My Pet Serial Killer
by Michael Seidlinger
Enigmatic Ink, 2013
316 pages / $13.99 buy from Amazon
My Pet Serial Killer is an honest look at relationships. Yes it may be surprising that it took a main character that disembowels unsuspecting women to explore the power dynamic that exists between any two people in a relationship. That’s just how Seidlinger operates. Seidlinger is the sickest of the fucks. Few can compare. What’s doubly refreshing, though, is exactly what is left in and out of the book. Occasional gory details make their way through the passages (how a person tastes like cinnamon, etc.) but the main focus is the relationship between the killer (Victor) and the observer (Claire). READ MORE >
January 17th, 2013 / 1:00 pm
2500 Random Things About Me Too
by Matias Viegener
Les Figues Press, 2012
246 pages / $15.00 buy from Les Figues Press
For us it is so normal to see the clouds from above, and inside.
– section xxxix, line 12
By extrapolating the popular Facebook meme, 25 Random things about me, duration generates gravity in Matias Viegener’s 2500 Random Things About Me Too (Les Figues Press, 2012), blowing aloft a cloud of identity–a portrait of the artist’s wandering consciousness. Viegner’s sequence of anecdotal strands, aphorisms, autobiographical trills, and questions both large and small are keenly paced; fragments hang alone indefinitely while others pick back up a few lines down or pages away, forming themes that resonate in opp- and apposition throughout the work. This deceptively loose push-and-pull provides much of the work’s excitement as associations spark, link with others and hover or hang solitary and pleasantly naked.
Here’s an example from the text, titular and relatively contained:
October 10th, 2012 / 1:09 pm
by Frank Hinton
Tiny Hardcore Press, 2012
160 pages / $16.95 (paperback) $10.00 (ebook) buy from THP
“I want my childhood back,” Lili states. This may be the heart of the book. Aging is terrible. A curse is associated with accumulating years. One realizes youth wasn’t wasted enough. With the sheer passage of time it becomes obvious life is not based on success. Characters in this book want to live. Success is a by-product of life, not the goal. Searches here involve the mundaneness of looking for work, of pleasing parents, and the surreal journey through bombed-out lonely streets to seek others to complete us.
October 9th, 2012 / 1:05 pm
The Collected Works of Scott McClanahan Vol. 1
by Scott McClanahan
Lazy Fascist Press, 2012
132 pages / $10.95 buy from Amazon
Scott McClanahan wonders about doing the right thing. Does he do the right thing? Is the right thing even important, with everything all twisted and evil? There are no great epiphanies in these stories. What you see are only glimpses. Traces of humanity in the smallest of details: being able to tell time, finding salvation in a gas station toilet, hating bologna sandwiches. Any attempt at rationalizing the entire universe is avoided. Rather, McClanahan does what any good writer should: he writes about what he knows. And he writes in a way that is so thoroughly enjoyable. I feel after reading this book I know McClanahan just a little bit better.
August 14th, 2012 / 12:09 pm
The Secret of Evil
by Roberto Bolaño
New Directions, 2012
192 pages / $22.95 buy from Powell’s
We now have a new book (in English) of Bolaño’s fiction, presumably one of his last (FSG is releasing the unfinished Woes of the True Policeman later this year, an extension of the Amalfitano section in 2666). The Secret of Evil is a collection of Bolaño’s fiction found on his computer after his death, comprised of many pieces that appear unfinished. As Ignacio Echevarría’s introduction notes, and as readers will already be familiar, Bolaño’s texts can tend toward inconclusiveness. The typical Bolaño ending culminates in anti-climax, things sort of petering out, trailing off indiscriminately, people boarding planes, looking down desolate streets, etc. So what’s interesting in these pieces is figuring out which are truly finished and which are still works in progress. READ MORE >
June 26th, 2012 / 12:06 pm
The Sky Conducting
by Michael J. Seidlinger
Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2012
308 pages / $14.95 buy from SPD
The Sky Conducting is what post-apocalyptic America will look like. There won’t be as much bloodshed as some of the ‘gore-mongers’ would like. Don’t bother saving all those containers of spam. They aren’t going to prepare you for the overwhelming emotion. READ MORE >
May 16th, 2012 / 12:00 pm
anonymous contribution to the ‘subgenre’ of ‘literary’ ‘essay’ known as ‘how i feel about marie calloway’
Reading Noah Cicero’s piece about Marie Calloway, it struck me that the Internet has invented a subgenre of literary essay. These essays could be easily be published in a volume called ‘How I Feel About Marie Calloway,’ collecting the torrents of writing about ‘Adrien Brody’ alongside the very small trickle of responses to ‘Jeremy Lin.’ Someone should publish this, if for no other reason than that we might see the collective bloviation of our Best Minds on a topic that eludes them completely. Tao Lin might have done, if ‘Jeremy Lin’ hadn’t so effectively outed him.
Before I get into any kind of Substantial Critique, I’d like to point out that we are discussing a young woman of twenty-two years. She’s not a symbol, she’s not a literary persona, she is an actual human being of twenty-two years. I remember when I was twenty-two years old. I could barely tie my shoes and had a problem with public drooling. Calloway is also, it must be said, a young looking twenty-two. Both by genetics and by design, she appears about sixteen years old.
The Marie Calloway Problem is pretty simply stated: we live in a society in which the mechanisms of commerce are designed to encourage us to believe that young women are randy hot sex machines, but we have a collective meltdown when one of them actually writes about sex that is anything other than vanilla. It breaks discourse. We’re that unevolved.
This was, in part, the pro-Calloway critique offered by many women writers in the days after ‘Adrien Brody’ went viral. The problem with such critiques is that almost all of them attempted to tie Calloway into a greater narrative. ‘Adrien Brody’ could not exist in a vacuum. It needed to be contextualized within its Greater Import.
This is nonsense. ‘Adrien Brody’ is a piece about a groady balding Brooklyn Intellectual who writes about Big Issues (Why is Capitalism Bad?) having sex with a twenty-one year old woman that likes his Twitter. The woman, recounting the tale, makes vague allusions to Marx, Marxism and Marxist thinkers. The Marxism is, of course, an affect.
May 1st, 2012 / 2:54 am
by Brian Oliu
Origami Zoo Press, 2012
$7.00 / $12.00 (Gold Edition) Buy from Origami Zoo Press
April 24th, 2012 / 1:59 pm
by Ben Ehrenreich
City Lights, 2011
144 pages / $13.95 buy from City Lights
Towards the beginning of Ben Ehrenreich’s sophomore novel Ether, we are introduced to an unnamed bag man who carries around his worldly possessions in three bags, which he drags with him wherever he shuffles. The bag man lives in a smoky, charred, polluted world (probably Los Angeles), one where a great calamity appears to have recently occurred, and one where an even greater calamity looms. The world is filled with bands of hostile kids who seem to have outgrown childish pranks and are instead on to kidnapping and torture. The world is also filled with video cameras, some active, some not … all menacing. After a series of unusual setbacks, the bag man eventually falls in with a homophobic priest, two crippled twins in wheelchairs, and several other sad-sack characters, and goes on a search for a vaguely Beast-like figure in a white suit.
If you want Apocalyptic plotlines, Ehrenreich certainly delivers.
January 26th, 2012 / 12:00 pm
by Stanislaw Lem
Mariner Books, 2002
312 pages / $13.00 buy from Powell’s
The Cyberiad is labeled as science fiction, but it exists in a world where science is no longer distinguishable from magic. The stories in the book take place in a kind of robot Middle Ages, with mad mechanical kings on tiny planet kingdoms, electronic knights and maidens, and two brilliant constructors named Trurl and Klapaucius who travel from world to world, fabricating wonderfully implausible machines to perform various tasks, from writing brilliant poetry (yes, the robot succeeds in doing this) to distracting a lovelorn king with a “femfatalatron.”
January 3rd, 2012 / 12:09 pm
The Portable MFA in Creative Writing
by the New York Writers Workshop
Writers Digest Books, 2006
280 pages / $8.99 (electronic) Buy from Amazon
In August, something called “The Portable MFA in Creative Writing,” written by a group of people from the New York Writers Workshop, was offered as a free download on Amazon. Among its claims: “Get the core knowledge of a prestigious MFA education without the tuition.”
Reader, I downloaded.
READ MORE >
December 1st, 2011 / 4:17 pm
The Disinformation Phase
by Chris Toll
Publishing Genius Press, 2011
68 pages / $12.00 Buy from Publishing Genius Press
I bought The Disinformation Phase basically because I liked the cover. Then I found out that was actually a good piece of criteria to go on: its author, Chris Toll had made it. It’s a collage of unlikely portrait-sitters, kind of like his poems, which paradoxically at once seem made at home and extraterrestrial, like alien-worshipping cult flyers; you wonder if someone really believes all this.
READ MORE >
November 10th, 2011 / 12:00 pm
Love Doesn’t Work
by Henning Koch
Dzanc Books, 2011
143 pages / $16.95 or $7.99 for eBook Buy from Dzanc Books
Short story writing at its best must quickly introduce the outward facts of a given world and create some narrative interest. We see this in Raymond Carver or Alice Munro, who are both brilliant at making us believe by the end of the first sentence that we already understand the world of their stories. And then, of course, there are short story writers that flirt with genre, and this is where Henning Koch’s collection, Love Doesn’t Work seems to belong. While it hovers on the edge of fantasy, there are no swords or dragons in sight. Steven Gillis, the American novelist, once commented that there were parallels between Henning Koch and Raymond Bradbury and this seems quite close to the mark, even though there is really little science fiction in Love Doesn’t Work – mainly a feeling of a strong sense of imagination.
October 27th, 2011 / 12:09 pm
Imagine that Holden Caulfield survived his adolescence to become a mid-century man of letters, knew some of the good writers, wrote for some of the good magazines, then headed West to found and edit an adventurous arts journal. Imagine that he rereads the best of the 20th century canon for pleasure and chooses to publish new generations of poets, storytellers, photographers and graphic artists solely on the recognizance of his own eclectic taste. Okay, maybe he’s inordinately proud of the prep school and undergrad classmates who made big waves in the culture that used to be, but he’s also willing to stick pins in the pretenders and tell stories on himself.
October 13th, 2011 / 2:05 pm
The Orange Suitcase
by Joseph Riippi
Ampersand Books, 2011
92 pages / $14.95 Buy from Ampersand Books
Memories prop us up like skeletons. Each one exists autonomously, with its own root and biology, but put them together and you’ve got an emotional skeleton, something that helps shape who we are and the way we interact with the world around us. Over the course of the 34 short stories that fill The Orange Suitcase, author Joseph Riippi shines an x-ray on himself and examines a series of bone-like memories that are brief reflections on the formative experiences that make up his own skeleton.
October 11th, 2011 / 12:00 pm
Tree of Codes
by Jonathan Safran Foer
Visual Editions, 2010
285 pages / $40.00 Buy from Powell’s
Rating: [ ].5
Note: This review was written by excising words from Michael Faber’s review of Tree of Codes in The Guardian.
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September 22nd, 2011 / 12:06 pm
I don’t know how familiar readers of this site will be with the work of Keston Sutherland, the British experimental poet sometimes associated with the Cambridge and New York “LANGUAGE” schools of poetry (though Sutherland’s work squirms uneasily under any attempt at definition in terms of school/genre/whatever). Sutherland’s poetry is difficult. A video of Sutherland reading his long poem Hot White Andy is a good introduction to his work: intense, surging and bewildering. He looks manic as he reads; the text is plosive and works through him, as though it is spilling out of his body rather than his mind, like Lucky’s monologue in Waiting for Godot, or the frenetic mutterings of Not I.
September 20th, 2011 / 1:09 pm
Wire to Wire
by Scott Sparling
Tin House Books, 2011
392 pages / $15.95 Buy from Tin House Books
America is too diverse and American culture too fast evolving to produce A Great American Novel. I do believe, though, in an Essential American Shelf, as long as it needs to be to hold all the voices that speak artfully, truthfully and with compassion about their chosen hunk of psycho-social real estate. Scott Sparling’s Wire to Wire claims a place on my personal instance of that shelf, snugged up somewhere between William Kennedy and Charles Bukowski, between Theodore Dreiser and Flannery O’Connor, rubbing elbows with the best of the noir detectives and assorted snotty 1980s boy nihilists.
September 15th, 2011 / 3:07 pm
by Yannick Murphy
Harper Perennial, 2011
240 pages / $14.99 Buy from Harper Perennial
I picked this book off the shelf at the closing Borders based entirely on Yannick Murphy’s name, having been familiar with previous books, particularly Stories in Another Language, one of the Knopf titles under Lish. I decided to buy the book immediately after opening the book to its first page, and finding there the manner of deployment of information that appeared:
September 13th, 2011 / 12:06 pm