Had some really great jewel-like writing in it, but by the time it was all over, the epic adventure seemed to fall flat and made me wonder--why bother...moreHad some really great jewel-like writing in it, but by the time it was all over, the epic adventure seemed to fall flat and made me wonder--why bother spending 300 pages to set it up to begin with? Enjoyed this book, and all it's wonderful nature writing and attempts at capturing 'quirky' characters, but, wish this'd gone a little farther. However, I will say, I probable underlined 1/8th of the book, so obviously this author impressed the fuck outta me.(less)
An excellent book. Desires a wide audience. Between its heart, humor and message, this was a compelling book with some heavy duty writing in it. Consi...moreAn excellent book. Desires a wide audience. Between its heart, humor and message, this was a compelling book with some heavy duty writing in it. Consider it an instruction manual. (less)
I have read all of the content in this book over the years on blog sites, from Myspace, to Facebook and now Wordpress, Gus is always funny, more often...moreI have read all of the content in this book over the years on blog sites, from Myspace, to Facebook and now Wordpress, Gus is always funny, more often than not super funny--always super entertaining and yes, one of my favorite internet people hands down for his style and pitch. Sure, this is a collection of blogs and if you really want o read it all for free, you can, that's the beauty of life, you have that option, I think you should read it however you can, with an emphasis on buying the guy's book, or bartering. Maybe you have a few goats he wants? A carburetor for a 1972 VW bus? A set of silver dollar certificates? A really great pog or beanie baby? Fuck it, buy the book. Keep your stretch armstrong doll.(less)
Stanley Polinsky carries a Tom Swift novel in his pack as he marches trough war-torn WII Europe with his companion, Calvin Johnson who constantly ribs...moreStanley Polinsky carries a Tom Swift novel in his pack as he marches trough war-torn WII Europe with his companion, Calvin Johnson who constantly ribs him about it. Carrying a book, while simultaneously engaged in combat with the Nazi seems absurd. When Stanley explains that the book was read to him as a child, and it's about a magical item called The alamantium lamp, an invention that can raise the dead and heal any wound, the Tom Swift novel within this novel reveals itself, and serves as an anchor for this wonderfully written, story about immortality granted by ingestion of a magical lightning struck herb. After a landmine explodes in the early pages of the book, mortally wounding a soldier, the herb is ingested, and a chain of events is set off, each event more perfectly outlandish than the last. Absurd. Magic. Adventure. Time spanning. Epic. Me likey. Jen Michalski has constructed a wonderful world here, that is equal parts magical adventure and beautifully written examination of love, loss and what it means to have a life that can or can't end. I enjoyed Michalski's back to back novella collection Could You Be With Her Now, and am very impressed by her range as a writer, from the 1st person POV of "I Can Make it to California by Dinnertime" where she writes as a mentally challenged boy, to the accompanying novella in the collection "May-September" where the narrator is a twenty something girl engaged in a relationship with a woman pushing sixty. Tide King is written in third person and recalls the best elements of fairy tale, literary fiction, and even, Tom Swift.(less)
I really enjoyed this short story collection. It had me highly entertained and the pages went very quick, in almost an addictive manner. There's an arg...moreI really enjoyed this short story collection. It had me highly entertained and the pages went very quick, in almost an addictive manner. There's an argument that often pops up on writing websites, in message board threads, in conversation, that centers around "genre fiction vs. literary fiction". The general claim by lit. fiction writers being that genre fiction doesn't hold any artistic value and that by nature it's formulaic plot structures and hokey dialogue and stereotypical characters can't hold a candle to their counterparts found in literary fiction. Genre fiction writers point out that lit. fiction is too flowery, takes itself too seriously and that people who don't write just want a good read, they don't care about a curtain fluttering in the breeze, ect. Of course, there's a place in the middle between all things, genre vs. lit. and The Cards We Keep is a good example of how it can be done to appease people on both sides of the fence, keeping the art very much alive, and keeping the entertainment right there in equal doses. James Duncan's The Cards We Keep is a collection of wonderfully written genre-fiction short stories that takes on a wide variety of genres, purposefully, and carries them through to succession with some sharp writing, interesting characters, and non-formulaic plotting. The great fun of this collection is seeing how many genres the short stories can cross in just 160 some odd pages. There's the story about the private eye and his investigation of a cold blooded killing with a pearl handled knife to the neck; the hobo who wanders the countywide with his train hopping traveling companions; the horror story, "Weeds" about a lawn maintenance man whose brother holes up in city hall with a gun because his wife's eyes have changed and he thinks they are eating his life; There's the story of two weathered hit men hanging out in an empty restaurant (reminiscent of the one from Goonies) waiting for their mark to show up with $10,000; then there's "Due to an Earlier Incident" the sci-fi story of a near future bounty hunter who is patrolling NYC with a massive neuro gun at his hip. It's all here. Ten stories, that dip in and out of specific genres for a little while examining what the genre is, and what it means as a device to tell an entertaining story. The Cards We Keep is the opposite of Seinfeld storytelling, which thrived on the idea that, good writing can make "a show about nothing". Which is how I'd describe most literary fiction. A well done George Saunders short story is about nothing and everything at the same time. James Duncan's Cards We Keep is a book about the bigger things beyond the characters. Dialogue here is not offhand, it is all pointedly delivered, sometimes even revved up larger than life, with it seems, the author knowingly poking fun at the pulp fiction attributes of the style he is writing in and also paying homage to. There's never a gun too far away from the plot lines in James Duncan's collection. Sometimes the women meet a fist. The dogs are always nameless mutts, everyone is guilty of B & E. Jumping a train and riding it towards a circus town is not just a romantic thought, but a real possibility. Really, most of the writing calls back to dime store detective novels (in the best ways), and there's a tone of the dusty 40s time period feel to most of this, all the girls are gals or dames. The men long for steaks and cold beers. Part of the joy, and overall entertainment of these stories is not only guessing what will be the 'twist' towards resolution at the end of the 'tale', but what does the next story coming up on the next page offer. Will it be set in the Old West? Will we be venturing to Mars? Is someone going to plan a heist at a racetrack. There's something very pleasent in that. The real twist of the collection comes in the final story, Luanne of Los Angeles which itself steps out from the entire genre-fiction overhang, and takes a look at the writer himself as a protagonist, and how when he was a kid, he wanted to be a hobo. In Luanne of Los Angeles, the major plot points are stripped, the guns and hit men are gone, what's left is closer to real life. Love. Sickness. Worry. It stands closer to Raymond Carver than Phillip Dick, a testament to James Duncan's understanding of what good writing is, as a writer, editor and reader. The cards we keep does something very interesting to close the book. Duncan has included notes to accompany each story in the collection, giving a 'behind the scenes' that gives a glimpse into the inner workings of where the idea came for the story, for instance, the story The Toybox, has an interesting scene in it about where the protagonist explains the tension with his brother and his youth in general because he would be out with his family, and would see police lights passing, he'd imagine that the killer was already at his house, hiding in the toybox at the end of the day. That sums up the overall feel of the collection itself. There's a darkness in all of these stories, hiding just around the corner. Whether it's a dead body rotting behind an apartment door; the imminent disintegration of a marriage, physical violence at the drop of a dime, the weight of a gun in the pocket. This one is recommended.(less)
Wow. Can't go wrong with this kind of thing. I found this book to be about as thrilling as a book of short stories could be. Dug the style, tone and b...moreWow. Can't go wrong with this kind of thing. I found this book to be about as thrilling as a book of short stories could be. Dug the style, tone and bizzarro factor, but most of all, George Saunders always does it for me because he has a human heart that beats like a small bird in the center of an earthquake, calm, assured, getting the hell out of danger to a safer place where we can overlook the wreckage. (less)
Frank Reardon is a poet with a really badass/intriguing style. You could easily say it’s no-nonsense. He’s a real tough writer, who writes with his wh...moreFrank Reardon is a poet with a really badass/intriguing style. You could easily say it’s no-nonsense. He’s a real tough writer, who writes with his whole heart and covers the gamut of what I’m generally interested in when I read poetry. Girls, rock n’ roll, nature, death … short to say, cool shit. I picked up his latest release Nirvana Haymaker from NeoPoiesis Press and I’m glad that I did. It was an excellent collection and one that I recommend to you.
This is an excellent collection of short stories/ little flashes of surreal and intelligent life. Highly recommend. Check this out, especially for the...moreThis is an excellent collection of short stories/ little flashes of surreal and intelligent life. Highly recommend. Check this out, especially for the terrific story, "A Smoke" and the poem "There Are Choices"
A book with an atomic bomb as it's heart. Driven writing focussing mostly on adolescence without the usual cloudy nostalgia associated with that kind...moreA book with an atomic bomb as it's heart. Driven writing focussing mostly on adolescence without the usual cloudy nostalgia associated with that kind of thing. I liked this book so much because it hugs the line between "short story collection" and "novel". The fragmented nature was beyond pleasing. Small fragments of beauty. A great story. Recommended, maing.(less)
Could You Be With Her Now by Jen Michalski is an excellent collection of 2 novellas. The first novella is called I Can make it to California by Dinner...moreCould You Be With Her Now by Jen Michalski is an excellent collection of 2 novellas. The first novella is called I Can make it to California by Dinner Time--about a mentally handicapped boy named Jimmy who strangles a young girl and goes on the run through America with a truck driver who personifies "stranger danger". The second novella May-September, focuses on a love that grows between a 20 something girl named Alice and a seventy year old Sandra, and the intimacy of a romantic relationship across fifty years life. Both novellas were excellent. The book itself, was a fast read, each novella taking up 75 pages roughly, but the way that the best stories usually do, the economy of the writing and the subject matter combined add up to something far greater than the footprint of the book. Haunting. Unsettling, in some of the darkness of the subject matter. I work in an oil refinery in New Jersey, usually I don't get to read at work, but when COULD YOU BE WITH HER NOW showed up in the mail. I studied the cover and read the synopsis on the back, and thought it would be interesting to read it at work. On the front is a photo of a young girl in a white spaghetti strap dress , her lips are glossy and wet. There is a foggy filter on the cover. The book is slim. I knew exactly what was gonna happen when I brought it into the break trailer at the oil refinery. I carry the paperback book with me trough the gates of the plant. The cover and the pages are clean, crisp, pretty. I know by the time I am done with the book, the cover will be smeared with oil and dirt. The pages will be smudged brown. It'll look like its been through a war. At break time, I take out Micalski's book and every single one of my co-worker guys have to know what I'm reading because of the cover. They freak out if I eat sushi too, or hummus (holy hell) I do what I always do ... I tell them EXACTLY what the book is about as quickly an efficiently as possible so I can keep reading in the break trailer ... in this case, "a mentally handicapped kid strangles a girl and gets abducted and molested in a big rig ... and a 20 something chick starts dating a 70 year old lady." I have never seen such a reaction to what a book is about in my life. I wouldn't be surprised if one of them showed up with a copy of their own. (less)
Iron by Zarina Zabrisky is a collection of short stories that are centered behind the Red Curtain even when the narrator is sitting in California. The...moreIron by Zarina Zabrisky is a collection of short stories that are centered behind the Red Curtain even when the narrator is sitting in California. There are four shorts here, at first glance, the book seems slight, that's a misconception. Every story within it is like an atomic bomb. "Weeping Poppies" is a first person journey through the Russian countryside stealing poppies out of front yards to make DIY heroin at home. "The Cross of David" is about American opportunism juxtaposed with religious ideals. It begins in a cafe across the street from a yoga studio and takes the reader all the way back to the frozen wasteland of a Russian playground just after the fall of communism. "The Hungry Duck" is the name of a club located right next to the KGB building in Moscow, where the women are rumored to be slipped date rape drugs by the bartenders. "Iron" the story that named the entire collection is an especially great story. It's built in such a way, that it just keeps lifting up and up and up even as the protagonist gets deeper and deeper in trouble. Plots aren't necessary in these kinds of stories, they are character driven, written beautifully, and will send you away humming, Excellent collection. Highly recommended.(less)
A real excellent book. Lots of magic here. Lots of darkness and nostalgia and blinding lights shining unexpectedly when least expected. Bullshit Rodeo...moreA real excellent book. Lots of magic here. Lots of darkness and nostalgia and blinding lights shining unexpectedly when least expected. Bullshit Rodeo was raw and thrilling in the best way. i don't think I've ever read a book that encapsulated 'longing' into such a potent form.
Bonus: this book turned me on to many other books and records that are referenced in the text. Love when that happens.(less)
What an excellent book! Can't recommend this high enough. Among my absolute favorites. A memoir of sorts from a person with a real unique life. I've d...moreWhat an excellent book! Can't recommend this high enough. Among my absolute favorites. A memoir of sorts from a person with a real unique life. I've dug her Somnambulist Blog/zine for a while and must say, this book was a real kick ass home run scenario with very addictive reading qualities. Check it out. (less)
This book is a collection of blogs by the author of Super (Emergency Press 2010) brilliant and quaint insights into things that will boggle your mind...moreThis book is a collection of blogs by the author of Super (Emergency Press 2010) brilliant and quaint insights into things that will boggle your mind and make your mind grow as a result. Check it out immediately.(less)
Heartland Gothic walks the line between art literature and hard-boiled thriller with a skillful level head. It's the story of a Midwestern family band...moreHeartland Gothic walks the line between art literature and hard-boiled thriller with a skillful level head. It's the story of a Midwestern family banding together to seek revenge. It's about what it means to be coming home to a family left behind- finding out why you left in the first place and why you could possibly be convinced to come back. This is a novel filled with complex characters teeming with humanity and at the same time at odds with society. These characters form the base from which all the drama, conflict and tension spring out. Could you ever ask for a better set up? The plot unravels slowly and deliberately with even paced beauty and heart. Present is language and writing that will satisfy those who appreciate sparse high brow literature and enough action and conflict that will please everyone else- the noir fan, the mystery reader, those who identify with dark edgy comedy, this story had all of those elements in spades. Highly recommended. Find yourself, as I did, unable to stop reading.(less)