HTMLGIANT

Reviews

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

81b6KKuWQ3LMr. Mercedes
by Stephen King
Scribner, June 2014
448 pages / $30  Buy from Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like many writers my age (31), I probably wouldn’t be one if it weren’t for Stephen King. At 16, finding the idea of short story writing woefully unambitious, my early attempts at novels were thinly-masked Stephen King impersonations. Based on the malodorous work that turns up in self-publishing, writers’ workshops, and slush piles, I’m not alone in that my first fictional efforts reeked of The King.

His influence isn’t necessarily a bad one. King became a best-selling author thanks to his expert pacing, gift for metaphor, wry sense of humour, and a number of intangible talents. Adam Ross and Justin Cronin are recent devotees who demonstrate that even elite ‘literary’ writers can benefit (both financially and creatively) when they borrow from King’s bag of tricks.

The most important way that King aided in my development is that his work has always been littered with literary and cultural references. (In recent years, he’s been obsessed with Philip Roth, comparing the reception of his own work to Roth’s in essays, and frequently bringing him up in fiction.) In this way, King inadvertently sabotaged my love for him. He’d reference Jack Kerouac or Norman Mailer, and their writing would end up on the bookshelf in my childhood bedroom. With all those major works waiting to be read, I found myself in a situation described by Arthur Conan Doyle in The Magic Window, a short volume that celebrates the contents of his book collection.

“It is a great thing to start life with a small number of really good books which are your very own. You may not appreciate them at first. You may pine for your novel of crude and unadulterated adventure. You may, and will, give it the preference when you can. But the dull days come, and the rainy days come, and always you are driven to fill up the chinks of your reading with the worthy books which wait so patiently for your notice. And then suddenly, on a day which marks an epoch in your life, you understand the difference. You see, like a flash, how the one stands for nothing, and the other for literature. From that day onwards you may return to your crudities, but at least you do so with some standard of comparison in your mind. You can never be the same as you were before.

READ MORE >

No Comments
September 1st, 2014 / 10:00 am

Sunday Service

Russel Swensen (@scribblymouse)

Selected Tweets

so no i don’t exactly think there’s hope for any of us ok

ice isn’t melting btw it’s rejecting you

can’t tell if this sunshine is trying to be ironic or what

not a statue i just stay still a lot

what if you “listened to your body” and all it said was “goodbye”

the furniture seems to be a lot more on fire since i started thinking of you

*pregames with bone marrow*

my fantasy is a room you’re not walking out of

writing “who did this to you” as the caption to every childhood photo of yourself you can find

there are a lot of cups of coffee but this one hasn’t betrayed me or made me feel worthless yet

i’m the part of the story you fall asleep during

how old is your depression supposed to be before you talk about girls

i like to drive real slow like my life isn’t meaningless

what’s the yoga position where i lie down in your driveway and promise not to breathe

yelling at my blood that it’s not allowed on the bed

twisted dark fantasies about emotional stability

point a camera at me and watch it detonate

now count back from you miss her but she doesn’t miss you

every five minutes i whisper “it sounds like someone’s dying out there” and even i do not know what I mean

teaching the baby how to say yeezy

have your funeral at a poetry reading so you can blame poor attendance on the genre

put my name in your bio wrap it up in a blanket and weigh it down with rocks drop it off the pier

your heart’s first words were “no touching.”

there is cornbread in my tears tonight

i thought i was in love but it turns out i just left the oven on

gonna take your temperature by burning you at the stake

“i always wanted to fuck the most depressed cheerleader in the world”

“you’re making it worse” me every time i look in a mirror

smh if your entire body isn’t a cast you never figured out how to remove

there’s like one self esteem for every twenty people on twitter and they pass it back and forth

today i wore a canary yellow shirt so that people would know i am completely dead inside

taze me until i cum

tbh every time i look at a baby i can already tell how bad its twitter will be

#girlslikeitwhen you kill their parents trust me this one works

So You Think You Can Cum Without Crying

gonna keep buying diet coke until this vending machine is empty enough to double as a coffin

gonna raise these feelings like they’re my own

lower yr expectations lower them gently into the ground

happily married couple seeks third party to kill them

hey girl are you science friday because you are the only thing i love and it seems like you never come

how many fireflies do you have to kill to cure a depression

i look too good to wake up

IF YOU REALLY LOVED ME I’D BE FUCKING DEAD BY NOW

jealous of all the people whose iphones keep killing them

like you’d notice if the fucking rapture happened

no one who can touch a girl’s collarbone needs to build a dream catcher

people only ever want one thing from me and it is space

Bio: RUSSEL SWENSEN earned his MFA from the California Institute of the Arts and his doctorate from the University of Houston. His fiction and poetry have appeared in Black Clock, Quarterly West, Pank, Third Coast, The Collagist, The Destroyer, and elsewhere. His poetry chapbook, “Santa Ana,” was released by Black Lawrence Press. His full length collection, “The Magic Kingdom,” is forthcoming (January 2016).

An artic fox interviews Andrea Coates

On the surface, the lit scene seems pretty nice. It’s nice to play nice, right? It’s nice to play nice when you’re satisfied with the state of things, because not playing nice would upset the order. But sometimes we need a kid in the sandbox to kick some toys around to remind us that things are pretty fucked up. No matter how fun the new swing set looks. No matter how big little Danny was able to build his castle.

Andrea Coates is that kid. Love her, hate her, you probably have a strong opinion on the Canadian writer so discontent on the state of things in the writing world, even the language she uses on her blog is dismantled and reformatted to bring greater meaning.

And it’s greater meaning for a greater cause. Andrea Coates’ struggle is not a personal one, though she has used her self personally as a sort of bait to prove her point: the writing industry is inherently sexist. This is something a lot of us realize but can’t always articulate. Coates calls for accountability, the dismantling of our existing sexist infrastructure. Let’s get more excited about women and their writing and less excited about what writer dudes they’ve slept with.

This is part in parcel of Coates’ mission, based on my reading of her work, and my personal interactions with the writer. Some may not agree with her methods, but I think it is clear that she is trying to do good work.

When I was in Nashville during my poetry tour, I was approached by an Artic Fox. Well, actually, I was approached by Josh Spilker, because the Artic Fox came to him first to ask if he would publish an interview, and Josh pointed to me and said, ‘ask her, she has a bigger following,’ or ‘ask her, she writes for HTMLgiant,’ or something like that, sorry if I’m misquoting you, Josh. So the Arctic Fox told me about this interview he did with Andrea Coates last year and I was like, ‘yeah, send it to me.’ I like Andrea Coates. I think she is a fascinating mind, so of course I jumped to publish the interview. Here it is, live and uncut.

Arctic Fox: I’ve been reading Your Blog, and I how you feel about T-Lin. I’m pretty curious about whether or not you’re familiar with Mira Gonzalez and or Moon Temple also sorry if it’s not cool to message u as a strngr

READ MORE >

Interviews / 6 Comments
August 30th, 2014 / 12:00 pm

HTMLGIANT Features

Garage Sale Reads (1)

the chosen
******************

From now on, let’s say, I’m only going to acquire my books at Garage Sales. And then I’m going to write about them. This, then, is the first in a series I’m super psyched about. And I think I’m going to use this opportunity, also, to get serious and personal. Well, kind of,….

******************

price bros

worth about $20

Okay, so a few days ago I bought Chaim Potok’s “The Chosen” at a yard sale close to my house. (Lately, on weekends, I’ve been trolling the neighborhoods because my wife collects teapots and it’s romantic to bring her home something nice. Last week I found a teapot it turns out was made in 1906. It’s worth about $20. Sometimes my wife, Edith, and I go hunting together and that, maybe, is the best).

When I asked the old man standing behind the table with just six books spread over it  how much he wanted for “The Chosen” he took a few moments and then replied, “I dunno, how about two bucks?” I quickly countered with a shrug. And then: “how about a dollar?” And the book was mine! (note: this is how “the game” works at Garage Sales. Plus, I’m Jewish. Well, I was born into a Jewish family. I still identify, culturally. Blah. Blah. It’s complicated.) READ MORE >

17 Comments
August 29th, 2014 / 2:00 pm

Notes on the Contemporary Horror Flicks I’ve Watched since May

Another round of catch up, periodically interrupted when I say I’m going to stop wasting time with bullshit and actually watch the legions of “art house” or “experimental” films that I’ve accumulated over the year. Despite the urge, always end up wanting to watch contemporary horror, something easy and fun about it with occasional surprises. Half of these are probably on Netflix, who knows.

Devil’s Due
dir. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett

Found-footage is all the rage right now, but I don’t actually mind that because I think it’s a totally effective mode of storytelling when it comes to the super-natural–also, it’s never really a surprise to consider people filming everything at this point (have you been to a concert lately? more people are watching whoever is performing through their phone-cameras than actually watching the stage itself). I also always love movies that deal with satan/the devil/satanism or some half-baked idea of such. And so, this is fun, though I’m always struck by the hilarity of newlywed heterosexual married couples and how ultimately futile these relationships always are. Invented symbols are also always a plus for me, as it adds a sort of abstracted flair (see also: Paranormal Activity 5: The Marked Ones).

Afflicted
dir. Derek Lee & Chris Prowse

More “found-footage”ish fun with the added bonus of jet-setting with a terminal illness? For what ultimately turns out to be a vampire movie, this is a remarkably interesting take, and avoids the pitfalls that the genre has fallen into over the last 10 years in the US. Also mostly lacking in machismo for a movie which is about “two bros travelling the world,” which is great, but the protagonist who is not afflicted is annoying as shit.

Resolution
dir. Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead

Bizarre movie in the sense that it’s part “get you off drugs buddy movie” and part “mysterious unknown forces are controlling some crazy shit and it’s fucking with us.” But, the absent nature of the unknown forces and their bizarre manifestations that tie into, in a sense, a sort non-linearity of events is interesting enough in concept to make the movie hyper-watchable despite not totally delivering on what’s promised.

Dark Touch
dir. Marina de Van

De Van was a director who popped up among the “New French Extremism” micro-movement in the early years of the 2000s with a gore-ridden “Is-it-or-isn’t-it-autobiographical” film In My Skin about a woman (played by the director) who becomes increasingly fascinated by self-mutilation after she suffers an accident, and ends with the woman covered in blood staring into the screen, basically (and from what I can remember at least). Dark Touch takes a super-natural approach to the issue of Trauma and child-abuse, which is really interested, but also gets weirdly marred near the end of the film when things are wrapped up a bit too pat. Regardless, this movie is still really interesting and worth watching.

Contracted
dir. Eric England

Fuck this movie.

Here Comes the Devil
dir. Adrián García Bogliano

Pretty terrific Mexican horror movie that plays up, once again, issues of trauma and the difference between the horror of the supernatural (the Devil) and the horror of man (pederasts). Icy cold in its approach (save for a minor scene of presumed-revenge) which is always preferred when it comes to affecting tone. The revelations that come at the end of the film are perfect, in the sense that it doesn’t wrap anything up, it’s not some bullshit and pointless twist, but actually seethes with a mythological backing that makes the entire trip the film provides really work.

READ MORE >

Random / 3 Comments
August 29th, 2014 / 12:00 pm

 

every day i take a look at the Poem-A-Day from The Acadamy of American Poets that arrives in my email inbox because, well, it’s usually something I can laugh about if I’m in that sort of mood.

most of these poems are, of course, pale drivel. but, every now and then a real gem like this one shows up.

Reviews

You’ll Know When I’m Talking to You: A Review of Michael Earl Craig’s Talkativeness

Talkativeness_for_website_largeTalkativeness
by Michael Earl Craig
Wave Books, April 2014
104 pages / Buy from Wave Books or Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Without relying on the word “reticence” to describe the work, I would have to say that the poems throughout the collection feel withdrawn, taciturn, almost. Lurking in each one, though, is a sense of something boiling, some untapped resource, and these poems, these are the spill-over that the speaker couldn’t keep from bubbling out, like pasta water before you put the wooden spoon on the pot to keep everything calm.

The poems have in them and around them the sense of a Williamsonian take on “no idea but in things,” but they sound and read like early Williams, not Patterson Williams. The problem, if we can call this a problem, which I do not necessarily think it is, comes from how the music of the poems appear. Because the poet chooses to state the thing and not the idea, not the flourish or the afterthought, the thing itself yields only what it can yield:

It is always like this.
I wear a light brown suit.
When I come upon you I grope you
for what seems like ten minutes.
As you have noticed.
from “Sleepwalking through the Mekong”

and

While sitting in the plane a man
struggling with his bags puts
his ass against my head for what
(corduroys) feels like a full
minute.
from “What Will I Call This Poem”

Two things to note, here: first thing is that, because of his reliance on the pedestrian language, on the language of the thing and the action itself, it requires a certain precision, a boldness, even, to not inflate the action or the thing, but let the thing and the action remain what they are. This isn’t a poet hiding behind his pen. This is a poet incredibly stark and revealed to us, which allows the second realization to occur: He’s funny. That small twist of, “As you have noticed,” sounds remarkably like the joke in “This Is Just To Say,” that, yes, she probably noticed the ten minute night-groping session. Same goes for the parenthetical “(corduroys),” because it’s placed exactly where it should occur to make the joke work.

When you’re working with the onliness (to invent a word) of the thing and the action, it requires great skill to know how to place it where it should belong, to actually get more out of it than what it seems to present.

READ MORE >

No Comments
August 29th, 2014 / 10:00 am