THE ART INSTINCT applies the ideas of evolutionary psychology to the arts. This is required reading for anyone who considers himself an artist. And foTHE ART INSTINCT applies the ideas of evolutionary psychology to the arts. This is required reading for anyone who considers himself an artist. And for the fiction writers out there, look forward to an entire chapter called THE USES OF FICTION, which contains some profound ideas regarding the human need for narrative....more
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, 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)...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
For too long I avoided this book. Many people whose opinions I respect recommend it, but n(This review originally appeared at www.outsiderwriters.org)
For too long I avoided this book. Many people whose opinions I respect recommend it, but no matter the pressure, I politely passed. I can assume many reasons for that: perhaps the author’s online persona (which, after reading this book, I realize is actually an incredibly smart marketing move); perhaps the author’s local status (he’s here in Kansas City, so I feared not liking the book and having to meet him one day); perhaps it was the book cover (sexy, pouty lips scream mass market trash, to me). But, after drinks with Tietz a few weeks ago, he passed me copy, so I broke down and cracked the spine a few days ago. Today, I finished. Impressed. Honestly, sad that it took me so long to give in.
Out of Touch, Tietz’s first novel, is unequal parts early Chuck Palahniuk—in tone, style, and theme—and American Psycho, with the Palahniuk influence far outweighing the Ellis. Trade the corporate disenfranchisement of Fight Club’s unnamed narrator with the vainglorious obsession of American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman, and you get Out of Touch’s Aidin [last name redacted:].
Aidin, a twenty-something socialite, slowly succumbs to what he calls “the numb,” a feeling of physical and mental imperviousness. And while the state seems fun at first, allowing parlor tricks involving sewing needles to lead to many bedded women, the high quickly becomes deterioration. Out of Touch reads like a journal of sensation loss, which would imply empathy for the character’s descent given another author’s hand. But Tietz dodges that mode and instead focuses on style, style, style. And I love him for it.
As I closed the book this evening, I was left wondering just how amazed I’d have been had I not been so familiar with Chuck Palahniuk’s earlier work. However, though Out of Touch is derivative, it is still beautifully rendered and perfectly slick.
And the ending, surprising to say the least. I want a sequel. Get on it, Tietz....more
(This review originally appeared at OutsiderWriters [dot:] org)
Kevin Rabas’s second poetry collection, Lisa’s Flying Electric Piano, explores the effe(This review originally appeared at OutsiderWriters [dot:] org)
Kevin Rabas’s second poetry collection, Lisa’s Flying Electric Piano, explores the effects of a life structured by music, woven amid a series of failed, yet forever impacting relationships. From learning (”Jack McCann’s Own Hometown Marching Band”) to playing (”Playing for Dave”) to understanding its power (the title poem, “Lisa’s Flying Electric Piano”), music is the backdrop, the blood, and the fuel to this series of beautifully taut relationships.
The collection relies on this powerful tension amid intimacy to justify the apparent cruelness expressed by many of the characters. These vignettes in verse, tiny slices of relationships, reliably build to arresting final images. “Spare Change” caps a brief encounter between a suited man and a homeless woman with the man’s unknowing theft of her change. “Bend Credit Cards” describes the destruction of a failed couple’s final charge card, shared hatred abundant, ending on a note of promise. And perhaps the most stunning poem, likely by means of its content contrasted against the rest of the poems, “To Eat Just Once: Remembering a Ranger Lecture at Yellowstone National Park,” addresses the visceral inevitability of a hunter and prey relationship. However, even given the cruel setup, the piece still manages the understood optimism promised by a Rabas poem.
In addition to the individual beauty of the poems, the collection utilizes a clever framing device to address the importance of a close reading. The opening poem, “Slow Words,” insists the reader slow down, enjoy the words, while the closing few pieces offer the reader a childlike experience involving sidewalk chalk and the rains that will wash those scribbles away (”On My Chalk,” “Economics of a Summer Rain”).
Lisa’s Flying Electric Piano works so well to not only promote Kevin Rabas as a beautiful poet but perhaps more importantly to promote the art of poetry. In addition to the framing mentioned above, Rabas reliably reminds the reader that not only these words, but all words, are worth digesting slowly:
There must be a reason we are given a view of our small part of the universe
from “After Stephen Hawking’s Address on Yahoo!”
My grandparents said that there was no more reason for church. Card games and yarns told their stories better than bible verses, and too many friends had already passed for them to enjoy the service.
Those who know Nik Korpon’s work, know that he has a smoothness of language and polished confidence with his writing that even many veterans haven’t aThose who know Nik Korpon’s work, know that he has a smoothness of language and polished confidence with his writing that even many veterans haven’t achieved. He’s something special. When you read something from Nik Korpon you’re reading for mind and soul in the truest sense of the words.
With By the Nails of the Warpriest, Nik takes a bit a detour from his Baltimore noir roots and delivers something a bit darker, a bit more sci-fi, perhaps something Cormac McCarthy would write if he were subjected to a cycle of 12 Monkeys viewings projected on the wall of a condemned Baltimore row house with a group of vagabond squatters....more
This is how great Twitter can be: when I was just 20 pages into Tokyo Vice, I posted this update: Jake Adelstein's TOKYO VICE makes me want to be yakuzThis is how great Twitter can be: when I was just 20 pages into Tokyo Vice, I posted this update: Jake Adelstein's TOKYO VICE makes me want to be yakuza
He responded the next day with: @calebjross It's supposed to have the opposite effect. :)
Considering that this exchange was completely unanticipated, I was quite surprised by the direct line of contact with the author. I assumed that the exchange would end there. But, then I finished the book, and I realized how insulting my first comment could have appeared. Tokyo Vice is such an amazing story, one that, though filed under “true crime” touches on memoir. Adelstein’s position as a reporter with the unique opportunity to out certain immoral (to say the least) yakuza behavior, bleeds into his personal life in deeply affecting ways. As soon as I finished the book, I posted again on Twitter: @jakeadelstein I must apologize for my earlier statement of wanting to be yakuza. I just finished TOKYO VICE. Incredible story, sir.
And he came back with: @calebjross Apology accepted. :)
Such a gentleman. Tokyo Vice goes highly recommended. ...more
A Prayer for the Dying is what would happen if José Saramago wrote a Cormac McCarthy southern gothic novel. A stark and immensely powerful short novelA Prayer for the Dying is what would happen if José Saramago wrote a Cormac McCarthy southern gothic novel. A stark and immensely powerful short novel, A Prayer for the Dying culminates to one of the best choreographed endings I have ever read....more
At page ten, “Traveling Lightheaded,” I was intrigued.
At page twenty-seven, “The Stranger’s Dilemma,” I fell in love.
Twenty Stories (Rank Stranger Press) beautifully enhances my admittedly limited perception of flapper-era New Orleans, from the speech (“Merci, Mr. Zacher”) to the eats (“Shrimp Remoulade”) to the drink (wine, wine, and more wine), carrying all upon prose as elegant as its author. The collection, the first (of many, fingers crossed) from New Orleans resident and enthusiast, Kristin Fouquet, mixes vignettes, fully arced flash fiction pieces, and a couple longer stories, each uniquely stirring and strong, yet collectively comprehensive in their representation of Fouquet’s impressive skill.
Fouquet thrives with the vignette “slice of life” form (perhaps because of the word’s French origin?), building her scenes in measured, dense sentences, often cutting these pieces mid-breath to leave the reader gasping. What, in lesser hands, might come across as a simple device to showcase cleverness, Fouquet respects her readers, offering instead endings of substance and lasting power.
With “Traveling Lightheaded,” a seemingly predatory stranger convinces an inebriated woman to travel away with him for the weekend. The woman agrees, then questions her decision, then regains her trust, this time sober, only to open herself to a final-line observation that reinforces the stranger’s original predatory disposition. From odd, to impulsive, to creepy, to romantically hopeful, and then right back to creepy, “Traveling Lightheaded” navigates an entire range of emotion in a short two pages.
And her story, “Baptism,” I’ll be thinking of for months.
And “Standard Pack,” damn, Fouquet can write....more