Cult film director John Waters promises his agent to hitchhike across America, and imagines the best- and worst- case scenarios before revealing whatCult film director John Waters promises his agent to hitchhike across America, and imagines the best- and worst- case scenarios before revealing what actually happens on the real trip. In one fantasy scenario he’s abducted by aliens who have sex with him and give him a magical singing asshole. In another he’s captured by infamous murderess Gertrude Baniszewski who tattoos “I am an asshole” on his chest. I’ll let you guess which is from the best-case scenario and which is from the worst! This memoir was somehow equal parts filth, camp, and charm, and I adored listening to John Waters read this to me on audio during lazy summer afternoons this June....more
When my friends at The Larryville Chronicles tweeted “There’s a line about ‘basic bitches’ in #LongDivision,” I knew I had to check it out. A little dWhen my friends at The Larryville Chronicles tweeted “There’s a line about ‘basic bitches’ in #LongDivision,” I knew I had to check it out. A little digging revealed that this debut novel by Kiese Laymon was actually a finalist in the 2014 Tournament of the Books. After 14-year-old City Coldson becomes an overnight YouTube sensation for shouting at some racist judges during a nationally televised quiz contest in Jackson, Mississippi, he picks up a mysterious novel called Long Division and discovers a way to travel into the future. Here are more reasons to love Long Division, in no particular order: Hip hop lyrics. Time travel. Love. Revenge. Badass women. Talking cats. Grammar jokes. Post-Katrina racial politics. Time traveling Klansmen doing 80s dance moves in front of a laptop camera. Weird and wonderful teenagers creating the lives they want to live. An open-ended conclusion that made me cry like a baby. Kiese Laymon is completely rewriting and reinventing literary fiction, and it gives me shivers— I think I like it....more
This book is bananas beautiful. The sort where you go “Oooh, I didn’t know books could do that!” After his wife suddenly stops speaking, a character nThis book is bananas beautiful. The sort where you go “Oooh, I didn’t know books could do that!” After his wife suddenly stops speaking, a character named Jesse Ball becomes immersed in the story of Oda Sotatsu, a young Japanese man on death row who takes a vow of silence after signing a confession to a crime he didn’t commit. But who is Sotatsu protecting, and why won’t he speak up to save his own life? The story fits together like an Escher painting, playing with writing forms from the exactingly journalistic to the heartstabbingly lyrical, and the whole thing is a big gorgeous mindf*ck by the end. Just when I think I’ve read it all, a book like this comes along and shows me I don’t know a thing....more
This story collection gives me the shivers, and I WANT MORE. Anchored in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, a tiny border town with Tennessee, I Want To ShowThis story collection gives me the shivers, and I WANT MORE. Anchored in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, a tiny border town with Tennessee, I Want To Show You More's 15 stories unpeel like a hallucinogenic onion. Jamie Quatro obsessively explores questions of adultery, death, disfigurement, and phone sex, all within a bizarre framework of Christianity. My favorite of the stories, "Demolition," watches a congregation tear apart their historic Southern building and then head to a cave in the woods to start a holy sex cult (!). I like to imagine Quatro's real-life congregation innocently picking up this book at a church potluck and then getting its collective mind blown. It's a sexy, spiritual, and frightening collection from a writer who seemed to sneak up out of nowhere. I am not going to be patient for her next collection of stories, not at all....more
You may know Allie Brosh as the creator of the "Alot" monster or the "Clean all the things!" meme, or, more recently, from her candid writing about deYou may know Allie Brosh as the creator of the "Alot" monster or the "Clean all the things!" meme, or, more recently, from her candid writing about depression and anxiety. I love her crudely hewn webcomics, and am so psyched that they're finally here in book form. Lately I've been getting some help for my own anxiety, and Hyperbole and a Half was there for me at just the right time, like a hilarious mirror I could hold up to myself and laugh until tears streamed down my face, never fully knowing whether it was because it was funny or because it was true. The first chapter alone has swearing at a two year old, time travel, dogs, crayons, and gratuitous nudity. It's not only hysterical as hell, but also angsty and honest and dark, and I dare you to flip through a copy in the checkout line at the bookstore without taking it home with you....more
Sam Pink first caught my attention when his publisher launched an unusual promotion for his book Rontel this Valentine’s Day: "Order Sam Pink’s new eBSam Pink first caught my attention when his publisher launched an unusual promotion for his book Rontel this Valentine’s Day: "Order Sam Pink’s new eBook and he’ll sext you on February 14!" I’m not saying whether Sam Pink sexted me or not, but I will say that I totally loved this book. Its meandering narrative follows a 28-year-old protagonist as he wanders the streets of Chicago desperately trying to hate everything, only to be thwarted by cute things like cats and dancing babies. It’s a tiny little novel that yearns to uncover what it means to be a "real man" in 2013, and I imagine it's what Charles Bukowski and Albert Camus would've written had they teamed up and been like, "Hey, let’s write a comedy together!" Sam Pink also has an incredible eye and ear for the streets of Chicago, and he knows how to turn out a damned funny product review, too: "We all know paper towels are a whiz in the kitchen. But did you ever think they’d be so great to dry yourself off? I say — beep beep — go ahead."...more
There are two kinds of readers: those who are devoted Jon Ronson fangirls-and-boys, and those who haven’t heard of Jon Ronson yet. Friends, I presentThere are two kinds of readers: those who are devoted Jon Ronson fangirls-and-boys, and those who haven’t heard of Jon Ronson yet. Friends, I present Jon Ronson: a bespectacled British journalist who writes thoughtful long-form journalism about quirky fringe phenomena like telepathy, aliens, and psychopaths. He was first introduced to an American audience on the radio show This American Life, and he’s got a knack for the sort of stuff that makes fans of that show swoon — sniffing out the peculiar in everyday life, getting to the heart with equal parts empathy and wit, and drawing wry conclusions about modern life. Lost at Sea is his collection of haunting and hilarious shorter pieces from the past decade, including stories about Insane Clown Posse, James Bond, Stanley Kubrick, robots, and too many other bizarre and wonderful things to name. Ronson is a fabulous narrator of his own work, and my like for Lost at Sea blossomed into full-blown love when I switched from the print to the audio.
Footnote: the audio is worth it simply for the pleasure of hearing Jon Ronson read Insane Clown Posse lyrics in a dry British accent, and the chapters were the perfect length for commuting and exercise stints.
I've got a literary crush on Daniel Woodrell, who's the author of Winter's Bone and Lawrence Public Library's guest of honor for Read Across LawrenceI've got a literary crush on Daniel Woodrell, who's the author of Winter's Bone and Lawrence Public Library's guest of honor for Read Across Lawrence in September 2012.
Mr. Woodrell first launched his writing career as a crime novelist with his haunting and gritty Bayou Trilogy featuring Detective Rene Shade in the Louisiana swamp town of Saint Bruno, a place where "tempers went on the prowl and relief was driving a hard bargain." Soon after came Woe to Live On, which was adapted into the Ang Lee film Ride With the Devil and explores the dark and twisty undertones of Quantrill's Bushwhackers and their raid on Lawrence, KS. Winter's Bone is one of his most recent works, and familiar as the inspiration for the film that was a multiple Oscar contender in 2010.
Curious to see what Daniel Woodrell had been up to since Winter's Bone, I cracked open his newest book, The Outlaw Album, a collection of short stories set in his ancestral home of the Missouri Ozarks.
To characterize Woodrell's work just as tough and gritty would be to miss out on some of its finer nuances. Following in the footsteps of other southern gothic writers like Flannery O'Connor, William Faulkner and Cormac Carthy, Daniel Woodrell knows a thing or two about how to turn a sentence. His work is infused with eerie dreamlike enigmas, a quality that really shines through in the short story format. In one of my favorites from the collection, "Night Stand," a Vietnam war vet named Pelham is attacked by an intruder and defends himself with a knife that mysteriously appears on his nightstand. The intruder is killed, and for the rest of the story the question gnaws at Pelham: how'd he get that knife? He never solves the mystery, but instead becomes obsessed with his deceased attacker.
The other stories in the collection are equally tragic with fabulous first sentences: "Once Boshell finally killed his neighbor he couldn't seem to quit killing him." "Morrow wondered if he might soon die because of a beautiful girl from his teens he'd never had the nerve to approach." "My brother left no footprints as he fled."
Most of the characters who populate The Outlaw Album are unfussy tough guys who don't suffer fools: handy with shotguns, suspicious of fancy outsiders. But a few have softer sides: the convict with a surprise gift for poetry. The army private who processes difficult emotions by creating fantastical paintings (of cows). The girl with penny-colored hair who wears swan-winged glasses and a crinkled black dress, and whose "words put special color to events." There's beauty and humor to be sniffed out from tragic passages.
In a Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross, Woodrell has said that he likes to write about people who are easy to dislike; he wants to coax the reader into caring about somebody she or he wouldn't usually care about. These are the characters of The Outlaw Album, and if you look closely, you'll glimpse their redemption -- writ however quiet or small....more