A bounty hunter named Smith is in the no-account town of Falling Rock to collect on a renegade. He miscalculates the length of fuse needed on a stickA bounty hunter named Smith is in the no-account town of Falling Rock to collect on a renegade. He miscalculates the length of fuse needed on a stick of dynamite and finds himself in the anteroom of hell. It’s a bad place, but not as bad as what he senses through the next door. He accepts a job to return to the living world and combat the rise of an evil feared by the devil himself. His team consists of the most popular whore in town, an Indian chief, a young gunfighter, and the alcoholic town doc. (I think some of these people, like Smith are already dead.)
This mashup of Wild West action, Lovecraftian horror, and low comedy works better than it has any right to.
I think I have just officially gotten tired of the 87th precinct. The kidding around that goes in at the station is not funny. His depictions of the dI think I have just officially gotten tired of the 87th precinct. The kidding around that goes in at the station is not funny. His depictions of the devotion and randiness of married love is particularly tiresome. McBain is at his best with minor characters, the walk-ons with only one or two scenes....more
If white American entitlement meant anything, it meant that no matter how patronizing, unashamed, deliberate, unintentional, poor, rich, rural, urban,If white American entitlement meant anything, it meant that no matter how patronizing, unashamed, deliberate, unintentional, poor, rich, rural, urban, ignorant, and destructive white Americans were, black Americans were still encouraged to work for them, write to them, listen to them, talk with them, run from them, emulate them, teach them, dodge them, and ultimately thank them for not being as fucked up as they could be. (From "Our Kind of Ridiculous," page 52.)...more
Boris Vian (1920 - 1959) has been on to read for some time. I hope that with this book I made a poor choice of starting points.
Vian has a great bio -Boris Vian (1920 - 1959) has been on to read for some time. I hope that with this book I made a poor choice of starting points.
Vian has a great bio - jazz musician, bon vivant, friend to Sartre and company, He was a novelist, a playwright, and the translator of Raymond Chandler. When his own novels sold poorly, he turned his publisher's request for another translation into his first Vernon Sullivan novel. He wrote four of these imaginary translations of an American noir author. (The hoax was revealed shortly after the publication of the first book.)
Great descriptions of this book, the third in the series, can be found on the back cover of the current edition. Luc Sante calls it "...America as a Left Bank fever dream.” Paul Knobloch, the translator, describes is as "...a pornographic Hardy Boys novel set on the Island of Dr. Moreau." These are both lines I wish I had come up with, but then again, I would have had to have liked the book.
The narrator is nineteen-year-old Rock Bailey, an ex-Mr. Los Angeles who is saving his virginity till his twentieth birthday. He moves with a fast crowd of Hollywood types and journalists who hang out at bars all night. His physical perfection attracts a mysterious doctor who is genetically engineering a cadre of beautiful specimens who will take over the world. The hero maintains a kind of "gee whiz" attitude to the escalating sex, violence, and science fiction style action. I don't think the book could have been published as anything other than pornography in the U.S. when it written (1948), and it still reads like the kind of dirty book I might have stumbled onto as an adolescent in the 1960's.
The introduction makes some claims for the prophetic relevance of Vian’s themes of photogenic politicians and genetic engineering. Really? As a screwball phantasmagoria of mid twentieth century America it is entertaining for a while, but I was tired of it half way through. ...more
Early on in this collection, we encounter a young Polish officer who chases the devil out his bedroom with a garlic sausage and a beloved vicar whoseEarly on in this collection, we encounter a young Polish officer who chases the devil out his bedroom with a garlic sausage and a beloved vicar whose true nature is not revealed until he is reincarnated as a black tom cat. Aiken throws together characters and plot elements taken from the cozy playbook of English village plot lines and does very peculiar things with them. She does not seem determined to undermine the traditional material itself, just the standard means of its presentation. At times her light touch can become, well, a trifle light, but not to worry. When she chooses to show her scary side, as in the story "Hair," she can be as creepy as she is delightful in most other circumstances....more
Page 4: His book – as what serious book is not – is born of genuine despair. (Shield’s writing about Ben Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station.)
Page 37 IPage 4: His book – as what serious book is not – is born of genuine despair. (Shield’s writing about Ben Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station.)
Page 37 I want a nonfiction that explores our shifting, unstable, multiform, evanescent experience in and of the world. (Quoting his own letter to the New York Review of Books in response to Lorrie Moore’s review of Reality Hunger.)
Page 105 “What new wisdom can you take to the grave for the worms to untangle?” Quoting Annie Dillard
Page 126 It wasn’t a novel. It wasn’t a memoir. It was something else. It was the idea that all great works of literature either dissolve a genre or invent a new one.
Page 139 I love the feeling of being caught between floors of a difficult to define department store.
Page 150 The best nonfiction jumps off the tracks.
Page 160 In German bookstores there are pretty much only two sections: literature – works aspiring to artistic merit – and just pure information, train schedules and the like. An unfortunate example.
Page 175 Many of my favorite books contain numbered sections.
Page 177 According to Tolstoy, the purpose of art is to transfer feeling from one person’s heart to another person’s heart. In collage, it’s the transfer of consciousness, which strikes me as immeasurably more interesting and loneliness-assuaging.
Page 197 I want work that, possessing as thin a membrane as possible between life and art, foregrounds the question of how the writer solves being alive. ...more
Neil Gaiman has written that readers know they’ve encountered an R. A. Lafferty story by reading one sentence. He might have had in mind a sentence liNeil Gaiman has written that readers know they’ve encountered an R. A. Lafferty story by reading one sentence. He might have had in mind a sentence like this one from The Reefs of Earth:
The Dulantys could manage to look like regular people, until they had to laugh, or die.
The Dulanty family are Pucca, aliens being serving time on our backwater planet where they act as observers and do what they can to bring Earth around to a suitable habitat for their own and other alien species. Yes, Pucca sounds like “pookah,” and during the centuries the Dulantys and their kind, always challenged to come off as totally human, have earned the reputation of being goblins. They mosey through life on the fringes of society, but when situations turn sour, killing begins. The Dulanty children, faced with the deaths and incarcerations of their adult kin, take it to mind that wiping out the human race might be their best alternative.
Lafferty’s voice is colloquial and erudite and like no other in American fiction. The Reefs of Earth, on of Lafferty's first two novels both published in 1968, is a science fiction novel treated as a tall tale, or perhaps it’s the other way around. Lafferty’s out-of-print novels are discouragingly expensive, as are the new releases of his collected short fiction. But search him out. Based on the little I’ve read, he is a brilliant and eccentric American treasure. ...more
This first collection of twelve stories brings the author’s breezy tone and sharp wit to a range of traditional sf tropes. The setting may be on or ofThis first collection of twelve stories brings the author’s breezy tone and sharp wit to a range of traditional sf tropes. The setting may be on or off Earth and the time the present day, the near or the far future. Most of the protagonists are scientists from a variety of fields. Hernandez’ one repeating character is Gabrielle Reál, a reporter from the San Francisco Squint. She writes a debunking column, but consistently run up against situations that test her professional skepticism. The science in the stories ranges from the type of tech we might all be experiencing in the next couple of decades to the big science of parallel universes. One theoretical physicist comments that he hopes that he is wrong in ways that may someday lead to science.
Hernandez spins stories concerned with what it will mean to be human in these changing circumstances. And he has a consistent interest in life after death. Characters live on in surprising ways. We might learn a lot from a newly discovered species of deep-sea jellyfish whose reproductive process makes it basically eternal. In other stories, magic meets advanced physics with surprising results. An effort to mitigate the loss of a loved one with the scientific means at hand can seem cruel, even monstrous.
Carlos Hernandez is an engaging, empathetic storyteller. One narrator prescribes the Cuban way handling what life throws at you: mix some shit jokes and pranks into the heartbreak, or you won’t make it through another day. This same narrator plays out the most tender scene in any of the stories. He and his wife have had a difficult and intellectually challenging visit to his family back on the island. Much has occurred to get him to this final moment. “…I put my faith in everything I did not understand about our world and stabbed my wife in the ass.” ...more
I have more enjoyed reading about what has been called Victor LaValle’s “love-letter-slash-rebuke” to H. P Lovecraft than I enjoyed the novel itself.I have more enjoyed reading about what has been called Victor LaValle’s “love-letter-slash-rebuke” to H. P Lovecraft than I enjoyed the novel itself. His story is an entertaining re-invention of ‘The Horror of Red Hook,” possibly the most unashamedly racist of HPL’s narratives, a new version where the insertion of an African American protagonist, his perspective, and his everyday world highlight the repressed dimensions of Lovecraft’s psyche. When LaValle speaks in interviews or writes about his own work, his analysis of the pervasive racism in Lovecraft’s fiction, manifested in his sense of cosmic horrors waiting to engulf our world, is incisive. The story he has created is an acceptable weird tale with elements that do little more than bring us up to date on the ongoing debate about Lovecraft’s writing and influence....more
Before turning to crime, Melissa Ginsburg established herself as a poet. This has led some reviews to label Sunset City “poetic noir.” That sounds gooBefore turning to crime, Melissa Ginsburg established herself as a poet. This has led some reviews to label Sunset City “poetic noir.” That sounds good but I don’t know where it gets us when considering what Ginsburg has accomplished with this novel. By page two, Charlotte Ford, Ginsburg’s narrator, learns that her best friend Danielle Reeves has been bludgeoned to death in a cheap motel room. She and Danielle, inseparable as teenagers and for a few years before Danielle’s bust for heroin possession, had largely lost touch during her imprisonment and since her release. They had reconnected just a day before the murder. Danielle’s wealthy mother needed to reach her estranged daughter, who now worked in internet porn, about an inheritance. Charlotte was the only connection the mother knew to reach out to.
Ginsburg is slotting everything into place for a noir narrative, but Charlotte will not be playing girl detective to solve a crime. Charlotte is drifting in her own life, working as a barista, drinking a lot, stuck with a feckless boyfriend. She will drift into Danielle’s world over the course of a boozy, drug-fueled week. Sunset City is character-driven noir, and what poetry there is shows up in each of Ginsburg’s complexly realized moments, whether they involve contemplating the dust on the top of a refrigerator or a Houston sunset enhanced by the pollution of oil refineries and cocaine. ...more