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
Far too many author interview books feel so self-involved and seem to serve only the authors themselves. This one is different. Authors talk about wriFar too many author interview books feel so self-involved and seem to serve only the authors themselves. This one is different. Authors talk about writing in a way that downplays their own work in a refreshing way. In fact, the actual interviewer isn't even disclosed (simply referred to as The Goat) which goes a long way to imply the lack of ego involved in the creation of this book.
Take the Heaven vs. Hell comedy dynamic of Kevin Smith’s Dogma and mash it against the “untold story” appeal of Christopher Moore’s Lamb: The Gospel ATake the Heaven vs. Hell comedy dynamic of Kevin Smith’s Dogma and mash it against the “untold story” appeal of Christopher Moore’s Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal and you get Michael Paul Gonzalez’s Angel Falls.
Gonzalez leverages biblical characters to create an incredibly entertaining story where Satan is the hero, Eve is a diner waitress in Hell, and a talking, muscle car driving monkey saves the day multiple times (you know, the monkey…from the monkey book of the bible…okay, so Gonzalez takes plenty of liberties).
Those with even the barest knowledge of Christianity will really enjoy this book, while those with a stronger knowledge may unearth a few fun Easter Eggs throughout, making this book applicable to anyone who loves a good humorous extrapolation of ancient fairy tales....more
The Cost of Living will easily make my top 10 of 2013 list.
I've read all of Roberge’s work, all that I’m awarClick the image to watch my video review
The Cost of Living will easily make my top 10 of 2013 list.
I've read all of Roberge’s work, all that I’m aware of (Drive [novel], More than they Could Chew [novel], Working Backwards from the Worst Moment of My Life [stories]) and I’d read anything else in the future. He’s one of my favorite writers, so you know, having the history I do, you can trust my words.
To read The Cost of Living is to read the rock and roll story that everyone’s always wanted, but could never find; there’s too much glitter and groupies, too much ego in other rock and roll stories. With The Cost of Living, you’re forced to deal with, and ultimately fall in love with, a life that’s been destroyed by the stage. Every rock and roll story you've read before will seem cliche compared to The Cost of Living....more
Amy has such an amazingly strong sense of confidence with her language. As a reader, the best feeling is to know you are in good hands; then you can lAmy has such an amazingly strong sense of confidence with her language. As a reader, the best feeling is to know you are in good hands; then you can lay back and enjoy the read. ...more
A strange book with a surprising amount of heart. Part dystopia, part Animal Farm, part 1984. If you like any of those "parts," you'll like this book.A strange book with a surprising amount of heart. Part dystopia, part Animal Farm, part 1984. If you like any of those "parts," you'll like this book.
Legion by Brandon Sanderson is a quick, fun, enjoyable read. The problem for me may be that it’s ONLY a quick, fun,
Click image to watch video review
Legion by Brandon Sanderson is a quick, fun, enjoyable read. The problem for me may be that it’s ONLY a quick, fun, enjoyable read. But that’s my personal crap, I understand. I generally like a different kind of book, one that forces me to think a bit more. But again, that my personal, elitist crap. Why shouldn’t I be able to simply enjoy a book rather than deconstruct it? It makes no sense. In fact, I should read more stories like Legion by Brandon Sanderson. I’m not being snide here; I really should.
At times William Gay, at times Carlton Mellick III, but always, I’d say, he dodges what would traditionally be called Bizarro fiction by way of empathy for his characters. He’s Bizarro with heart…so, magical realist, I suppose. He’d fit in more with Amy Bender and Gabriel García Márquez than with Carlton Mellick III or even Bradley Sands, but is strong enough in the world of any to be welcomed by them.
Wallwork isn’t afraid to take a strange, even repulsive concept, and build a touching story around it. A story of a man shitting out his own nerves? Sounds ridiculous, but Wallwork makes it work. A sexual sideshow couple famous of inserting increasingly large objects into the woman’s vagina? Yep, but it gets even weirder, yet Wallwork knows how to approach situations like these with heart....more
This stories of Fuckload of Shorts by Jedidiah Ayres, which includes the stories that inspired the short film Fuckload of Scotch Tape, are the best k
This stories of Fuckload of Shorts by Jedidiah Ayres, which includes the stories that inspired the short film Fuckload of Scotch Tape, are the best kind of short stories. Each one takes an idea that, realistically should make for a horrible, shock-driven story, and instead delivers amazing noir fiction with beautifully rendered characters. Ejaculating a dead man? Yep. Selling corpses to a dog foot plant? Yep. In the hands of a lesser writer, these ideas would amount to nothing more than throwaway snuff fiction. But in the hands of Jedidiah Ayres, these ideas are simply climaxes of and catalysts for truly compelling stories.
This video book review examines one of those scenarios in-depth: how exactly, logistically speaking, can one ejaculate a dead man? Yes, there is a whiteboard and drawings included....more
The Orphan Master’s Son is a remarkable book. I’ve been a fan of Adam Johnson’s work since his story cClick the image below to watch the video review
The Orphan Master’s Son is a remarkable book. I’ve been a fan of Adam Johnson’s work since his story collection Emporium (which I credit as being a primary impetus to my own fiction writing), and though both books are stellar, they are so in such different ways. It’s hard to believe that the man who wrote Emporium is the same guy who wrote The Orphan Master’s Son. Perhaps the two personalities are a Jun Do/Commander Ga thing (reference to the book).
In this video review you’ll suffer through my overt praise as well as my amazing Photoshop skills. Who knew Adam Johnson could so easily become Kim Jong Il?...more
Immobility is about an amnesiac man named Horkai, and in typical amnesic style Horkai begins this noveClick the image below to watch the video review
Immobility is about an amnesiac man named Horkai, and in typical amnesic style Horkai begins this novel having no idea who he is, where he is, or who those around him are. So, he must trust the word of those around him, namely a man named Rasmus. Rasmus tells Horkai that he has been brought out of a cryogenic state after 30 or so years and must go on a mission to retrieve something for Rasmus. So, Horkai does.
Now the first half of the novel plays around with Horkai's alternating discovery of and hesitation to accept his surrounds. It's a typical blank memory novel for a while. But then, the novel quickly becomes so much more. It becomes, what I interpret, as a commentary on organized religion, specifically the aggressive, and perhaps selfish, nature of religions missionaries.
See, during Horkai's journey, he finds people who seem very willing, eager even, to help him. They seem trustworthy. And each time, the reader is lulled into a sense of trust. We want to believe these people are truly out to help Horkai. But they never are.
Evenson's own struggles with organized religion are documented online, so I won't go into them here, but this book feels to me like perhaps his most personal. And this includes The Open Curtain which very much plays with the conventions of Mormonism, and until Immobility, I would have called his most religion-conscious book. And what's interesting is that Immobility does this without overtly calling attention to itself as an exploration of religion.
So even if you don't like long form detestation of religion--all two of you out there, right, because I know you guys like to party heathen style--even if you don't like this kind of book, don't discount it. There's a lot more to love here. For instance, the story takes place in an alternate history setting, post-apocalyptic, similar to Cormac McCarthy's The Road. The main character, Horkai, has no legs and must be carried by two people who are referred to as mules, and who refer to Horkai as a burden. Mix in a bit of The Matrix, some sci-fi elements, and sprinkle a bit of pestled viagra, which must be in there because I was rock hard while reading this....more
The Soul Consortium not only spans multiple universes but also manages to bring to life the spaces between the universes. This is by far the most expaThe Soul Consortium not only spans multiple universes but also manages to bring to life the spaces between the universes. This is by far the most expansive book, in terms of setting and chronology, I’ve ever read. The Soul Consortium redefines epic as a literary form....more
Click the image below to watch the quick Wordless Video Book Review
This, Gordon Highland’s second novel, contains all the quick-pacing of an airportClick the image below to watch the quick Wordless Video Book Review
This, Gordon Highland’s second novel, contains all the quick-pacing of an airport bestseller with the methodical attention to sentence structure and language of a high-literary life’s work. Though the premise isn’t earth-shattering in its concept (the author would tell you this himself) the execution of the premise is absolutely unique. Not much can be said here without spoiling, so I’ll leave the official synopsis to speak for the premise.
I was most impressed by the way that Highland is able to explore multiple timelines simultaneously without compromising the individual effectiveness of any of them. He teaches the reader how to read his book, which is something only the very best authors know how to do well.
If you’ve read his previous novel (Major Inversions) you’ll know well Highland’s clever twists of phrase and perfect comedic timing. If you haven’t read Major Inversions, I recommend you start with Flashover. Get a taste for what this amazing author can do, then go back and take in the first novel. Finally, write your congress person and ask that he support a proposition to get Gordon Highland to write another novel....more