An opinion about a book of 30 microessays and 30 flash fiction stories shouldn't be very long. The essay half is on writing; it's now in my top 5 of w...moreAn opinion about a book of 30 microessays and 30 flash fiction stories shouldn't be very long. The essay half is on writing; it's now in my top 5 of writing resources. Not every flash tale resonated with me but "Unfriendly Cashiers" is any indication, each story holds a grain of real truth.(less)
Pure impulse buy at my local comics shop. I've been on a Jodorowsky kick lately (I'm working my way through his films and have already read The Incal...morePure impulse buy at my local comics shop. I've been on a Jodorowsky kick lately (I'm working my way through his films and have already read The Incal and some of The Metabarons) so this shouldn't surprise anyone.
The first graphic novel collaboration between Jodo and Mœbius gives us twenty-four full page illustrations with minimal dialogue, as part of Jodo's attempt to do something unconventional while trying to subvert commercial constraints. (He says as much in his introduction to this 2013 edition.) While the story is short enough to warrant grumblings about the book being overpriced, it has everything you'd expect from any Jodorowsky/Mœbius tale in Métal Hurlant magazine: surrealistic sci-fi illustrated by a master. On top of that... again, we're talking about full page Mœbius here, so while the book could've (should've?) been cheaper, I was happy to pay what I paid.(less)
There's no way a reader and writer like me was going to pass up a story collection from someone whose work appears in The New Yorker, The Antioch Revi...moreThere's no way a reader and writer like me was going to pass up a story collection from someone whose work appears in The New Yorker, The Antioch Review, decomP, Monkeybicycle, PANK, et al., and whose book is blurbed by Ray Bradbury and Gary K. Wolfe!
I get the accusations about the book being "gimmicky". I get that some readers require characters to have things like names other than The Man, The Woman, or The Octopus. I get that the structure of these stories can seem repetitive. While the language, characterization, and descriptions of setting are stripped-down, it's done so strategically. There's still enough sense of character and place for relatively whole stories. Stories that are as instructive as any fable, complete with a moral--but which are as subject to interpretation as any myth.
When a story ends, so endeth the lesson. And while the lessons might not be profound necessarily, I think that's the point. The lessons are truths we (should) all know. What's profound is how Loory illustrates these truths with a mix of the real and unreal. Loory deftly places his character and the reader in all sorts of fantastic worlds. And what they find there is what we find here: the Kabat-Zinn truism of, "Wherever you go, there you are."
I know some writers and critics in speculative fiction for whom this would absolutely stick in their craw. And some of those folks intersect with those I know who don't much enjoy short stories, let alone short-short fiction. They tend not to be people I drink with, anyway.(less)
This review is probably biased. I've been a fan of Rickert's writing for almost a decade. As far as I know, I've read her entire published oeuvre, and...moreThis review is probably biased. I've been a fan of Rickert's writing for almost a decade. As far as I know, I've read her entire published oeuvre, and have gone on record talking about how much I love it. I even had the pleasure of telling her face to face a few weeks ago!
A lot of Rickert's shorter work is often populated by the walking wounded. Characters who are often terribly aware of whatever darkness (some kind of guilt, trauma, tragedy, maybe some secret) pervades their lives. It often isolates them, as those who might share that grief--well-meaning lovers, family, community--move on. And while sometimes (not every time) I'm left with a sense of a character's transformation, of some tiny newfound strength or hope in the future, I would fear what tomorrow could bring them.
The difference in Rickert's debut novel The Memory Garden, is that Nan and her friends Mavis and Ruthie made it through to the other side of their darkness. They lived past a shared tragedy some sixty years into old age. Not unscathed, of course. The damage to their lives is done, and they drift apart. But one way or the other and with varying degrees of success, they each soldiered on to eventually move into and through their own individual guilts and traumas--and occasional blessings, too. Nan was given the care of Bay, an unexpected, maybe even undeserved miracle. And Nan chooses to raise Bay, even if it meant doing so in the shadows of everything that came before. Even if it meant more secrets.
It's the sort of situation one falls into once life becomes about more than survival.
The Memory Garden's peculiar cast of characters gathered under even more peculiar circumstances shows us what any of Rickert's short story characters' lives might be like sixty years after a given tale, about a time when the past will, despite whatever life you might have lived in the interim and whatever you've done to put distance between you and it, demand to be reckoned with. And this is, at least as far as my memory of Rickert's other work goes, fresh ground.(less)
I'll be honest, I finally got around to reading this classic only after having seen Frank Pavich's documentary Jodorowsky's Dune. I'd heard of Jodo an...moreI'll be honest, I finally got around to reading this classic only after having seen Frank Pavich's documentary Jodorowsky's Dune. I'd heard of Jodo and his El Topo, and you can't be any kind of comics fan without having at least heard the name Mœbius. Still, I came late to this particular party.
It's absolutely true what people have said--you can literally pick out the bits that have been used in any number of sci-fi films over the past 30 years. I'd never read The Incal, but every one of Mœbius's meticulously drawn panels seemed familiar. Jodo's writing didn't disappoint either--it's a good example of a writer weaving his beliefs into a story while avoiding, IMO, turning the work into a tract.(less)
5 out of 5, with the caveat that I cannot be objective about this collection. Howard Waldrop is one of the few writers whose work I'll buy the day it...more5 out of 5, with the caveat that I cannot be objective about this collection. Howard Waldrop is one of the few writers whose work I'll buy the day it comes out, unseen and unreviewed.
If all Waldrop does is cleverly hide all sorts of historic/pop culture Easter eggs into most of his stories with barely any telegraphing, it would be a feat. Indeed, it's a point of pride for me when I catch them. I immediately recognized bits of the Bird Man of Alcatraz in the story of the "Wolf-Man" of the same. But, here's Waldrop's trick: as always, there are moments I fail to spot the references, and it doesn't affect my enjoyment of the stories one bit!
More importantly (to me at least), Waldrop's characters almost always convey some sort of bittersweet piece of truth or wisdom that can only be gained from going around the proverbial block a time or two.
I did let a sliver of objectivity creep into my reading, but I won't mention it here (you can find it in my story-by-story comments on the actual goodreads review page). It's more of a technical quibble, anyway. Whatever.
Also, "Coca Cola comic book orgy" is now my favorite Waldrop line. If I had a band, I'd ask his permission to use it as a name.(less)
This review is technically incomplete. I finished this book back in September ('13) but didn't write about it until now (January of '14). I felt I cou...moreThis review is technically incomplete. I finished this book back in September ('13) but didn't write about it until now (January of '14). I felt I couldn't write about it because I didn't (and still haven't) rated the story "Some Letters for Ove Lindström." (I'm still too close to the subject matter of that story.)
I know almost nothing about the Swedish/Scandinavian myths and didn't think I necessarily had to in order to see the heart of these stories. Nor could I tell which stories were translated and which were written in English. It's testament to Tidbeck's writing, I think.
The collection started strongly and ended with a bang. The stories that didn't move me were generally the ones where Tidbeck revisits certain themes without, at least as far as I could tell, adding anything new. Those aside, the ones that did move me are positively gut-wrenching.(less)
Plain and simple, if this collection doesn't win the Shirley Jackson Award or the World Fantasy Award for 2013, there really is no f**ing justice in t...morePlain and simple, if this collection doesn't win the Shirley Jackson Award or the World Fantasy Award for 2013, there really is no f**ing justice in the world.
I hung on every word in this collection. I was enthralled by every story, something I haven't felt since reading M. Rickert's Map of Dreams. Ballingrud takes some rather standard horror tropes and gives the readers more palpable and disturbing reasons to fear them. In a lot of stories, the horror/speculative element serves as a possible pathway that can be chosen by a given character. What's disturbing is that often times that pathway represents a viable, sometimes even a preferred, life option.
I found myself giving each story a 5* rating. But that isn't to say the collection didn't have it its... well, I'm so reluctant to say "flaws." That's much too strong a word, in my opinion. Let's say, "Things that took me out of the story for a micro-second, of which I took note before re-submerging myself back into it." There were two.
In the cover blurb, Maureen McHugh calls the collection "Raymond Carver territory." There's definitely a "K-Mart Magical Realism" thing going on here. The opening scene in "The Good Husband" would've made me think of "So Much Water So Close to Home" even if Carver wasn't referenced in the blurb. One of the tiny, tiny problems I had, though, was being so effectively grounded in each main character's POV--very Carver-esque characters--that I couldn't help but notice when these characters, as they're written, would think in un-Carver-esque terms. A construction worker seeing something "in a rictus of pain." An ex-con encountering something "soporific." A homeless man smelling "the ripe, deliquescent odor of river water." (Maybe it's more accurate to substitute "Raymond Carver" for "Gordon Lish," but that's another debate altogether.)
The other matter depends on how cynical a reader one is. What I might, and in fact DO, interpret as this collection being an examination of a singular theme from multiple angles might be interpreted by another reader as "the same story over and over again."
I feel like I've given too much time to these issues relative to the actual impact on my reading experience. But it's important to note that even despite them, the quality of the stories is such that I unreservedly give this collection a 5* rating.(less)
In his introduction, editor Paolo Chikiamco spells out the payoff and the problems involved in putting together an anthology of remixed Filipino myths...moreIn his introduction, editor Paolo Chikiamco spells out the payoff and the problems involved in putting together an anthology of remixed Filipino myths. "We are a nation of many indigenous cultures--numbering anywhere from sixty to over a hundred, depending on who you ask--with distinct oral traditions." There are resources and strategies aimed at sussing all this out (see the appendices at the end of the book); guideposts to avenues of research in which even some Filipino scholars fear to tread. In the end though, the most meaningful way to relate to these myths (or those of any culture's, for that matter) is through story.
Some stories were weaker than others, as can be expected, but even these had something to offer--one in particular that I thought might've been the weakest might have had the best writing. These stories seemed to share a similar overall flaw IMO: the focus on the inscrutability and strangeness of the supernatural characters who didn't seem to be too bothered by it one way or the other. (An attitude that seems distinctly un-Filipino).
The anthology really picks up steam in its latter half, though. The better stories weren't just simple retellings, but remixings and straight mash-ups of various myths, time periods, genres, and even modes of storytelling. One of my favorite pieces has an ending which cleverly hinges on the blending of Christianity and folk belief for which the Philippines is famous.
Probably the only thing Harvey Pekar and I have in common is the city of Cleveland.
It's supposedly the hipster thing to do nowadays to declare Pekar...moreProbably the only thing Harvey Pekar and I have in common is the city of Cleveland.
It's supposedly the hipster thing to do nowadays to declare Pekar a genius while admitting you've never read his work. Fine, guilty. But at least I'm not one of those folks who came to his work as a direct result of watching the American Splendor biopic (still haven't seen it, but soon). Anyway, my previous experiences of Pekar were his appearances on David Letterman in the 80s. (As a kid, it seemed for years that the only guests Letterman had were Pekar, Fran Lebowitz, and Howard Stern. More likely, these were the only guests that were memorable, having held my interest and attention.) The fact that he was from Cleveland and talked about Cleveland didn't mean that much to me at the time.
It's to my everlasting regret that I never came to underground comics at an earlier age. I just couldn't brave the densely-drawn comics in "that section" of the comics store where American Splendor, Heavy Metal, and others were shelved, near the porn comics. But better late than never, and I'm glad my first real taste was from Harvey Pekar's Cleveland.
The fact that the book gives a good-enough history of the City of Cleveland over the years is almost beside the point. It, like most of Pekar's work in American Splendor is really about Pekar alone and his observations. It just so happens that there are years where his observations on Cleveland and mine coincide.
When he talks about the things that happened in the late 80s/early 90s--Toby Radloff's 5 minutes of fame, the decline of Cleveland schools to the point where the State of Ohio took them over, the hospitals taking over the local economy, etc.--he's talking about a time when Cleveland was my home, during years when there was every chance that we might've bumped shoulders walking down Coventry, or up the steps of the main branch of the Cleveland Public Library. Some of the times that were his own, like the experience of running up the stairs of Cleveland's (Old) Arcade, I independently experienced (as did a lot of Clevelanders) 40-some years later. To me, Pekar isn't to be praised just for speaking general truth, but for speaking some truths that I can verify.
So, I have to give Cleveland a very biased 5* out of 5.(less)
An enjoyable mash-up of the cult TV show good vs. evil, the anime series Bleach and Kekkaishi, with a bit of Rod Serling's Night Gallery, all filtered...moreAn enjoyable mash-up of the cult TV show good vs. evil, the anime series Bleach and Kekkaishi, with a bit of Rod Serling's Night Gallery, all filtered through the lens of Older's NYC. Anything good about those series is done twice as well here; same could be said about the flaws, though. "Forgive Me My Tangents" near the end was sort of like one of those tiny Jack Laird Night Gallery segments -- okay, that might be a bit harsh; Older's writing is better by an order of magnitude. Older's voice is clear throughout, which is the best part of this collection. The thing that kept it from 5 stars for me is that, as well as each piece was written, only a couple of them had the "gut punch" I typically look for in short stories.(less)
I couldn't believe my luck when I found this collection at a local used book store! It didn't finish quite as strongly as it started, but there are pi...moreI couldn't believe my luck when I found this collection at a local used book store! It didn't finish quite as strongly as it started, but there are pieces that were clinics on short-story writing. Here's how I thought of each story...
"Mrs. Considine." I don't describe too many stories as "chilling," but this story of a girl with a gift bonding with an older woman with another gift is just that. 5*
"Marmalade Wine." The reason I snatched this collection from a used book store was this story, which was adapted as a segment for Rod Serling's Night Gallery. A decent straightfoward story about comeuppance. 4*
"Sonata for Harp and Bicycle." The expository middle didn't stop this from being a story of the most romantic exorcism I've ever read. 5*
"Follow My Fancy." This is not a "science-fantasy" story. It's both a scifi story and a fantasy story, rolled into one. 5*
"Smell." Saw the ending coming a mile away. Hate when that happens. 3*
"Searching for Summer." If you let yourself get too caught up thinking "What REALLY happened here?" you'll miss the beauty of this story. 4*
"A View of the Heath." 5* 'cos who said a mystery story has to have anything to do with a dead body?
"Belle of the Ball." If I've ever read a story that was very proto-Aimee Bender and the like (Sarah shun-lien Bynum, etc), this is it. 4*
"Summer by the Sea." This calls to my mind Karen Joy Fowler's Nebula Award-winning "What I Didn't See." You could argue that any sf/f/h genre element is non-existent, depending on how you read it. I will say that reading it one way makes this a better story. 5*
"Minette." Not quite as chilling as "Mrs. Considine," but it is another wonderful example of what happens when two supernatural forces meet. 5*
"Dead Language Master." Very engaging at the sentence level. But to the other mechanics of the piece, my reaction was, "Just...no." 3*
"The Windshield Weepers." Some aspects of this story really seemed ahead of its time. The ending really didn't do it forme though. 3*
"The Green Flash." It pulled me along quite nicely at sentence level. Unfortunately it became obvious that this was 2 or 3 stories thrown together as soon as I gave the plot a second's thought. 3* (less)
I'll buy anything with M. Rickert's name on it. Indeed, most of these stories are from issues of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction that I...moreI'll buy anything with M. Rickert's name on it. Indeed, most of these stories are from issues of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction that I bought precisely because... well, you know why. The three or so stories I hadn't read were well worth the price of admission.
If I had one quibble, it's that the "holiday" theme seemed a little forced to me. I blame the book's World Fantasy Award for Best Collection this year on the theme (though I'm the first to admit that Karen Joy Fowler's What I Didn't See was no slouch).(less)
An informative memoir, full of practical (in a Waters sort of way) tidbits of advice, some of which resonated very, very well with me as anyone who re...moreAn informative memoir, full of practical (in a Waters sort of way) tidbits of advice, some of which resonated very, very well with me as anyone who read this blog entry would know.(less)
Mary Robison's prose is as dense, sparse, and evocative as ever. You might call the snippets of text disjointed, or gripe about a lack of obvious plot...moreMary Robison's prose is as dense, sparse, and evocative as ever. You might call the snippets of text disjointed, or gripe about a lack of obvious plotline, but there's still a narrative to be followed.
The main character is certainly the sort who might reveal a lot of the facts of her life to you, but still keep you at arm's length. Indeed, Robison's prose seems to purposely keep me at a distance. I know a lot of people who would complain about that too, but it was a curious experience for me. It's almost as if I had a front-row seat in the theater of the main character's life, but with a splatter-shield in front of me.
And believe me, with everything she goes through, that's a good thing.(less)
I first read Bynum in Tin House: Fantastic Women. I thought "The Young Wife's Tale" was nice story with nice writing, but it didn't prepare me for wha...moreI first read Bynum in Tin House: Fantastic Women. I thought "The Young Wife's Tale" was nice story with nice writing, but it didn't prepare me for what I'd find in this novel.
Bynum's writing style is simply hypnotic. It's as dreamlike as just about every other reviewer says it is, but that shouldn't put you off. Just don't get too tied up in the dream logic of these interconnected vignettes. Don't worry about the line between the real and the dream. Just go with it and be absorbed.(less)
The changes made in this adaptation were understandable. The original episode was defintely more a play set in an airplane cockpit. But the new charac...moreThe changes made in this adaptation were understandable. The original episode was defintely more a play set in an airplane cockpit. But the new character and his story added little, and I thought his end was a little unfair.(less)
**spoiler alert** Bought this adaptation of my favorite Twilight Zone episode at the 2009 Rod Serling Conference. Written and drawn for YA audiences,...more**spoiler alert** Bought this adaptation of my favorite Twilight Zone episode at the 2009 Rod Serling Conference. Written and drawn for YA audiences, the adaptation is almost too faithful.
When I first saw this episode as a YA, I had no idea how gimmicky the twist was. Nor did I realize that Serling committed a major sci-fi writing faux pas when the alien showed how well he could pass himself off as a businessman but didn't know what it meant to be "wet."
I still love the twist, though, not from a plotting perspective, but from a character one. It was a life-lesson: no matter how slick you think you are, there's always someone slicker, so smugness doesn't pay. And despite the slight tweaks in this adaptation, that lesson remains.(less)