, which makes the bound version feel a bit disjointed. That aside, this is definitely an Evenson-esque story, th...moreThis novella was originally serialized, which makes the bound version feel a bit disjointed. That aside, this is definitely an Evenson-esque story, though perhaps not as visceral as most of his stuff.
Baby Leg is a great book for established fans, but definitely should not be the first for someone new to Evenson. For that, I say go with Last Days or The Wavering Knife.(less)
Attention Kevin Smith fans (and strangely, Gilmore Girls fans): you are going to love this book. Though Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine (Orange Alert Press) arcs as a novel, it is written as a series of dialog-heavy exchanges of wit between characters that define themselves by a pop culture context. Knots Landing vs. Dallas is their war. The gospel of Star Wars is their religious creed.
What is perhaps most interesting and impressive with this, Ben Tanzer’s second novel (released in 2008; in 2009 CCLaP Publishing released Repetition Patterns, a collection of stories) is just how much the author relies on dialog and pop culture to describe the characters. Physical description is sparing, and despite the implications there, the novel is quick and engaging. Who needs setting when you’ve got exchanges like this:
“What? You never got why people liked Star Wars? Is there something wrong with you?”
“Maybe. I definitely feel that way most of the time.” (pg. 18)
And character portraits like this:
Jen and Gracie believe that love has to knock you over, though even if it does, it not only can’t be trusted, but you are likely doomed to endless struggle, inane dissections of problems big and small and always at risk of perpetually losing oneself in the murky swamp of confusion and loathing that inevitably attaches itself to most relationships. (pg. 54)
The four main characters (helpfully depicted on the novel’s cover) endure life as they search for human connection. These are quick-witted, intelligent people that we all wish we knew. And for Most Likely You Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine’s 172 pages, we do.
Though I started confused, this novel became my favorite (so far) from Stephen Graham Jones. Jones has said of this book that it's his best ending eve...moreThough I started confused, this novel became my favorite (so far) from Stephen Graham Jones. Jones has said of this book that it's his best ending ever. I might have to agree with that.(less)
Pablo D’Stair writes the kind of fiction I love to read. He is able to consistently take a sin...more(this review originally appeared at OutsiderWriters.org)
Pablo D’Stair writes the kind of fiction I love to read. He is able to consistently take a single point of logic and extrapolate its implications for the length of a full book. In the earlier reviewed, Kaspar Traulhaine, approximate, we follow a character as he descends into all-consuming paranoia. The logic being that the character murdered someone and is afraid of being found out. In the case of i poisoned you, D’Stair allows a seemingly compassionate Aldous Kline to investigate his brother’s supposedly adulterous girlfriend. The magic is that D’Stair doesn’t try to weave artificial plot into such a set-up. He instead works within the immediate effects of the situation, opting for intense examination:
I wondered how close, exactly, I could get to her, if I could actually step into the row of books closest her, even there, leaf through something, she never even casually glancing up. I watched her yawn, unaware of anything, throwing her shoulders back, twisting a bit where she sat, using the butt of her palm to cover her mouth while she rubbed hard at one of her eyes with two fingers bent hard for just that purpose, the motion creaking, a moan pulping and circular (pg. 36).
i poisoned you ups the ante further by removing as much humanity from the character as possible so that we are left to explore without the weight of specific context. This creates a fragile narrative, constantly reminding the reader that investment in a single character (re: a single mind) means ignoring the remaining infinite possibilities. So, D’Stair instead creates the ultimate blank slate:
Bertram hadn’t even given me a reason to keep an eye on [the girlfriend:], as he didn’t recall his conversation with me, that night didn’t exist to him, it was less present than a dream…I nodded, heavy, knowing the logic was sound, knowing I was an absolute anomaly (pg. 30).
I feel obligated to mention, in respect to full disclosure, a recent project which brought Pablo and me together. Pablo’s Brown Paper Press recently revived their Predicate journal, which contains a lengthy (and quite interesting, I will say) conversation between the two of us. Having talked with Pablo under those intellectual pretenses may have made me more susceptible to i poisoned you (though I am certain I would have still enjoyed the book otherwise). But, the author-equals-art-equals-author theory (which we discuss in the above linked dialog) would say that such support is unavoidable and should even be embraced.
(D’Stair is willing to give FREE copies of his books to anyone willing to provide uncensored reader feedback. Click here for info)(less)
I’m going to try something different with this review. I often find that an author’s own words, perhaps selectively chosen, are a better summation of a text than any review. However, I do understand that the point of a review isn’t merely in summary, but is meant to judge a book as well. Here, I will give a bit of both modes, though with a heavier weight on quotes taken from the text. Here is my first “Mostly Quotes Review.” Let me know what you think.
Wolf Parts is vicious fairy tale excursions:
Pg. 7: “…she laid across the stones and, with the knife her mother had given her, gutted herself, quickly, left to right. She cried out in wonder at the bright worlds she found hidden within herself…”
Wolf Parts gives metaphor to the ambiguity of adolescence, turning the cautionary tale of “Little Red Riding Hood” into a predatory one:
Pg 14: “The wolf’s breath smelled of chalk, and his paws were covered in flour. It wasn’t enough to trick the girl, but she allowed herself to pretend to be fooled. She opened her cloak and invited him in, so that he might do what he came to do.”
Wolf Parts turns the morality lessons of our established fairy tale and turns it inside out, sometimes literally:
Pg 15: “From inside the wolf’s stomach the grandmother could only hear every third or fourth word her granddaughter spoke…She bit down hard, first on lung and heart, then indiscriminately, casting about in a great gnashing, devouring all she could until the wolf she was inside was also inside her…”(less)
These stories render emotion in shades of stark gray. Like sculptures, Deal subtracts from his Cienfuegos superfluous elements, leaving a base from wh...moreThese stories render emotion in shades of stark gray. Like sculptures, Deal subtracts from his Cienfuegos superfluous elements, leaving a base from which the reader is allowed to interpret, perhaps participate in, his characters’ disjointed lives. Each word hints at two others; each line implies a life; each brief fiction describes a world.(less)
Part mystery, part thriller, part apocalyptic exploration, Transubstantiate offers questions at every page. It’s been a while since I’ve read the book...morePart mystery, part thriller, part apocalyptic exploration, Transubstantiate offers questions at every page. It’s been a while since I’ve read the book (I read an early, pre-publication draft), but the fact that it stays with me is quite telling.(less)
Twelve ELEVEN Thirteen is the newest in Pablo D’stair’s growing catalog of paranoia novellas. Following i poisoned you, Kaspar Traulhaine, approximate...moreTwelve ELEVEN Thirteen is the newest in Pablo D’stair’s growing catalog of paranoia novellas. Following i poisoned you, Kaspar Traulhaine, approximate, and a long list of prior works, Twelve ELEVEN Thirteen builds upon D’stair’s legacy of suspicion and terror while pushing forward in terms language and the all important concept of empathy; a necessity when following the skewed rationale of a paranoiac for 122 pages.
The novella’s title refers to the narrator’s apartment complex hallway, in which the near-entirety of the novel is set. After witnessing a strange man enter a neighbor’s apartment, Jervis Tidmouth quickly becomes obsessed with the stranger’s purpose, weaving a web of jagged and inconsistent rationale to satisfy his neurotic curiosity.
The beauty of a D’stair paranoia novella is the degree to which the author is able to account for, and ultimately justify, his narrator’s unabashed skepticism. Taking a macro level view of Tidmouth’s situation, it would be easy to dismiss this narrator’s every concern as improbable blather, accounting for every instance of narrowed eyes (pg 10), of someone “brushing at something” (pg 96), of a police officer “nodding with [Jarvis:], eyes set, friendly” (pg 86) as coincidental at best, unimportant at worst. Tidmouth’s over-analysis of crossing a street should be laughable:
“I didn’t slow my approach, but did grit my teeth, gave thought to making a dash for my apartment, but that would mean turning back in the direction I’d come from or else crossing the street, right there, then back in the direction of my apartment—either way it would be an obvious recoil” (pg 12).
But at a micro level, the reader is eased into an understanding of the paranoia. This works, I think, because we aren’t reading angry skepticism. It’s passive, pitiful, even, yet ultimately logical. This slow nurturing of the reader is impressive, which makes me hope Pablo never writes a political manifesto.
(D’Stair is willing to give FREE copies of his books to anyone willing to provide uncensored reader feedback. Click here for info)(less)