There’s a loose “neighborhood” of writers that seem to come together, rather organically, to work on shared projects over and over again. First, there...moreThere’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)(less)
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 I...moreI 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.(less)
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 B...moreFull 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.(less)
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 wri...moreFar 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.
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.(less)
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 l...moreAmy 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. (less)
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.(less)
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...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 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.(less)
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 expa...moreThe 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.(less)
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 airport...moreClick 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.(less)
It helps to know what you're getting into with this book (though isn't that the case with all books?). Roulettetown is a very stream of conscious narr...moreIt helps to know what you're getting into with this book (though isn't that the case with all books?). Roulettetown is a very stream of conscious narrative about a woman at a roulette table in a casino (assumed) during the course of a single night. So, at 88 pages, you can imagine just how stream of conscious this book will be.
This quiet, slow (in a traditional, vs. James Patterson commercial way, slow) book captures the ever-observant narrator's obsessive, yet honestly, quite honest, view of her small world, her Roulette Town. We aren't meant to infer anything about this character. We aren't meant to expect a twist. We are meant to em-mind the narrator, filling her static shoes for a few pages.
The reader ends up feeling like the narrator herself, looking for temporary companionship in the strangers around her, searching every muscle twitch, every blink, every stupid bet and assumed gambling "trick" from those around the table for a sense of community. And that's the magic of this book: we ride the logic of community inside the narrator's head, where community for all of us begins: our head.(less)