Review copy kindly provided by author and GR friend, Christopher Conlon.
The two novellas in this collection are based on earlier literature. Each stoReview copy kindly provided by author and GR friend, Christopher Conlon.
The two novellas in this collection are based on earlier literature. Each story is related by an elderly protagonist who, looking back on his life, tells how he has undergone deeply traumatizing events and lived to tell the tale.
The Poe-begotten tale which is the title piece constitutes an homage to, criticism of, and commentary on the classic short story The Tell-Tale Heart. It purports to give the real facts which inspired the 19th-century master of the macabre. Conlon does such a good job of this that the original tale seems to pale in comparison. Instead of an insane narrator driven to ghastly deeds by unnamable influences, we have a reasonable, articulate, introspective man who explains quite rationally and step-by-step how he came to commit a gruesome act.
The second novella is inspired by Eugene O'Neill's play Beyond the Horizon. As in the play, we have two brothers and a girl who disrupts the calm of their (apparently) tranquil rural lives. In this case, however, the trouble is unleashed not directly by the girl, but by the revelation of a dangerous secret. Despite its surface similarity to the O'Neill play, there are some interesting elements mixed in which make of this story something which reminded me quite a bit of John Wyndham's novel, The Chrysalids.
Conlon is a very literary writer who executes his projects with skill. He is a master of plot, of world-building, of atmosphere, and of powerful narrative voices. His use of earlier writers produces neither stale copies not pale imitations but forceful and thought-provoking drama....more
Review copy kindly provided by Goodreads friend, Christopher Conlon, who introduces the collection.
This collection of stories covers several genres:Review copy kindly provided by Goodreads friend, Christopher Conlon, who introduces the collection.
This collection of stories covers several genres: science fiction, fantasy, mystery and even literary parody. There is a variety of narrative voices, writing styles, settings and tones. Some of the tales are serious while others are comic, some are humorous while others are sad or even dark.
Personally, I have never read Hodgson or (what is more shocking) Akfak. How can he call himself a literature aficionado? I hear my readers mutter in derision. Yes, yes, I know; nobody's perfect. But in this less than perfect universe (which, for all we know, may be only one among myriads) these stories are a kind of incentive to seek out Lupoff's models just in order to compare the disciple to his teachers.
What dazzles here is the breadth, imagination and versatility of these vigorously written and delightfully retro tales....more
In this book, Arthurian legend blends with Lewis Carroll or perhaps Edward Lear. This has all the elements of the quintessential fairy tale (magical lIn this book, Arthurian legend blends with Lewis Carroll or perhaps Edward Lear. This has all the elements of the quintessential fairy tale (magical lands, three brothers vying to see who will be first to fulfill their quest, an enchanted lady, knights, dwarfs, etc.). And yet there is something whimsical, knowing, satirical about all of it, as if the author is enjoying himself hugely and winking frequently at his audience to signal the approach of a funny bit. The illustrations are also humorous and add a nice element to the story....more
Another one of these tiresomely unboring travelogue things. The author like totally overuses the words "hip" and "hep" and stuff, and like totalSigh.
Another one of these tiresomely unboring travelogue things. The author like totally overuses the words "hip" and "hep" and stuff, and like totally forgets about "hop" and "hup." Not enough laborious research on the history, language, culture and other junk like that. I expected them--did I tell you he has this totally cool wife who's into photography of all things? (groan, how predictable!)--to get kidnapped by revolutionary thugs, eaten by a chupacabra or die of the plague or something, but noooo... All they do is have humorous adventures, get in odd situations with natives and ride around having fun and learning to adapt to a different culture and stuff. And he has to go and clean up the typos in the manniscript until there's like maybe half a one left--so now I have nothing to crittasize. Way to deprive me of my biggest pleasure in life, man!
I don't know if Cherry and this Jason person are ever going to learn to put together a conventional travel journal. I think they've got a lot of nerve publishing something that is actually entertaining! ...more
Autographed review copy provided by author and Goodreads friend Christopher Conlon.
This is a collection of "uncollected" works which did not make it iAutographed review copy provided by author and Goodreads friend Christopher Conlon.
This is a collection of "uncollected" works which did not make it into other books or anthologies. In the rare cases where they did, they have been somewhat neglected.
The individual pieces cross forms and boundaries. One can find a short story, flash fiction, a short play, poetry and literary criticism.
The title story, "Wild Tracks," a tragic and brutal coming of age tale, contains themes which I have noticed in Conlon's more recent work and got under my skin immediately. Some of the flash fiction has been reworked for his anthology "Herding Ravens."
One piece, "Proust in Africa," tells the story of Conlon's first encounter with the longest novel ever written, and how it affected his life during a tour of duty with the Peace Corps in Botswana. After reading this online in 2012, I took the plunge and read Proust myself in 2013. So now, on rereading this essay, I have a better understanding of what Conlon is talking about when he describes the aspects and episodes that made a deep and lasting impression on him. (And I love how he reworks one of these episodes in his poem "Soweto," one of several poems on his life in Africa.)
In Conlon's novels (and even in this collection), his characters often suffer severely because of the trauma they endured as children at the hands of dysfunctional parents or care-givers. In a series of gritty and gut-wrenching poems, he explores the history of his own family and acknowledges the factors which formed and deformed them.
Also remarkable is a series of poems treating the story of Anne Frank. These poems are not the kind of tributes one would expect a poet to give to the famous victim of the Holocaust. Instead most of them, by adopting an unusual point of view, give a damning indictment of those who perpetrated the crime which, despite its murderous effects, could not hush up the young girl's message.
With self-deprecating humor, Chris described this book to me as "a banquet of scraps." Even if a few of the morsels may be a bit challenging to chew on, in the end they make a memorable meal. ...more
Autographed limited edition gift copy kindly sent by author and Goodreads friend Christopher Conlon.
This is the haunting story of a successful yet troAutographed limited edition gift copy kindly sent by author and Goodreads friend Christopher Conlon.
This is the haunting story of a successful yet troubled woman who delves into a past she thought she had left behind. The characters are vividly portrayed. One might expect a character with the name of Lucy Sparrow to be shy and retiring, a twentieth-century version of Louisa May Alcott's Beth March, in need of constant sheltering and protection. But in fact Lucy is drawn larger than life and twice as sassy, with an unapologetic brashness not unlike that of Scout Finch or even Huckleberry Finn. It is in fact the protagonist Frances (or as she is playfully called, Franny-Fran) who needs the protection of the feistier, worldly-wise Lucy. And yet it is Frances, the diffident and adoring sidekick who comes to play a surprising role and has a harder and darker path to follow than perhaps even Lucy's. However, there are some surprisingly positive and redemptive moments amidst all this darkness.
The careful reader can see a family resemblance between this novel and Conlon's latest offering, Savaging the Dark which I read quite recently. There are many themes and motifs which are common to both novels: a female narrative voice, dysfunctional families, troubling dreams, adolescence, trauma and violence. There is in both works a knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of human nature.
And yet the books are quite different. One interesting feature of this volume is that Conlon explains in an Author's Note how the novel started out as a short story, which insisted on being reworked; he also gives us the original story so that we can compare the two. Although some aspects are handled differently, the essential elements of the long version are recognizably there. It is safe to say, though, that Conlon was wise to follow the inner promptings of his creative instinct which compelled him to expand the story to the longer and more complex but richer form in which it now exists....more
Autographed limited edition gift copy sent by author and Goodreads friend Christopher Conlon.
Reed is trying to distance himself from past trauma and fAutographed limited edition gift copy sent by author and Goodreads friend Christopher Conlon.
Reed is trying to distance himself from past trauma and find his way in life. Except that the past will not let him be. It literally arrives on his doorstep one night in the form of a hardened yet vulnerable teenage runaway named Mauri, who does what she has to in order to survive on the street. Will Bliss, a young black man trying to get into college and learn about classical music, has trouble fitting into his family and neighborhood; he strikes up an unlikely friendship, first with Reed, then with Mauri. The way their relationship plays out is what provides the interest of this book.
This is now the third novel of Conlon's that I've read which contains accounts of young people, violent crimes and disturbed characters. And yet, it is not a mere rehashing of the other two books. While fully showing us the revolting details of various crimes and without whitewashing their actions, Conlon shows us why his people do what they do, so that we have some understanding for them. Even though none of the main characters comes through unscathed, things end on an optimistic note. I wondered whether the ending was a bit too happy, given the rest of the story, however, it's a relief to think that the three friends can find at least some measure of healing.
Conlon makes the reader ponder why acts of violence happen. Are they accidents? What exactly is the root cause? And could things have been different had one of the early links in the chain of events been altered? Who ultimately bears the responsibility.
He also tells the story expertly, draws his characters vividly, and makes you care about them, so that once you start the novel, it's hard to put down. ...more