My review of BAHO! is live today at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud. A cautionary fable of war's huge consequences, it tRating: 3.5* of five (rounded up)
My review of BAHO! is live today at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud. A cautionary fable of war's huge consequences, it takes a single understandable misunderstanding to it logical limit. Wondering how our country nominated Drumpf for President? #WeWillNeverForget how horrible loss, terror, eternal unending stress feels. Phoneme Media and Translator Schaefer get my utmost respect.
From Brain Mill Press, this collection of lyrical, accessible poetry is perfect for #FridayReads. Parents of sons strongly encouraged to give 'em this Feminist Fiction to encourage empathy and identification with The Other....more
At long, long last, a book about a woman's life of rigorous self-denial and eventual blossoming that cleanses the humid, metallic blRating: 4* of five
At long, long last, a book about a woman's life of rigorous self-denial and eventual blossoming that cleanses the humid, metallic bloodiness of The Awakening from my mental palate. A dry, cold blast of piñon-scented mountain air sweeping clean a century's accumulation of moldy, clammy death-scented grave dirt.
Whenever a package arrives from Chin Music Press, I know that everything else has to go to the Later pile. As always, I was *so* ricRating: 5* of five
Whenever a package arrives from Chin Music Press, I know that everything else has to go to the Later pile. As always, I was *so* richly rewarded when I opened these covers.
This gorgeous and extremely touching sampler of Kaneko Misuzu's poetry is perfectly illustrated. It is introduced by a brief recounting of Kaneko's unhappy life. While I would most definitely want my grandkids to read the poetry, I'd want to read Kaneko's story to them, and make sure I was fully present to gauge their need for explanation and/or comfort as the tale unfolds.
Even if you have no kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, or strange kids you can borrow, buy this beautiful object for your coffee table. You will be the coolest kid on the block....more
The Publisher Says: When an unemployed poet finds himself thrown in jail after raping his neighbor, his time in theRating: 3.75* of five (rounded up)
The Publisher Says: When an unemployed poet finds himself thrown in jail after raping his neighbor, his time in the slammer is mysteriously cut short when he’s abruptly taken to a new home — a countryside manor where his every need seen to. All that’s required of him is to . . . write poetry. Just who are his captors, Kurt and Otávio? What of the alluring maid, Amália, and her charge, a woman with cancer named Gerda? And, most alarmingly of all, why does Kurt suddenly appear to be aging so much faster than he should?
Reminiscent of the films of David Lynch, and written in João Gilberto Noll’s distinctive postmodern style — a strange world of surfaces seemingly without rational cause and effect — Quiet Creature on the Corner is the English-language debut of one of Brazil’s most popular and celebrated authors. Written during Brazil’s transition from military dictatorship to democracy — and capturing the disjointed feel of that rapidly changing world — Quiet Creature is mysterious and abrupt, pivoting on choices that feel both arbitrary and inevitable. Like Kazuo Ishiguro, Noll takes us deep into the mind of person who’s always missing a few crucial pieces of information. Is he moving toward an answer to why these people have taken him from jail, or is he just as lost as ever?
**TWO LINES PRESS PROVIDED ME WITH A REVIEW COPY AT MY REQUEST**
My Review: João Gilberto Noll might not be known in the USA yet, but that will change with the publication of this fine novella. It has that certain something, that extra dimension, that comes from a beautiful book being very well translated:
I doubted I'd be able to sleep with a downpour starting to rail against the window, the water blocking my view outside. I thought how my life was really taking its time figuring things out, and my mother snored as if saying don't even start—and there I was, staring at streams of raindrops that wouldn't let me see outside, unable to sleep, without even a way to take a walk in the street due to the rain, so I went to the living room, the light was still on, and I could've stolen my mother's wedding ring right off her finger, and even taken my time rolling out since she wouldn't wake up, but that wedding ring probably wasn't worth a nickel, and I was a coward anyway: I called out to her, asked her to make me a tea because I was feeling woozy, ready to vomit.
And so we're firmly established in the stream of a wastrel's consciousness, a kid whose pointless little life has been spent in a slum without even an idea that he could be anywhere else. In this moment, he is unable to sleep, probably because a short time earlier he forced himself on a young woman from his slum; he is human enough to find this troubling, not quite self-aware enough to prevent this casual, indifferent violation from occurring. Oh, and that mother referred to here? She's packed off to another city before his rape is discovered, and completely forgotten, never even referred to again.
So is this youth merely solipsistic, as most youths are, or is he a full-blown sociopath? This story is about the experience of being unmoored in time, only slightly connected to place, and that solely in reference to an older man's rescue of him from a certain prison sentence. Kurt show up at the courtroom and whisks our narrator away to his country estate, there to be fed and ignored, left to do whatever he wishes to do. He writes poetry, he bangs the maid (consensually), he chats up the handyman, in short his rootless aimless existence doesn't leave any mark on even his, let alone the, world:
I passed Kurt in the hallway, and for the first time he showed me a real smile. What's happening? I wondered. what am I doing that could make him so decisively happ?
The narrator isn't alone in this musing. It is the slightly seasick effect of having no contact with anything real, tangible, requiring effort. There is no reason for Kurt to feel happy with the narrator, and no special reason for him to feel unhappy either. So what is this sudden real smile, this pleasure in seeing, that's all, just seeing, the narrator? It makes the reader as well as the narrator uneasy.
Soon enough, Kurt's wife Gerda needs to go to Rio in order to have her late-stage cancer treated. It is clear to all that Gerda will not be coming home, that her disease has reached its final crisis. Kurt takes the narrator with him to Rio, either as company or simply to have him nearby instead of alone at the estate. It's the slum-born narrator's first time visiting Rio and his first time staying in the brave new world of a luxury hotel:
I ran a hand over my chin, summoned the elevator, the uniformed operator asked me smilingly which floor—everyone was smiling at me in that four-star joint—I remembered I wanted to have a whiskey in the hotel bar, asked for the first floor, the bartender treated me like a prince, yeah, I shaved, I told him, also smiling, a whiskey poured over the stones in my glass, and the bartender saying he hadn't recognized me with my face like a baby's bottom, then turned back to the same chatter as always, recommending where to go later, at night, beaches, bars, women, I barely followed what he was saying, but it pleased me to confirm that someone behind the bar was capable of busying himself with my day's itinerary just because I had the money to pay for the hotel and leave tips.
He has the money? Interesting. Kurt's fortune, most likely Gerda's before Kurt's, pays for the narrator's very existence. Now the narrator has been with Kurt and Gerda long enough that he has assumed the mantle of privilege. How much time has passed since the narrator was bought out of his prison sentence? Unknown. In fact, unknown to the narrator, bobbing as he is in the currents of life and time.
After a deeply discomforting passage where Gerda, in her final moments, mistakes the narrator for Kurt, the surviving pair return to Porto Alegre, there to...well...continue, I suppose, to go on living in their weird ménage. Unknown amounts of time pass before Kurt reveals his true feelings about Gerda's passing and his own aging:
I sat down at the other end of the table and thought, I don't want this: What good did it do me to have him bail me out of jail just to get caught up in illness and old age? First Gerda, then Otávio, and tonight I get home and find him drunk and besides that all rotten, telling me he's not going to die. What do I get out of this? Or, if I wasn't going to get anything from it, why was he telling me all this? Wouldn't I be better off among the prisoners, who lacked any appetite for reward?
The sheer breathtaking ingratitude of the man! The astonishing, if indulged, self-centeredness! It was here that my opinion of him as a sociopath solidified once and for all.
At the end of the day, I was very enrapt by the tale of our nameless rapist, mostly because he has no sense of himself as a moral actor. He simply does things he wants to do, damn the consequences, and ends up smelling like a rose. It's blindingly infuriatingly unfair, but so is life. Noll's first English-language appearance is a tale of rootlessness, of anomie, and was written about the time the last set of generals were loosening their grip on the country's government. It reflects that moment, the weird and unsettled time between things as they were and as they could possibly be. It's a wonderful story. It will reward your dollars and your eyeblinks. ...more
The Publisher Says: The fanged fairy of Emily Corwin's forest-mud-stained collection asserts and sings with short rhyRating: 4.5* of five (rounded up)
The Publisher Says: The fanged fairy of Emily Corwin's forest-mud-stained collection asserts and sings with short rhymes and glitter-spells, and just as you've followed her into the deepest and darkest part of the woods, terrified, you're asked to run away together / and promise to never / do this heart-skipping thing / with anyone else.
Don't be surprised when you find yourself answering yes, yes, yes.
Confronting and darling, every word a perfect warm circlet of pink blood, My Tall Handsome raids every crystal jar on the lace-topped vanity for truth, poison, and song until you can't remember why you ever thought pretty was better than powerful, sugar was better than bitter medicine, or dancing needed more music than your own voice.
My Review: Kiki Petrosino, the editor of the Mineral Point Poetry series, says this of My Tall Handsome in her introduction to it:
These poems are unabashed in their enjoyment of the grotesque, but there is always intentionality behind Corwin's choice of imagery. Her speaker is inextricably, even ecstatically, bonded to her "tall handsome" lover, but she struggles to share the language of her rich inner life within the bounds of this relationship.What language is public? What is private? What tokens, allusions, and talismans belong only to the ardent pair?
I am reasonably confident that this paragraph puts into elegant words the central problem of any writer attempting to capture the inner flame of love by outlining its shadows on paper. It's a testament to the potery series' editor and the poet, Emily Corwin, that this collection both demonstrates the problem and shows a satisfying example of a successful solution to it.
"meet me tomorrow/in a brittle field / the stalks dry, ash-white/ rippling. / Look for me in a gingham dress. / I'll be holding blackberries / and a small axe / crooning in my arms." I can't recreate the effect of the typesetting myself, since I don't have that kind of tool-kit in these posts, but I can tell you that the *look* of the lines is as important to the reading experience, to the comprehension of the poet's purpose in selecting those words and interrelating them just so, as their existence on paper itself is. This is not to say that these are concrete poems, perish forbid!, that relic of the 20th century is (happily, at least in my opinion) as unfashionable nowadays as confessional poetry (much less happily) is. The look of a poem has always had an affect on how readers both understand and respond to it. It's one way in which the literate world attempts to hold on to the once obvious effect of poems as songs. After all, Homer (composite character that s/he is) was an ancient Greek rapper, singing his goddess-filled phrases before the communal fire and holding her/is audience enraptured and ensorcelled. Had that not been the case, The Iliad and The Odyssey wouldn't be remembered today.
Corwin is working in the unjustly maligned as unhip, devant garde Confessional furrow started strong and true by Sylvia Plath and Sharon Olds and John Berryman (among so many others). Her confessions are, as were most particularly Olds's, the love-chants of a cisgender/heterosexual woman working out a reasoned response to the power dynamic evolving between her inner and outer selves, as well as herself and her beloved: "my tall handsome, you are always / hydrangea in my rib, popped open / always dazzle of salt on my punched lip"
I don't know how better to explain my pleasure in this read than to say that, in a properly ordered world, Emily Corwin would have a gorgeous retreat provided to her by a grateful music industry for her gift of the perfect text for hugely popular Lieder that would hold massive audiences spellbound for an entire evening of divine song. ...more
The Publisher Says: It’s April now, complains Allendorf’s speaker, and still no desperate gift of unreturned yearning.
The poems ofRating: 3.5* of five
The Publisher Says: It’s April now, complains Allendorf’s speaker, and still no desperate gift of unreturned yearning.
The poems of Fair Day in An Ancient Town subvert the glorious, Romantic pastoral into a voice easy to imagine as Walt Whitman’s darkly clever younger brother. The object of affection is fake-tanned and an idiot but still crashes a dozen lush masturbatory fantasies—or the speaker and his lover meet as shepherds only to eat M&Ms and abandon each other on bingo night. O, the way his mouth confounded me / and folded on my mouth there in the fold, slyly sings one of Allendorf’s shepherd’s songs, O, the glory of his hairy arms, / the way they lit my eyes a little then.
Layering complex form, rhyme, and craft over lush horniness and hard wit, Allendorf effortlessly upends romantic poetry and exposes it to the twenty-first century. This is a collection to make the reader laugh out loud and think deep—and then find a way to be alone under the covers.
**BRAIN MILL PRESS PROVIDED ME WITH THIS REVIEW COPY AT MY REQUEST. THANK YOU!**
My Review: Alone hell! This collection could honestly be subtitled, "Inducements to Cruise for Action"! "I'll paint the memory/of you on my closed coffin lid and lard/my arteries with your untamed beauty." That's some hot longing goin' on there.
Kiki Petrosino edits these collections of work by poets from the middle of America, but does not find middlin' poets. This signed copy, #18 of 100, is a lovely object to hold as well as a pleasure of a trove to read. I'll give you a whole poem as a sample of the aesthetic at work here:
SOBER Never so great the shiftlessness. The rest of the night, I'll stare into the wall and think a poem about alcohol. I'll write about the luxury that's failed me so far this month. It's April now, and still no desperate gift of unreturned yearning. Usually, I'm writing reams of crushy ones each day. Lush, bitter birds that soar into the window one by one. I just can't muster it. They hurt me some, the poems and their people, all the pearl of torture. I confess, I am afraid; It's hard to sleep without a tiny veil of pain to puff with breath and call a sail.
You'll find this to your taste, or not; but the collection is well represented by this poem, so make your purchasing decisions accordingly....more
My new #review is live today. MOONSTONE: The Boy Who Never Was, is truly jaw-dropping. From the review: "Sjón operates equally lyricRating: 5* of five
My new #review is live today. MOONSTONE: The Boy Who Never Was, is truly jaw-dropping. From the review: "Sjón operates equally lyrically when describing the antiquated views of the doctor and the simple survival techniques of Máni."
Farrar, Straus and Giroux gets 5 full stars because they chose Victoria Cribb to translate this book. Clearly she is fearless! This is a must-read for anyone interested in #LGBTQ lit....more
An antique now, a re-read launched because Ethan and Joel Coen are set to write a screen adaptation. I seem to be alone in this, butRating: 3* of five
An antique now, a re-read launched because Ethan and Joel Coen are set to write a screen adaptation. I seem to be alone in this, but I liked their film Hail Caesar!.
The novel's dated as heck. Lew Archer's no patch on Travis McGee in the sexism arena, but it's still jarring to 21st century-tuned ears. It's barely noticeable by the standards that the fiftyish Lew would know.
The easy ones were nearly always trouble: frigid or nympho, schizy or commercial or alcoholic, sometimes all five at once.
I admit that I flinched a bit at this. It was a different time indeed.
Macdonald's takedowns of consumerism and vapidity in US culture still ring true, and his damn-close-to-magical-realism coincidences are, for all the strain they put on one's credulity, a huge heap of fun to read. I hope the film's for real and not a victim of the recently sold-off Random House Studios' paltry output curse. (The less you do, the less anyone lets you do.) Since this Lew-Archer-franchise idea has been in play since 2011, it's a sad reality that a year having passed with no news indicates stalled development again. C'mon Fremantle Media! You know how to get movies made! Hop to it!...more
SMILLA'S SENSE OF SNOW is on my list, 5 Snowy Literary Escapes from this Summer of Climate Change Horror http://tinyurl.com/h6ca8ca Taking "chill out"SMILLA'S SENSE OF SNOW is on my list, 5 Snowy Literary Escapes from this Summer of Climate Change Horror http://tinyurl.com/h6ca8ca Taking "chill out" seriously for once! #BeachReads...more
*My spoiler-ridden review is live at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud: My Reading Life at Medium. My thanks to Crown Publishing for my ultra-zorch review copy, and to Blake Crouch for writing this intense yet still meditative book.
I have no idea how I am going to review this book without spoilering every-damn-thing.
Okay...what I can think of is this:
In anyone's life, there are decisions that have no correct answer. We make them and move on. Reading this book I revisited a few of mine, and luckily for me, I didn't feel I'd gotten them wrong.
Read this book for a propulsive, pounding joyride through spaces and places you didn't know that you didn't know you wanted to visit....more
Rating: 4.5* of five, rounded up because we can get a new homepage that nobody wanted but still can't have half-stars
My review of DEBRIS is up at ExpeRating: 4.5* of five, rounded up because we can get a new homepage that nobody wanted but still can't have half-stars
My review of DEBRIS is up at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud for your amusement and edification. One day next week, I'll post the whole thing here for y'all clickophobes.
This 4.5-star debut story collection by Kevin Hardcastle won the 2016 Trillium Prize...$20,000! I must thank Biblioasis for sending me a review copy, and introducing me to another top-flight CanLit author to follow....more
***UPDATE*** What the forces of logic and legalization face: a news story on Optimum's News12 Long island fans flames among fearful fools. A rap concer***UPDATE*** What the forces of logic and legalization face: a news story on Optimum's News12 Long island fans flames among fearful fools. A rap concert-goer passed out cannabis candies "laced with THC" (also "laced with sugar" which is far more unhealthy) to others who "had to be treated" for the "mind-altering and euphoric" effects of the drug.
No one was injured. But it makes news 750 miles away. These bloody fraudsters are not giving up their fearmongering.
My finger-wagging scold of a review is live at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud, the place I call "my blog." How dare that young whippRating: 4.5* of five
My finger-wagging scold of a review is live at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud, the place I call "my blog." How dare that young whippersnapper of an author shove me on this emotional roller-coaster without a safety rail!
Y'all click-a-phobes will need to wait a minute before the full review comes here....more
Brightfellow and Asthma sittin' in a tree...this is deep and deeply unsettling novel that unpacks more layers of meaning than longRating: 4.5* of five
Brightfellow and Asthma sittin' in a tree...this is deep and deeply unsettling novel that unpacks more layers of meaning than longer, less well-made novels can hope to. Kudos to both Rikki Ducornet and Coffeehouse Press! (And thanks to the latter for my review copy.)
Read my entire review at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud, or as I call it "my blog." Comme d'habitude, I shall post the entire review here in a few weeks' time for the click-a-phobic amongst us....more
I'll post a link to my review soon*. Fordham University Press and NetGalley get my thanks for making this still-necesRating: 4 quizzical stars of five
I'll post a link to my review soon*. Fordham University Press and NetGalley get my thanks for making this still-necessary book available to me for review. It will be archived on 31 July, so get your requests in soon!