I’m thrilled, psyched, and also very much delighted to announce the emergence into the world of JRZDVLZ, a novel I’ve worked on since 2006.
JRZDVLZ isI’m thrilled, psyched, and also very much delighted to announce the emergence into the world of JRZDVLZ, a novel I’ve worked on since 2006.
JRZDVLZ is the autobiography of the Jersey Devil, a sympathetic beast -- a composite of various animals, with the snout of a dog, horns of a ram, the wings of a bat, the torso of a kangaroo, the tail of a rat, the legs of a heron, and the hooves of a donkey -- on a centuries-spanning quest for redemption (on a stormy night in October 1735, as soon as he was born, he consumed his family, including 11 of 12 siblings).
Based on long-suffering legend and historical fact, it’s about the sacrifice, civility, endurance, and humility required to transform a monster into a man.
The kindly publisher and I decided to wait until October to unleash it since it really seems to sync with the decaying light, when the days take on some seasonal eeriness.
We hope you love this weird beast of a book and help us elevate the Jersey Devil’s profile among his significantly more famous Pacific-Northwestern and Scottish cryptozoological relatives.
We're thankful for every order and any help to spread the word among your beastly and beautiful composite of friends, on GR or not....more
Putting it down for now on page 205. I think it needs to be read quickly in long uninterrupted sessions. Read slowly, here and there, on the subway, aPutting it down for now on page 205. I think it needs to be read quickly in long uninterrupted sessions. Read slowly, here and there, on the subway, at lunch, etc, it's not so engaging for me, long-winded without forward propulsion, much ado etc. Started well with a return to the world I enjoyed in "Dark Back of Time" and "All Souls" but once Wheeler went to sleep, so did my interest. Might return to this after I read some of his other novels -- this might be for completists only, for super-fans. I'm only a Marias admirer at this point....more
Read the first 100 pages at my natural slow pace but then sped through the rest. Like any good pop song, it makes a good point -- and repeats and repeRead the first 100 pages at my natural slow pace but then sped through the rest. Like any good pop song, it makes a good point -- and repeats and repeats it. Felt like it could've been half its length, seemed padded. Didn't totally trust it: the creative writing cliche about making the strange familiar and the familiar strange is attributed in a quote to DFW, for example. But enjoyed reading it as a sort of writing tutorial, or thinking how its lessons could be used in a creative writing classroom. ...more
So short and spare it felt good to read in a day and write a review, adding to my "2017-read" list. But it's so unspecific in its language (definitelySo short and spare it felt good to read in a day and write a review, adding to my "2017-read" list. But it's so unspecific in its language (definitely hurt my estimation of it that I read this after KOK's perfectly descriptive, world-evoking, utterly more animated and alive Autumn) -- and for a book about memory (always fertile ground for literary agrarianism) it underwhelms (let's just say that the patron saint of memory, Monsieur Proust, compares favorably to this). Pregnancy brain bits were interesting but, from experience, I know the phenomenon also applies to fathers, in that the brain cannot handle the accumulation of so much primary-colored plastic on the floor and having to wash all those sippy cups. Absolutely unlike William Gaddis's Bernhard-inspired Agapē Agape that also explores an enormous long-time project off stage (Gaddis's unpublished novel on the player piano). Maybe 9K words stretched over 92 spare pages, selling for $14 in paperback. Sheesh. Not worth it unless you want to get a little closer to your yearly reading-challenge number ASAP. Would've preferred to read the 8k-page memoir, although not if it's animated by the same spare expression and not particularly enlivening perception. If the unanalyzed life isn't worth living, a weakly analyzed life sure ain't worth reading: ". . . when your job is to think and write about yourself, the stakes start to appear artificially, comically high. And they must, for without them I wouldn't write at all. I'd spend the day reading the internet. I'd be half done by now." This tent definitely feels pitched on artificial, unnecessary stakes. I feel bad giving it two stars -- especially if the author ever gets around to reading this corner of the internet -- but it'd be rude to other books I've rated three stars to knock this up a bit for the sake of brevity....more
Probably a better introduction to Knausgaard than My Struggle: Book One, especially for those with shorter attention spans or daily subway rides, andProbably a better introduction to Knausgaard than My Struggle: Book One, especially for those with shorter attention spans or daily subway rides, and certainly easier reading than A Time for Everything. Like his excellent and comparatively very much under-read exchange of letters with another writer about the World Cup in Brazil, Home and Away: Writing the Beautiful Game, this squirms with life. Squirmy perceptions of life all around the author are contained by the overall volume with the seasonal title, sections named for each month, and each section preceded by an explicit letter to his unborn fourth child, a daughter to whom it seems like all the chapters are addressed, although it's really specifically just those letters introducing each month. In no way is this a book about autumn; it's not his take on Keats's "To Autumn" and seasons of mist and mellow fruitfulness, close bosom friend of the maturing sun-type stuff. It's not even really about the chapter titles: apples, plastic bags, frogs, beekeeping, blood, daguerrotype, jellyfish, labia, badgers, Van Gogh, faces, Flaubert, vomit, toilet bowls, chimneys, silence, drums, or eyes (that's a random selection of about 20% of the short bits in this). It's more about how the author's perception when turned on anything eeks out an essence that relates to an amphibian-type permeability between this and that, between the personal and the social sphere (a great bit about how the Thermos can be used anywhere except in someone else's house since it's an extension of one's home and using it it someone else's sitting room is a sort of incursion), between inside of the body and outside it (the mouth, the labia, the anus), between heaven and earth (lightning), between the present and the past, between reality and its representation in art. And yet some reviews on here call this pointless! It's filled with points, with several "points" per page, all sorts of calmly, elegantly presented insights and impressions of the world. (All the one- and two-star reviews on here make me love this project more since it confounds or seems "blase" to readers with underdeveloped associative intelligence.) I don't think knowledge of the author's history is necessary but it helped me see the world he effortlessly evokes. Feels less like a "creative writing exercise" as some on here have said than meditations like those in Kafka's Blue Octavo Notebooks, or Roland Barthes's Mythologies (short essays on wrestling, for example), mixed with autobiographical bits about the author's family in Sweden, growing up in Norway, raising a family of three kids with a fourth on the way. A great read for me that really hits the literary sweet spot in that it's about the experience of existence, like Life: A User's Manual it's simply about life, and its arbitrary yet totally organic structure barely contains its vitality, that is, lets the life in each section brim over the edges and conceal the light yet not loose structure. The prose is a little tighter than in "My Struggle," a little more carefully composed but not in any way does it feel overworked -- it always feels natural to me, casual yet attentive, loose yet not sloppy, and each section for the most part nails its ending. At times I did sense that the translator was someone else but the same KOK spirit was still conveyed. Excited for Winter to come in January 2018 and then "Spring" and "Summer." The overall project, in a single volume, or a paperback boxed set, could prove to be My Struggle's equal, yet in many ways its opposite....more
The greatest epic I've read since War and Peace. Sort of joking about that but only sort of. A fantastic picaresque adventure featuring a cast of charThe greatest epic I've read since War and Peace. Sort of joking about that but only sort of. A fantastic picaresque adventure featuring a cast of charismatic characters, supremely talented and obsessive yet somehow not very ambitious, dedicated to music/magic and drugs, surrounded by all sorts of supporting acts, from other bands and musicians to their manly, ribald crew and crazy, coke-fueled managers, to all the women they leave in their wake thanks to their "emotional cowardice," a phrase the author repeatedly uses toward the end to criticize Jerry, the non-leading leader of the band at the core of this. Not at all unwilling to call the boys out on their bullshit, including crap records and shows -- but also written by someone who worked for the band as their publicist for years and definitely understood every aspect of their ethos and relays it perfectly, for the most part -- I only felt things were very occasionally slightly discolored by the author's (I wanted to write "narrator's," as though the book were written by a figment of the band's collective consciousness) choice to refer to himself in the third-person as "Scrib" instead of simply opting for the less intrusive "I," and sometimes his conservative deployment of full-throttle lyrical description of the music didn't match my understanding of the songs or the playing, especially in terms of chords and notes et cetera (I won't go back through to search for examples -- just that sometimes I felt like the flights of ecstatic descriptive fancy were technically a little off). But the overall structure seemed perfect: imagine all the other ways all this info and all these anecdotes could've been presented. There must have been a temptation to present a loose improvisational structure, form matching content, form matching the formlessness of the band's best moments. But instead, for something so voluminous, containing such multitudes, it's linear, with regularly shaped and consistently sized chapters that felt like they're each about 25 pages, interspersed with interludes detailing an abstracted representative late-'80s/early-'90s stadium show (not a particulate date), including most interestingly all the gear, cords, wires, lights, on and on, through the intermission and encore and post-show escape in a van to the airport to the next city's hotel by the time most fans have finally recovered enough to hit the road home. So many great bits like Bob Weir and some unknown black guitarist at the Guild tent at the Monterrey Pop Festival, having fun making semi-hollowbody guitars feedback, playing a little duet of howls -- and of course the unknown black guitarist turns out to be Jimi Hendrix. Or how Jimi was once backstage with his guitar all set to sit in but Mickey Hart, too deep into things on a certain psychedelic, forgot to give him the signal to come on stage and so he took off. The best bits were about how the songs came together, how Jerry's old bluegrass/folk friend from Palo Alto came back around with lyric sheets that saved them from having sub-mediocre psych lyrics like in "Cream Puff War" and really made the band what it is, as much as the long jams built on what Lesh called "bleshing," all five or six or seven players playing like the fingers on a hand, all unified. But of course there's constant infighting, cliques, power struggles, a psychedelic game of Survivor played over the course of a few decades. The progression is definitely not linear -- they rise and fall (rise and fall) throughout, all of it leading to the MTV hit in '87 that makes it impossible for them to play anywhere other than massive stadiums, lawless scenes that attract tens of thousands of ticketless revelers. I particularly got a little jolt when shows I attended were mentioned, like the show at the crumbling JFK Stadium in Philly (7/7/89) or the show in Cleveland in '93 I had a ticket for that was canceled thanks to a blizzard (the band spent most of the day at a nearby movie theater). And of course there's everything about Jerry's physical dissolution that started when he started smoking heroin during the '77 spring tour -- found it very odd that the significance of that tour wasn't really covered and realized that its absence probably gave Peter Conners the idea to write the excellent Cornell '77: The Music, the Myth, and the Magnificence of the Grateful Dead's Concert at Barton Hall, which I read before this and loved, which ultimately is why I decided to read this, because I wanted to delve deeper into all this, a nostalgic trip for the soundtrack and experiences of my mid-to-late teenage years I'm more than happy to revisit and appreciate these days again from a completely different perspective, on the other side of so much other music listened to and loved and so many other bands seen live -- to quote promoter Bill Graham: they're not the best at what they do, they're the only ones who do what they do. Highest recommendation to anyone who watched the documentary of the same name available now for streaming on Amazon and thought that a four-hour documentary felt kind of thin. I'll soon read the Garcia bio and then maybe read some more long-form non-fiction, which feels good these days....more
Imagine if you will a "33 1/3" edition about a single concert and you'll get the picture. This exceeded expectations. It pleased -- tone, structure, bImagine if you will a "33 1/3" edition about a single concert and you'll get the picture. This exceeded expectations. It pleased -- tone, structure, bits of info, quotation, background, analysis. Would really like to know what someone thinks about this (and the show itself) who's otherwise unfamiliar with the band other than maybe a few songs and their reputation. For me, its stupid hippie dance about architecture synched with my thoughts about the Dead's music -- I started listening to them in 1986 or so with "Skeletons From the Closet" and "Dead Set" before quickly hearing/acquiring everything they recorded in the studio, learning most of the songs on guitar (still don't know how to play Slipknot, though) and then more importantly high-speed dubbing ~100 live bootleg cassettes (generally Maxell IIs), including of course the show at Barton Hall, which occurred only 11 years before my first show at the Spectrum in Philadelphia on 9/9/88 (it would've been 9/8/88 but a friend freaked out as soon as we got into the venue and left, so another friend and I decided to chase after him instead of letting him deal alone). Anyway, reading it and listening on archive.org to a bunch of May '77 shows felt so comfortable, like a security blanket as Trump and Korea threatened nuclear war -- and everything else. At B&N they have a table these days called Escapist Fiction, essentially beach reads by and for women with girlie covers and lord knows what sort of content -- it seems to me like reading about the Dead recently and maybe even listening to them in a way have always been a sort of Escapist Fiction, an alt-reality, the ultimate goal of which is to reach a state of Terrapin. Will read a few of the available Dead bios before returning to serious European peri-WWII/Holocaust literature when the school year starts....more
Loved the opening pages, the first 20 or so, the introduction of the conceit, but found it irritating and kinda smug/self-satisfied by page 75, and thLoved the opening pages, the first 20 or so, the introduction of the conceit, but found it irritating and kinda smug/self-satisfied by page 75, and then boring by page 95 (her drive east) where I skimmed ahead to an unremarkable chapter toward the end called "Dick Writes Back." Didn't find it all that interesting or original or "theoretical" or funny -- the most enjoyable bit is probably the title. I was very aware of the title on the cover as I rode the subway to and from work. But it's ultimately not for me (I prefer to read better books, hardy har). Goes firmly in my "too many books etc etc" pile . . ....more
I couldn't help associating this WWI memoir with what I've read recently, particularly Speedboat and Sleepless Nights, that wouldn't seem related at aI couldn't help associating this WWI memoir with what I've read recently, particularly Speedboat and Sleepless Nights, that wouldn't seem related at all on the surface but definitely shared a sense of fragmented cohesion, or cohesive fragmentation. This one and those two novels by late-'70s NYC intellectual women offer minimal to zero plot and characterization but excel thanks to unique voice, setting, and perception/vibe. Storms of Steel is just as fractured as "Speedboat," with just as many fleeting human encounters but this is differentiated of course by the ever-present possibility of a bullet in the eye, shrapnel severing an essential artery, excessive inhalation of chlorine gas, on and on. Also, as far as I know, Renata Adler never shot an enemy soldier about to capture her as she lay on her back, bleeding, after a bullet punctured her lung. Junger was mentioned a few times in the fifth part of 2666 and last year I read and loved All Quiet on the Western Front and also earlier this year read some Imre Kertész Holocaust-related books -- those were the forces at play before reading. After reading, the single lingering impression (beyond "war is hell") is luck. In a concentration camp or in the trenches, death is always there, horrors unimaginable in peacetime are everywhere out in the open, and there's really no way to ensure survival. He's developed elevated anticipation for incoming bombs and makes many of the right moves at the right time but so often the same move a minute later would've meant death. Junger is wounded six times and comes away with twenty serious scars (entry and exit wounds) and each one, if his body contorted another way or if the trajectory of the shell or bullet had been just a little different this book never would've been written, let alone read 100 years later. A century later, it's still read because it's gripping, so clearly describes the storms and stresses of battle and the times of quiet in-between, and it does so without much theorizing or hand-wringing or editorializing about humanity. For the most part, it's a feat of dramatization. He shows courage, mercy, passion, suffering, cowardliness, rage, companionship, sympathy, on and on. His respect for the enemy is remarkable and his impressions of near-death moments, when he thought that death was finally upon him and felt something like lightness and happiness and harmony with the world, noticed how all the pebbles on the ground around him were perfectly and intricately patterned, are reassuring somehow. And when he does generalize about humanity it's always welcomed and well-phrased. Michael Hofmann is a top translator of course (loved his The Radetzky March). Sometimes the language seemed to carry excessive British slang, a few times to the point of not making sense or seeming like a word was missing, but as with Berlin Alexanderplatz, I'm sure Hofmann was accurately rendering or at least relaying a sense of old-timey German slang in the original. As with Holocaust novel/memoirs, books like this are good for your perspective -- the general takeaway, despite the daily "fresh hell" of the news, is that things could be worse these days. Imagine everything devastated, every church steeple razed so not to help enemy artillery set its sights, every old tree shattered, little girls in pools of their own blood laid out on the front steps of well-to-do houses, rats everywhere, and the air more or less at all times alive with deadly projectiles. I'm sure if the current president were to read this (or have it read to him), he'd come away with bloodlust more than hunger for ever-lasting peace....more
A respectful three stars. Some really strong moments but overall it felt too privileged, a sense that grew and grew until it overwhelmed my appreciatiA respectful three stars. Some really strong moments but overall it felt too privileged, a sense that grew and grew until it overwhelmed my appreciation of the strong, smart sentences, like they were too tasteful. As with Speedboat, which I read before this and very much preferred, too much of a good thing became -- by about three-fourths through -- not enough for me. A great few pages about Billie Holiday but that section seemed like the climax of my interest and the rest went downhill. Glad I read it -- a good book to read with brain scattered by mid-July heat -- but I'm not sure I'll remember it by the fall....more
Excellent slant autobiography, maybe the original of its type. I felt as I read that I was getting a purer strain of this stuff, something closer to tExcellent slant autobiography, maybe the original of its type. I felt as I read that I was getting a purer strain of this stuff, something closer to the source, maybe even the original approach, tone, and form itself. A period piece in many ways, nicely dated, historical, fifties, sixties, seventies, Tiny Tim talk at one point, a good deal of perfectly phrased '70s feminism (well-educated women from the great women's colleges asked if they type), fragmented form to match the times of course. For a book with only 170 pages replete with hundreds of section breaks it seemed like it went on too long and didn't really evolve, like it started to collapse under its own weightlessness, something the author acknowledged toward the end with the bit about the microtonal composer suffering from "pitch fatigue" -- evolution however probably would've taken the form of plotwork (more about Aldo or the landlord murder) and otherwise ruined this. Didn't really seem like a predecessor to personal blogging and social media posts, in that the language in this is so sculpted, carefully reckless, savvy, always entertaining, turns unexpected corners, relies on associative leaps, eschews traditional orientating transitions. Intentionally about fragmented times and feminism, obviously, but more subtly about class privilege, pins to the page what feels like hundreds of iridescent, delicate, upper-class, northeastern sociological specimens. Loved that the narrator's surname sounds like "feign," as though to say it's a fake name. Feels real throughout, entirely, and therefore's a favorite, a pretty major meat in the relatively contemporary literary stew I'd somehow known was in the bowl all along but had let sink to the bottom for too long. Seriously, I've had this on my radar for nearly ten years. So glad I finally got to it. Will read her other novel soon and maybe some essays too....more
I liked the first two "letters"just fine before it started to descend to its floor. Seemed overwrought at first and then just right and then less so.I liked the first two "letters"just fine before it started to descend to its floor. Seemed overwrought at first and then just right and then less so. The clarity/spark and my engagement declined after about forty pages. Disjointed progression (reliance on breaks between short sections to do the work of transitions); usually unpredictable/odd, often short sentences/paragraphs (the "seafood diet" joke notwithstanding); psychologically, emotionally, and physically damaged masculinity (Brazilian jiu-jitsu, sailing, drinking), a bit of a formal contrivance that's not even followed-through on (there's no "you," little continuity other than bio bits and frustrated girlfriends; statement and negation of statement; geographical variance; some humor about writers? These are elite NYC editors favorite things? Bought this without much consideration after finishing Rachel Cusk's Transit and reading her "By the Book" post on NYT.com that calls it a "groundbreaking collection of short memoirs." Has such ground not been cracked open by Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son, Breece D'Pancake, and others I haven't read like that Chuck P. guy who also wrote about fighting? (Just started Renata Adler's Speedboat, which feels like similar territory in tone and approach.) An enjoyable book, all in all, but so slim, slight, ultimately heftless, with maybe at most a single quick LOL, although it's sort of humorous throughout. I wanted to root for it but instead my single lingering impression is how did this get published? No acknowledgments at the end as though to cover the tracks of some cronyism? At one point he said he met professional writers in Boston. Hmm. File under raised expectations not quite met, but I'll probably read what comes next....more