Every now and then, I sit down to read a library book, a book I spent absolutely no money on, and still end up feeling like I've been ripped off. 10 REvery now and then, I sit down to read a library book, a book I spent absolutely no money on, and still end up feeling like I've been ripped off. 10 Rules of Writing is one of those books. I have no complaint with the quality of the ideas or the writing in this book. My complaint is solely related to quantity.
With the exception of a few doodles, everything in this book has already been printed in the New York Times and has been reposted and mirrored all over the Internet. This book consists of nothing more than a single short essay. It is not an elaboration on the principles set down in the essay. It is not the essay in tetrameter couplets. It is not the essay plus some bonus short fiction. It doesn't come with a free toaster oven. It's just that same Times article that you've probably already read packaged to look like a novel-length book.
So how did the publishers turn an essay of about a thousand words into a stand-alone book? They did the same thing we all did back in junior high school when our papers weren't long enough: creative reformatting. Half of the pages in this book are blank. I'm not making that up. They only printed on the front side of each sheet of paper, doubling the page count. Those few, brave pages that were exposed to ink managed to survive nearly intact. With the exception of the copyright page, no page has more than a paragraph printed on it. Some have a sentence, a sentence fragment, or two words. Still finding the manuscript too thin to look convincing, the publisher printed the thing on heavy card stock and added a nice, serious-looking canvas and leather cover. I'm reminded of the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon in which Calvin tries to impress his teacher with the professional-looking clear plastic binder he attached to the essay he forgot to write.
I can only think of one possible use for this book: as a gift to a writer from someone who does not read. The book is fairly thick, nicely bound, and has a very serious-looking spine. It will sit impressively on any bookshelf and will make the owner of the book look more writerly.
“No,” he says. “You will not rape this woman. I love her. You...rape too much. You shouldn't do that—It's not nice.”
This is said by Wilmorn, the man-s“No,” he says. “You will not rape this woman. I love her. You...rape too much. You shouldn't do that—It's not nice.”
This is said by Wilmorn, the man-sized left nipple of a dead Caribbean shaman when he stands up to his chain-smoking, serial rapist animal familiar, Stalin. Stalin is not The Stalin. He's just a baby-faced lobster serving the seagull gods and guiding the nipple on this mission through New York City. See, Wilmorn made a pact with the seagull gods. He has seven days to make the lesbian nun he loves fall in love with him and to kill the man she loves. If he can do that, they can live together for eternity. If not, he belongs to the gulls and becomes a lobsterbaby himself. There are only two problems. First, the seagulls have already eaten the rest of his body, so he is just a big, brown, male nipple trying to woo this lesbian nun, and the only man she loves is probably Jesus. Second, I lied. He has many other problems, including his serial-raping guide, roving nipple fetishists, and his own naive sense of love that probably comes from being a human nipple.
Summarizing strange books is one of the great joys that come from being a fan of Bizarro. When you are a Bizarro fan and someone asks if you have read any interesting books lately, you have something to say. Sure, I like to read informative nonfiction and what I'd call capital L Literature, but when people ask me if I've read anything interesting lately, the odds are pretty good that I will come up with something like the above paragraph.
However, that is not the only reason to read this book. The other reason is also summed up in the above quotation. It encapsulates the essential problem of the story. The male nipple is in itself a kind of mystery. It serves no real purpose. On a woman, a nipple is part of an organ that gives nourishment. A nipple on a man is about as functional as a nipple without a man. As a nipple, the protagonist is impelled to be nurturing, but he lives in a universe that doesn't want nurturing any more than he is actually capable of providing it. The question this story poses is, in the face of a world that is utterly absurd and utterly evil, can love still conquer all?
Of course love can't conquer all. Don't be stupid. This is not a fucking sitcom. When does love really conquer all? In fairy tales, sure, the handsome prince can save and marry the beautiful princess, but you have to remember: 1) these are just lies we tell our children to help them sleep; 2) he is handsome; 3) he is rich; 4) the princess' choices are usually being saved by this guy or dealing with something even worse. That's not love conquering all. That's more like a marriage of convenience being preferable over a coma, slavery, or being eaten by a monster.
Okay, what about Star Wars? We all believe in Star Wars, and what did it teach us? Even if you save the beautiful princess and the entire galaxy, if you are not rich and she has any choice in the matter, she will probably prefer the asshole with a cool car over a lifetime of true love incest with the whining blonde hero.
Even if you save a woman from the Titanic, love can conquer her relationship with her asshole fiancee, but it cannot conquer the fact that you are about to drown in really cold water. Love isn't something that can save you from drowning and hypothermia. A rescue boat made out of saunas can do that, but love can't.
Love can conquer some things. It can conquer disagreements about whose turn it is to run the vacuum or wash the dishes. It can conquer the fact that you might have put on a couple pounds or got a bad haircut. Love can make you eat and even like your boyfriend's cooking when every kitchen in America should really have a restraining order against him, but it can't conquer all. Nothing conquers all. You go believing that shit and you will probably end up a chain-smoking lobsterbaby in a tidal hell where the waves will probably keep putting out your cigarettes. That is the moral of this story. ...more
Every year, the New Bizarro Author Series has one book that is just batshit crazy. In the Bizarro genre, “batshit crazy” is by no means an insult. InEvery year, the New Bizarro Author Series has one book that is just batshit crazy. In the Bizarro genre, “batshit crazy” is by no means an insult. In a genre that is defined by weirdness, being the craziest fuck is a kind of honor.
I think there are sub-categories in Bizarro. There is literary Bizarro that is so well-written that it transcends genres. There is genre Bizarro that works inside existing genres and subverts them. There is satire Bizarro, which is weird to prove a point. Then there is Bizarro's Bizarro. That is the kind of fiction that is pure Bizarro. It doesn't try to be Literature. It doesn't try to have a message. When you finish reading it, you don't even know what it was trying to do. You just rub your eyes and ask, “Did I really just read this?” It's less a piece of Literature than an amusement park ride run by drunk carnies on meth. You don't know what it was supposed to be. Half of the time, you were afraid that the whole thing would fall apart, but it turned out to be a hell of a ride. You know you got more than your money's worth and had a great time.
Gigantic Death Worms is the Bizarro's Bizarro choice out of this year's NBAS. Vince Kramer just doesn't give a fuck whether you like his book or not. He just crams the book with awesomeness from cover to cover. Things will fucking explode. There will be ninjas and booze. If things stop making sense, that is probably your fault because Kramer never promised that his book would make sense. He never promised eloquent prose that would sing off the page into the Norton Anthology of American Literature. If you like Ed Wood or Larry Blamire movies, you are already a Bizarro fan; this is the book for you.
Even writing a plot summary of this book is beside the point and ridiculous. Because I am I Bizarro writer, I will do so. The story starts with three snowboarders trapped on a ski lift after the ski resort has closed. Their initial problem is getting off the ski lift before they freeze to death. However, bears show up, waiting for the snowboarders to fall off the lift. When the snowboarders do not fall, the bears start spitting wolves at the people on the ski lift. As it turns out, this has nothing to do with the actual plot of the novella. The actual plot has to do with giant worms that are exploding out of the mountains, Mayans who are in charge of ending the world, a snowboarder with the power of teleportation, and drunk Mexican ninjas fueled by mescal.
Even that is not the point of this book. The point is that Vince Kramer is a crazy fuck. He is bizarre, even for Bizarro. When he is not creating dioramas of action figure orgies, he is writing fucked up books. If Michael Allen Rose is a cross between Robbins and Gogol, Kramer is between Ronald Hamburger and LSD. It isn't a work of capital L Literature in the sense of required reading. It is pure fun....more
One evening this summer, I was sitting under a pink circus tent at the corner of 6th and New York Avenue in DC sipping draft prosecco and rereading PaOne evening this summer, I was sitting under a pink circus tent at the corner of 6th and New York Avenue in DC sipping draft prosecco and rereading Party Wolves in My Skull. (Yes, I had to read it twice.) A man in a zebra-striped ninja suit walked through the crowd. This was the DC Fringe Festival, and a week before it started, they held a preview night for various shows. People in costumes were walking among the tables, offering postcards and descriptions of their plays to people who were here either because they were actors or because they had not yet decided what shows to watch. A woman walked up to my table to tell me about her show and handed me a postcard. As she was talking, six Nazis in lederhosen stepped out of a Prius in front of the theater. It was like the red carpet on Oscar night except that there was no carpet on the sidewalk and they were Nazis in a Prius. Their show was Mein Kampf, The Musical. A girl in white facepaint with flowers glued to her face and body walked through the crowd. After a while, the burlesque dancers and people in cat masks became the norm; people in slacks and neckties started to look weird.
You have to understand that DC is a horrible place for a Bizarro to live. It's a city wound way too tight. However, two years ago, when I was hanging out at the Fringe tent bar, a stage manager recognized that I was reading the Magazine of Bizarro Fiction just from the cover art. The Fringe preview itself was a complete train wreck. The sound system was not working yet, so it was about what one would expect: a pink tent full of drunk people trying to see what was going on while the other set of drunk people on the stage acted out short skits with inaudible dialogue or danced to songs no one could hear. It didn't matter. It was awesome. For the next month, DC would be weird and creative. A ridiculous number of theater companies would present plays that can be presented nowhere else. For one month this summer, DC would be fun.
When I think of Fringe Festivals, I think of Michael Allen Rose. I first met Mr. Rose at the second BizarroCon in Portland Oregon, where he achieved notoriety for wearing a bathrobe at inappropriate times. At the third BizarroCon, he achieved greater notoriety for wearing multiple bathrobes simultaneously. At the fourth BizarroCon, he achieved even greater notoriety for not wearing a bathrobe at appropriate times. Like the Fringe, Rose is about taking strange and sometimes ridiculous chances and somehow looking good while doing it. He is a Chicago-based actor who has worked with Second City. As an actor, he is accustomed to telling lies for a living, which makes him qualified to write fiction.
Party Wolves in my skull starts with a classic Gogol setup in the first chapter. In this case, it is not the nose that runs away but both eyes. Norman Spooner's eyes have run away because they are in love and can never be together inside his skull. Norman's nose has come between them. It is nice to know the characters' motivations from the beginning in a fast-moving story, and this story moves fast. The second chapter starts with a nod to Tom Robbins as you meet Zoe, who apparently wears stilts at all times.
While Norman sleeps, new tenants have moved into the vacant property in his face, a pack of wolves. Of course, this would be fine if they were normal, quiet tenants, but these are party wolves. They are noisy. They eat strangers on the street and are stoned or drunk most of the time. Of course, the only reasonable thing is for Norman to take a road trip to find his eloping eyes.
Norman is not technically blind. He can see through his eyes, but they are several states away by now. He relies on the party wolves in his skull to help him navigate. On the way, he meets up with Zoe, who is on the run in a car stolen from her abusive, foot fetishist, walrus boyfriend. After that, things start to get weird.
This book has a number of inside jokes for fans of Bizarro fiction, but this will not detract from the enjoyment someone new to the genre can get out of the book. For someone new to the genre, this is a fast-paced road trip with all the stoned wolves, explosions, penguins, survivalists, car crashes, suicide cults, fetishism, and truant eyeballs one would expect from what is ultimately a love story. Rose hit a sweet spot here between Robbins and Gogol, and the book should be a lot of fun for any fan of either author. ...more
I belong to a book club that meets at a bar/corner market. Fifty Shades of Grey is the book that creepy woman at my local book club keeps recommendingI belong to a book club that meets at a bar/corner market. Fifty Shades of Grey is the book that creepy woman at my local book club keeps recommending that we read next month every month. We always say no. We have tried changing the days and meeting times, but she keeps coming to the club meetings. She usually gets very drunk and cries about her ex-husband when we talk about books that are not Fifty Shades. What I don't get is why after every meeting she goes into the market to buy C size batteries. What the hell even runs on C cells anymore?
Anyway, the crazy drunk battery lady said this is a good book, and any book with a necktie on the cover must be pretty serious, so I am giving it five stars. Maybe now she will leave me the hell alone.
If you are the crazy drunk battery lady and are reading this, I will never want to see the inside of your van. I'm sure it is nice, but I don't need to see it. I already gave your favorite bit of porn five stars. Leave me alone. ...more
**spoiler alert** This book suffers by comparison to Hammett's other novels. The plot goes on and on like a shaggy dog joke. First it's a ghost story,**spoiler alert** This book suffers by comparison to Hammett's other novels. The plot goes on and on like a shaggy dog joke. First it's a ghost story, then a detective mystery, then it's a running gag. This is a short novel, but it took me longer to read than anything Hammett has written, just because I kept losing interest because the detective kept losing interest as well. None of the mysteries are really connected except by one woman, who in the end has nothing to do with the crimes going on around her. The basic problem with this detective novel is that there is nothing to detect. For some reason, a minor character eventually confesses to everything, but even then it seems like the author did that so this book could finally be over and done with.
It's a Hammett novel, so the writing is good, but the plot is almost episodic. This would work better as a miniseries than as a novel.
There is so much better Hammett out there. ...more
Until now, I read everything CP wrote, but after Snuff, Pygmy, and Tell-All, this makes four books that are not proper novels with good plots, good chUntil now, I read everything CP wrote, but after Snuff, Pygmy, and Tell-All, this makes four books that are not proper novels with good plots, good characters, or even good editing in a row. All the book has, as he boasts from hell in the book, is a good agent. Read Rant and Choke. They are very good, maybe even great novels. This is not even a novel. By that, I mean what is referred to in science as being not even wrong. ...more
**spoiler alert** This is my first Cain novel. I'll read more, but there are two basic plot problems, both of which are spoilers. The fact that the ba**spoiler alert** This is my first Cain novel. I'll read more, but there are two basic plot problems, both of which are spoilers. The fact that the basic plot of the novel is itself a spoiler is part of the problem.
A major character is introduced way too late into the story. For no particular reason, the sister shows up, and the sister is not much different from the MC's original love interest except for the fact that she is as amoral as Ben (the MC). However, for all practical purposes, his original love interest was just as amoral, since Ben can blackmail her into doing anything. There's no reason for the sister to be there. Then the end of the book is about Ben getting married to the sister so they cannot be forced to testify against each other. Ben dies immediately afterward, meaning he has accomplished nothing. If he just died, the sister he loved could have testified against him, letting the dead man be guilty of everything. His gambit did nothing to affect anything.
Overall, I would say, good writing, bad plotting....more
Biographers have not been kind in their treatment of Bradley Sands. The first volume of his biography, "Bradley Sands is a Dick," was a mean-spiritedBiographers have not been kind in their treatment of Bradley Sands. The first volume of his biography, "Bradley Sands is a Dick," was a mean-spirited (though generous under the circumstances) account of some of the less embarassing and mischievous moments in Mr. Sands' life. He was not shown at his best. The second volume, titled "I Ching," was baffling, vague, and nonlinear. To get around libel laws, the author never mentioned Mr. Sands by name, preferring to reference him with vague insinuations. I hope this third volume of his biography is a more fair and loving account of this American author. ...more
There is a sense of numbness throughout the book, which makes sense for a book about opiates. Burrough's take on the beginnings of the War on Drugs isThere is a sense of numbness throughout the book, which makes sense for a book about opiates. Burrough's take on the beginnings of the War on Drugs is interesting, but I don't think his life will ever be a convincing argument for legalization.
The most shocking moment for me in the book was when, three quarters of the way through the book, he mentions his wife taking the children out of town for a day. Apparently, they've been there the whole time and Burroughs never bothered to mention them before. It made me have to reevaluate most of the book. Self-destruction is one thing, but there was a whole other level of destruction that is left out of the novel. I don't consider this a spoiler, since it's a well-known part of Burrough's biography that he did have a wife and later shot her in the head.
The junkie characters are interesting, sometimes funny, sometimes tragic and disgusting. For some reason, it is interesting to me that all these junkies were stumbling around in suits and ties, wearing hats. On one occasion, some junkies judge another based on his footwear.
This is probably the most readable Burroughs book I've read so far. It has a nice, hard-boiled style to it. One thing that annoyed me was the repetition in the book. There are ideas and observations that are not revisited but repeated word for word in different chapters. ...more
I've been through this one two and a half times and still haven't figured out for whom this book was written.
This book takes a few of the classic argI've been through this one two and a half times and still haven't figured out for whom this book was written.
This book takes a few of the classic arguments for the existence of God and refutes them. He refutes them effectively but in the standard manner. Your average atheist or agnostic already knows these arguments. The average theist will be put off by the tone of the tome, which is a bit condescending. Some atheists will be put off by that too.
What disappointed me about the book was actually one of the ground rules Paulos set down for himself: to avoid using too much math. I know. If I'd read the first chapter before buying, I would have been less disappointed, but the title suggested that I would learn something, if not about religious argument, then about math. I ended up learning very little from this book, and I think the people who could learn from this book either will not read it or will dismiss it. This is not really this book's fault, but I was hoping that a book by a mathematician would have less personality and would just state the argument and the rebuttal. Obviously, I was just not familiar with the author.
So this is a tough one. The arguments are well laid out, but they are not new arguments. The humorous asides keep things interesting, but they make the author vulnerable to accusations of bias, which (as Hitchens says of religion) poisons everything. They make the book too easy to dismiss, which is unfortunate, since his descriptions of the arguments and the rebuttals are sometimes especially useful.
For some time, I've wished that someone would come out with a more objective, theist-friendly book on atheism. This is not that book....more