In the Devil’s Territory

In the Devil’s Territory
by Kyle Minor
Dzanc Books, 2008
220 pages / $16.95 Buy from Dzanc Books
Rating: 6.5








With In the Devil’s Territory, Minor writes primary characters who are to a one religious, but none who testify to supernatural events and miracles in their own lives, in part (it seems) to depict certain of them as areas of as much suffering as anywhere else, and where the traditional Christian lifeline, perceivable congress with God, has been cut and redirected through churches and church schools. He favors a multi-part story that shifts between perspectives to attempt “real story” triangulation (“A Day Meant to Do Less” and the title story). Characters each see a small part of a larger story, and the coordinates to which their narratives point is where the reader gains understanding they lack. Minor has a mind for simple, effective arrangements, which occasionally require narrational contortions to suit.

The first paragraph of “A Love Story,” about a homosexual attraction lasting decades between two churchgoing men who have lived outwardly as if hetero, begins on an inherently problematic note with the narrator’s claim that nobody abused him as a boy. He had a “normal” childhood, he means, as if, for him to be attracted to a man, by default someone must have “touched or fondled” him, or he must have stolen or “laundered” his mother’s “underthings.” That gamble is standard blah for quick exposition that establishes the lack of a first-person narrator’s confidence in the ensuing narrative—let me start with a qualifying statement about how the past has nothing to do with what you haven’t read yet so that you won’t disbelieve me—but in this case it also forces me into a defensive or apathetic posture. This narrator believes he must first discredit an assumption (his own) that homosexuality begins with abuse, with an aberration, and wants to explain (to someone) that his attraction to a man did not begin that way. It’s purer than gayness-by-trauma, in other words, which claim more or less gives you his coordinates. But he narrates in first-person past, which means he still holds to that after the events of the story. If I’m game at all, as a third party in the [narrator/reader/critical phantasm created by narrator] setup, what set of images am I dealing with, whose experiences? Maybe the phantasm and the reader are the same, as far as the narrator (or Minor) is concerned. I get the basics: the narrator desires a man but is ashamed of that desire, and the story probably will be annoying and ambivalent about it. I wondered whether the “love” in the title really is between the two men instead of between the churchgoing homosexual and his constant persecutor, not God, not his (weirdly understanding) wife, but his own creation to whom he feels impelled to justify his sexuality. Whatever it is, he also must contort himself to accommodate the structure, which, whether or not it’s “his,” is a mobile prison.

Minor offsets sad crooked characters with direct sentences that rarely bend back on themselves, even when they last half a page. Sometimes a scene will flit, mid-sentence, to another location (an interview in an office, now a tour of the gymnasium), but that device stands out from generally stolid prose that calmly moves forward to the end of a section. The writing is difficult to fault, which is to say Minor takes few risks with his words. He explores “proven” structures by limiting himself to their angles and proceeding to their terminus.

Another thing I’ve been orbiting: the principal of a Florida Baptist school uses a series of neckties to illustrate his color-coded demerit system. The initial absurd image (7 ties on a rack signifying 7 levels of student misbehavior), followed by a sudden location shift and something new, the smell of “the bodies of boys even though school would not begin for two weeks,” in sequence with the ties, the moron principal, the school itself, something that boys smell up and fuck in and exit, to become adults who smell and fuck and exit: bleak, but resurrection happens elsewhere.

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  1. Anonresp2anon

      Anonymous response to Anonymous: You completely over-intellectualize. Plus, practically every sentence here is wracked and convoluted. I haven’t read the book in question, but it can’t be any worse than what you’ve brought to the table.

      Leaving aside the whole question of desire:

      You say: ‘Minor offsets sad crooked characters with direct sentences that rarely
      bend back on themselves, even when they last half a page.’

      Moi: why the fuck should any sentence bend back on itself?

      You: the last sentence.
      Moi — wtf. If you can’t review in plain English, go write some poetry or something.

      You — just about anything else here.
      Moi: it’s garbled, rushed, untoughtthrough.

  2. deadgod

      That last paragraph made the book sound more interesting than the preceding poorly-argued review was able to effect to the negative.

      (“[P]oorly argued”?  For instance, that “assumption” is certainly not limited to being “(his own)”–it sounds like Minor’s character is uncritically (enough) defined within a culture-wide “assumption”, which sounds like it might be the story of the story.)

  3. Roxane

      “standard blah”?

  4. BoomersMustDie

      Another thing I’ve been orbiting…

  5. Nathan Huffstutter

      “A Love Story” is not about an affair between homosexual bankers or homosexual librarians or homosexual grocery clerks – the narrative follows an affair between homosexual clergy. Put the words “gay” and “priest” together and a host of fraught, predatory connotations immediately spring to mind. Within the world of this story, I do not think Minor is in any way operating from the assumption that “to be attracted to a man, by default someone must have ‘touched or fondled’ him”; rather, I would suggest Minor is taking deliberate pains to locate this story outside the church’s legacy of abuse. 

  6. John Minichillo

      This feels more like a workshop critique than a review. The reviewer is hung up on a few minor details seen as errors. It doesn’t give a very good sense of the whole book or of these stories beyond these perceived missteps.

      I have read this collection and agree that “the writing is difficult to fault.” I was able to give myself over to the stories easily. Kyle is fucking talented.

  7. Frank Tas, the Raptor

      This is very poorly written and should have never seen the light of day. It works better as an easy target for commentators to talk shit about than as an actual review.

  8. J.

      I kind of don’t want to join the dogpile, but I chuckled when the reviewer says Minor “favors” a certain type of story and then, in parentheses, says that two stories follow this. Two stories isn’t really evidence of someone “favoring” a type of story!

  9. Guest

      Are you fucking kidding! You Deadgod, wrote the worst review I’ve ever read. HTML stop these reviews! They’re killing books.

  10. MFBomb

      Who edits these reviews? A review is not a place to flaunt verbal ingenuity.  Get in, get out, and save of the arcane bullshit for something else.

  11. James Yeh

      Since when did HTMLGiant start getting B. R. Myers to pen its anonymous reviews? This is as wrong as it is syntactically incoherent.

  12. MFBomb

      This made me chuckle when I read it too.  WTF?

  13. James Yeh

      Also, Kyle Minor’s book is excellent.

  14. yeahp

      “who are to a one religious”

  15. 5% autosummarized

      The first paragraph of “A Love Story,” about a homosexual
      attraction lasting decades between two churchgoing men who have lived outwardly
      as if hetero, begins on an inherently problematic note with the narrator’s
      claim that nobody abused him as a boy. 

  16. yeahp

      *5% autosummarized

  17. deadgod

      weren’t me

      illiteracy kills books

      if you love the objects, stay away

  18. Tim Jones-Yelvington


  19. Brad Green

      Look, I dig the intent behind anonymous reviews, but there needs to be some editorial direction on these things. You have a comments section for general shit-slinging. Promoting reviews like this to the level of a post doesn’t really do anything other than devalue HTMLGIANT as a potential source of meaningful information about literature. Contrast this with Joe Milazzo’s heady and well thought out review you guys recently ran. What type of post has more general value to the community? Hint: it’s certainly not this one. 

  20. Dawn.

      Wow. Okay. This is really bad.

  21. Brooks Sterritt

      in particular order:

      a sentence should bend back on itself whenever it wants.

      you completely “under-intellectualize.”

      hi, deadgod.

      i’m sorry you don’t like certain phrases placed in quotes but said phrases happen to actually work, unless maybe you can possibly be a little more specific as to what your objections are.

      i wish i’d received critiques like this in workshop.

      you are a dinosaur.

      i do, sup? if you got verbal ingenuity, flaunt it, otherwise…

      “Jesus spoke in parables so the multitude would not be saved.”

      did you mean “editorial direction” or a more comfortable editorial direction?

      nowhere in the review does it state that the author is untalented. it contains the opinions of one person, who has the right to state what s/he likes in a booky wook, just as you have the right to go all duck season on her/his ass.

      i like everybody.

  22. Frank Tas, the Raptor

      Can’t argue with that!

  23. Brooks Sterritt

      you are a raptor

  24. Frank Tas, the Raptor

      Can’t argue with that!

  25. MFBomb

      I’m not sure why HTMLGiant gave you this “editor” gig if you a) don’t appear to edit anything and b) can never be wrong about anything and always blindly defend any review against reader criticism.

      You need to grow up, not be so defensive, and be an editor; if you can’t handle the duties and behave professionally, then you need to hand over the job to someone who will actually appreciate the opportunity and perform it correctly. 

      And, while you’re re: attempting to insult everyone’s intelligence, I’ll remind you that this forum is frequented by educated people, many of whom have more editorial experience than you.

      Mini-book reviews for a literature blog should not read like they were written by Foucault on a brown acid trip. 

  26. Brooks Sterritt

      i think i got this gig because i’m half-canadian

  27. MFBomb

      Oh, sarcasm! 

  28. Craig Duncan

      Not going to let you throw B.R. Myers under the bus like that, what is wrong with his writing? His articles, at least, are some of the only ones worth reading on The Atlantic (and not just because I usually agree with him; I actually enjoy reading his writing). Seriously, how can you even compare him to this reviewer? I don’t get it. I really don’t.

      Also, I know it’s only a passing comment, but if something “is as wrong as it is syntactically incoherent” please give us an example of “wrongness” with reference to syntactical incoherence. Without this example, your comment comes off as being pompous (even if you are right, which I believe you are); you just rode by on your bicycle and punched someone in the face and peddled away. That’s not cool, man. That’s not cool.

  29. L.

      B.R. Myers is a complete buffoon on every level. His writing is poor, his arguments are complete jokes and poorly argued, his ear is as tin as an old can, he never even reviews a book honestly just uses them as springboards to poorly conceived and juvenile rants, etc. etc. 

       He is easily the most embarrassing “critic” in any glossy magazine today.

  30. Wha?

      That was a fucking review? Huh?

  31. Craig Duncan

      Disagree with him all you want, but the man can write. I stand by that. And I do not see how this reviewer even hints at a comparison with him. That said, my original point is this: James Yeh cited a writer he didn’t like as a criticism of another writer and left it at that (minus the unsubstantiated sentence that followed it). This is a piss poor way to criticize someone. The reviewer might not be a terrific writer, but this only points to the need for constructive criticism, not superficial rejoinders.

  32. Nathan Huffstutter

      Hi Brooks,

      After being left out of last night’s “liking” binge, I thought I’d write something this morning to see if I might merit one of your bumper stickers. I have read In the Devil’s Territory; as a debut collection, I’d place in the book in the “pretty good” category, and an individual reviewer could make their own defensible case for the work being closer to really good or some level below that pretty good baseline. The issue here isn’t the middling judgement of the work or the reviewer’s identity, the issue is purely one of content.

      Perhaps you will disagree, but I think one of the crucial elements of the writer/editor relationship is that the writer feels the freedom to think wild, write wild, stick his/her neck out with unusual connections and intriguing viewpoints, and rather than just back-patting, the editor then challenges whether or not those connections ring true and forces the writer (reviewer) to make sure their premises hold up to scrutiny.

      But enough generalities, here are a few specific editorial questions you might care to answer:

      –The opening of the review states that Minor writes “primary characters who are to a one religious,” though no mention is made that the collection is centered around parishioners of the Cherry Road Baptist Church. Should this linking-device be mentioned so that readers of the review understand that the collection is not simply one story about religion after another but a collection with a church as its geographic center? Furthermore, within the collection’s seven stories, “The San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl Party” deals primarily with a difficult pregnancy and the movement terror that surrounds it, with the constant fear of miscarriage; “Goodbye Hills, Hello Night” tracks a teen wilding and the point where routine delinquency gives way to capital crime; “In the Devil’s Territory” explores past-present-future and the notion that, going into a conflict, people don’t necessarily know their opponent’s history nor can they foresee the consequences. I would argue that faith and religion are not actually central to these three stories, which make up half the book.

      –As to the issue of the closeted clergyman in “A Love Story,” the reviewer suggests that Minor has fundamentally misunderstood and mischaracterized the gay experience in a way that calls Minor’s insight as an author into question. This premise takes up an inordinate amount of the review’s allotted words and at that very least my comment above should indicate a counterargument to this premise exists. Should this singular issue be the meat of a short review?

      –The reviewer offers a condescending assessment of how Minor writes “direct sentences that rarely bend back on themselves,” “explores proven structures,” “limit(s) himself to their angles”: these are examples of reviewing what the book is not. Minor’s book falls in the realist tradition, it is “not” an infinite number of other things. Should a reviewer be evaluating a book based on traditions it is not based in?

      –This book is three years old and has been adequately reviewed. Minor’s new book is not slated for immediate release. Why this? Why now? I ask because Steve Himmer’s bio shows he teaches at Emerson and your bio shows that you were an editor at Redivider (Emerson,) and that review struck me as personal. Here, the connection with Kyle Minor as a contributor is obvious, and though I can’t grasp at the reasons behind posting the review, it again strikes me as less about “let’s provide quality content for our readers” and more something personal. How are you selecting these reviews?

      Anyway, I’m not here to pile on – the reason I’m writing this is because I care, because I DO like the website, when contributors are posting hot content and intelligent readers are asking smart questions in the comment section, I think HTMLG is pretty fucking fantastic thing. But when the posted content doesn’t meet a standard of quality, the whole deal staggers.

      Your friend in Christ,


  33. James Yeh

      Craig, I didn’t quote any parts of this review because a lot of my syntactical problems had already been quoted in the thread, and also because reading this review closely was fairly painful and I didn’t feel like subjecting myself to that pain–even now, in an attempt to better converse with you, I read this review more closely and feel confused, and tired.

      To extend your bicycle metaphor, which I liked, this reviewer rode by on his bicycle and punched someone in the face repeatedly, but with strange, ugly fists, while also wearing a mask, and then pedaled off and posted the video of it on a blog, one that I frequent and generally enjoy.

      All this is to say, I liked Kyle Minor’s book, didn’t like this review, would prefer not to see more reviews similar to this one, and would now like to get back to what I should really be doing, as opposed to leaving “pompous,” “uncool” “piss poor criticisms” (perhaps you should be the reviewer!) of some anonymous person who didn’t like a book because basically it didn’t surprise him enough formally or sentence-wise.

  34. L.

      He actually can’t write very well. His essays are clogged with cliches, stale phrases, and incoherent arguments.

  35. L.

      But I’d definitely agree that Myers’s real problems aren’t in the “writing” as in the sentences, but in his incredibly buffoonish arguments, and his almost comical misunderstanding of almost everything he quotes. Dude is good for a laugh though, even if he wants to be taken seriously, so I guess that’s better than a lot of reviewers

  36. Craig Duncan

          All that I was asking is that you follow up on your criticisms. Which, as you noticed, took more time and consideration–as painful as it was–to unpack them. It is, perhaps, unfair to single you out as being responsible for this kind of drive by criticism which only undermines the writer’s efforts and does nothing to support any sort of improvement–whether stylistic or otherwise. An anonymous reviewer has feelings, too, you know.

      Now, I didn’t particularly care for the review. But it’s not my prerogative to make the reviewer feel like a piece of shit, either. If I was going to level criticisms at her/him I would have suggested what needs to be improved (this way the odds are increased, if only slightly, that you won’t have to deal with this kind of writing later on).

      In short: I was disappointed to see you partake in the kind of oneupmanship that discourages writers from ever learning from criticism and truly appreciating its benefits, because the only criticism they know is negative and without substance. Surely you would have appreciated such consideration in similar circumstances, even if someone couldn’t stand your writing/arguments.

  37. L.

      I really can’t even fucking believe that someone who is a fan of BR Myers (of all known idiots!) is complaining about “drive-by criticisms.” That’s his entire repertoire! All he does is do drive-by attacks on out of context quotes, often comically misunderstanding them, and then goes off on an old-man-yells-at-cloud rant about modern society, modern publishing, how great things were in the old days nonsense that doesn’t even relate to the book he is supposedly reviewing.

      Have you even read this guy?

  38. Anonymous

      Perhaps this is petty but, John, by defining this as similar to a workshop critique and pointing out its weaknesses, are you then speaking to the inherent flaw of workshopping? 

  39. John Minichillo


      You’re like an obnoxious younger sib. Get off my tail.

      If these comments were made in a workshop, others in the workshop could chime in whether or not they felt the same way. The writer would have the chance to respond, and ultimately, the writer would also decide whether or not he felt the complaints were worth addressing.

      You see a flaw in this? Which is not a book review.

  40. Liz

      minor is the only person who writes intelligent reviews around here. too bad he can’t review his own book.

  41. Cremistress

      “Mini-book reviews for a literature blog should not read like they were written by Foucault on a brown acid trip. ”

      Are you sure?

  42. MFBomb

      I’m not sure I agree w/ John that this reads like a workshop critique, though I understand where’s aiming.

      For me, this “review” actually reads like a BS lit-crit paper a hungover, pot-smoking, C-average, underachieving Philosophy major wrote two hours before the deadline, the kind where the student compensates for any real depth or thoughtfulness through the use of pseudo-intellectualism and making irrelevant points appear relevant via a shallow veil of affected profoundity–basically, the student or front-row gunner we’ve all had the pleasure of sharing a classroom with who thinks he can hide his own intellectual shortcomings by *attempting* to talk (or write) over people’s heads. 

  43. Cremistress

      I like the review. I wouldn’t have written “a one,” but whatever.  If you (Brooks) haven’t already, I’d check out Leslie Scalapino’s “How Phenomena Appear to Unfold” to see some other possibilities of what a review can be. Orbit away.

  44. MFBomb

      *I understand where he’s aiming. 

  45. MFBomb

      Yes, I’m sure that book reviews should be comprehensible to human beings.

  46. Guest

      He’s not as bad as Deadgod.

  47. Anonresp2anon

      You’re out of your fucking mind.

  48. Anonresp2anon

      And why not? Kyle reviewing his book in 3rd person would make far more interesting reading than the original garbage posted.

      Kyle? HTMLGiant?

  49. Cremistress


  50. Anonymous

      Oh, Mr. Midlist-illo.  You, on the other hand, are an ostrich, with your head stuck in the sands of academia, sheltered from the real world of real writing and real readers.  What with your head in this sand (which has been swirled into a cycle of quicksand for bad ideas and writing of which you are only one part, granted), it is difficult to get off your tail, as it is stuck up into the air.  I suggest you read Jameson’s recent post on teaching creative writing.  Whatever it takes you to question your status quo.  Do we really need more middlebrow workshoppy writing?

  51. Anonymous

      I can’t quite articulate it but the review and your description in conjunction are veering (or orbiting!) fairly close to the icky feeling I get from MFA groupspeak.  Do you know what I mean?  The sense of, ” I really don’t know what to say and don’t want to appear dumb or unprepared, but if nothing else, I know scenework would make this story better.  Yeah, scenework.”  The result is that sentences drown in middling minutiae.  It’s not even a Flaubert-like crafting word by word, sentence by sentence, but more like a husk that stands tall while one after another walk by with a machete and whack off a piece.  After all the whacking off (intended), nothing’s left but an anemic twitching husk. 

  52. (va)guest

      i think you got this gig because blake like laughing at bad writing

  53. (va)guest

      i think you got this gig because blake like laughing at bad writing

  54. jesusangelgarcia

      Yes, Brad. Thank you. You’re echoing what I suggested at the start of this “Reviews” venture, which was just highlighted in P&W mag, no less. Sad. I don’t get it. Brooks, WTF? An editor edits, no? And you’re “liking” all the comments? Blake? This is not a party. Lots of comments on the idiocy of an idiotic post followed by idiotic (anonymous) comments don’t make the post any less idiotic or the web site in any way not a waste of time. What the fuck happened to this place?

  55. Brooks Sterritt

      Thanks for the tip; I’ll certainly check it out.

  56. MFBomb

      Hmmm, in my experience, the worst kind of “MFA groupspeak” is the opposite of this review. 

      Bland, generic MFA groupspeak that let’s people off the hook tends to be like, “I wanted more of x, this isn’t ‘belivable,’ I wanted more ‘history’ about this character’s past” (as if the writer is somehow required to insert some childhood trauma in the story whenever he or she wants to justify a conflict/situation).

      MFA groupseak tends to be rather vanilla and generic.

  57. Brooks Sterritt

      Hi Nate,

      Should the review mention the name “Cherry Road Baptist Church?” I don’t know, but the reviewer chose not to. Should the review spend x number of its allotted words on the issues it has chosen to focus on? In your opinion, maybe not, though the reviewer thought otherwise. I don’t read condescension in the review, though you of course are free to.

      A distinction should be made between preference and quality. You are used to a certain kind of review, a certain kind of style, and when these expectations aren’t met you attack the “standard of quality.”

      Steve Himmer teaches at Emerson but not in the grad program with which Redivider is associated. I met him once after I finished–he gave a fine reading. If I thought the review was personal I would’ve rejected it. On the other hand I would not let a tenuous institutional connection prevent me from posting what I thought was quality writing. The way the reviews get selected is someone emails one to me, I like it, and I post it. In a Foucaultian acid brownout.

      You (as well as everyone else) should feel free to submit a review of your own that does everything you think a review should do. Be the change you wish to see in the world. Also, your comment is 666 words. Is that deliberate? If so, that is pretty weird.


  58. Brooks Sterritt

      Jesus, the reviewer and I went back and forth several times with edits. Why don’t you send a review? I will correct you on one minor point: this actually IS a party.

  59. Anonymous

      Isn’t the commonality of your version and mine (of groupspeak) that it’s so rule and minutiae based?  Some is vanilla, some isn’t, but it almost always belies a sense of offering constructive criticism, when instead it’s far too often useless.

  60. jesusangelgarcia

      Man, I dunno then. So all these comments about you thinking this is funny are right? Or you think this is a well-reasoned and well-written review, for real? I still don’t get it. 

      Plus, if one of the other comments is correct — that the two gay lovers were “clergy” not merely “churchgoing men” — then this reviewer is obfuscating the truth (facts) of the text just to prove some point he wanted to make. That’s duplicitous writing, and it undermines the site’s credibility, as Brad pointed out in another context, as I recall. Maybe your “reviewers” need to come with a more legit resume.

      Thank you for the offer to contribute a review, but I’m going to decline. I see no value in it.

      Re: PARTY — I’m glad you’re having fun. I guess my version of a party is something very different from this. My summer tour, for example. THAT was a party. This? Honestly, and with respect for you and Blake and Gene, etc., I don’t know what this is anymore.

  61. MFBomb

      Fair enough.

  62. Darby Larson

      i vote in favor of more of these anonymous reviews. i have been reading them and thinking about them as things. i agree with brooks. it’s a party. quit pooping.

  63. Tummler

      Darby, may I please have a copy of The Iguana Complex?

  64. Darby Larson

      yes. what is your address.

  65. deadgod

      I think the anonymous reviews are working how anonymity+reviewing works, which is fine

      if foax want to speak irrationally and/or with marginal literacy, hexcellent I say I say, I say

      this review has occasioned a poop party, and that is the exit strategy of that

      pooping on some particular anonymous review doesn’t or (logically) shouldn’t imply pooping on anonymous reviews categorically

      I poop on pooping on pooping!

  66. Darby Larson

      i have been reading them less as reviews and more as just creative reactions, which is valuable in a different sort of way than clean reviews. its like spying on someone in a book store when they pull something and read the first page, then vocally process thoughts on it, then put it back. i mean not everyone who reads books cares about reviews or the process of professional reviewing, but they are who are buying these books. i kind of feel sometimes like if you’re shelling money for an indie press title, money that’s going to help keep that press stay alive, then you sort of deserve the right to say whatever you want about the book.

  67. mimi

      triumph the insult god

  68. Anonresp2anon

      This is the wrap up, right? The fun html’er apologist? Kinda boring.

  69. Anonresp2anon

      Is there a vote? Excellent idea.

  70. John Minichillo

      Real writing? Real readers? Workshoppy writing?

      I don’t even know how to respond to this because you seem to actually believe the things you say.

  71. MFBomb

      So once again, our generation of writers proves (at least online) that it doesn’t have a semblance of critical ability?

      Y’all are too cool and hip to think, right? Besides, what’s so fun about a review that is a pain in the ass to read and incoherent? 

      Instead, “everything’s a party” (translation: everything in the lit blogosphere is simpleminded PR, in this case, for the curator of this self-consciously obscure review, because the review certainly didn’t help anyone understand Minor’s book better, or even take it seriously).

      By the way, HTMLGiant, way to shit on one your own and mistreat a writer who has always contributed thoughtful content to your site.  Way to take a massive dump on him by treating his work with such blatant disregard.  If I were him and you asked me to ever contribute again, I’d tell you to go fuck yourself, and that I’m not going to waste my time writing for a site that treats my work so poorly (I’m talking here about the lack of thoughtfulness and general respect and professionalism, not the mere rating or whether or not the reviewer liked or disliked the book).

      What a joke. 

  72. Darby Larson

      dude relax. these reviews dont prove or disprove anything. i think its healthy to occasionally not take things so seriously. there are serious reviews written by our generation, whatever that is. they happen here sometimes i’ve read them. no one’s saying everything’s a party. just these things are sometimes.

      i think these reviews do provoke thought, just on a more distanced level, as in look what anonymity brings out in us when given a venue.

      i think what’s sillier/sadder is how you are reacting to this re: our generation of writers. why are our generation of writers so panty bunched? is maybe a realer question.

  73. MFBomb

      No, I will never “relax.” Writing/literature is my life, not some cute little game or party.

      Books under review should be respected, not treated like “things,” lab experiments, or party props. 

      You wrote:

      “generation of writers. why are our generation of writers so panty bunched? is maybe a realer question.”

      Well, I did add the caveat “online.” A lot of writers in our generation do act the same online and seem interested in hipster wankery and attempting to elevate inanity, sarcasm, and irony to meaningful discourse.  

  74. elizabeth ellen

      oops. i accidentally “liked” this post when i only wanted to “reply.” my bad. 

      anyway:”No, I will never “relax.” Writing/literature is my life, not some cute little game or party.”el oh el, bro. why, then, are you constantly posting on html giant? is this really the place for someone who can’t relax and says shit like “writing is my life.” ??? seriously?

      personally, i think the anonymous reviews ARE needed and cool and maybe just maybe NOT strictly for ass-kissing and favor-getting and friend-making as seemingly most other reviews are.

  75. bobby

      I replied when I meant to “like!”

  76. Frank Tas, the Raptor

      This isn’t a party. This is what I look at when I am bored and in between parties.

  77. MFBomb

      You wrote:

      “el oh el, bro. why, then, are you constantly posting on html giant? is this really the place for someone who can’t relax and says shit like “writing is my life.” ??? seriously?”


      Because saying something “is your life” is an expression and not meant to be taken literally–that’s why. 

      You wrote:

      “personally, i think the anonymous reviews ARE needed and cool and maybe just maybe NOT strictly for ass-kissing and favor-getting and friend-making as seemingly most other reviews are.”


      What does this have to do with what I wrote? 1) I’ve never criticized the anonymity angle–in fact, I’ve defended it numerous times; 2) I also never said reviews should be about ass-kissing and even said that my issues had nothing to do with rather or not the reviewer liked or disliked the book.

      Please, if you’re going to respond to me, make sure that you actually respond to what I wrote and not misrepresent me.  Thanks!

  78. deadgod

      “Creative response” is a useful, if too limited, description of at least some brilliant criticism; I’d ask, of, say, responses to The Pound Era, Call Me Ishmael, or My Emily Dickinson, ‘what else is it?’.

      In the case of these too-brief-to-be-“criticism”-exactly reviews, I’d only expect that I’m spying on the reader of not only “the first page”–ha ha ha.

      I hope it’s clear (right above you) that I agree that the anonymice “deserve the right to say whatever”; I just mean to add that so, too, do we, responding on these threads:  is it well written or poorly?, in response to the book or has the book been transformed/reduced to fuel for an agenda?, evidence given from the book?, and so on.  No?

  79. deadgod

      if the insults are gratuitous:  vain triumph! naughty god!

      if the target is as botched as the review we are here appended to:  you go god

  80. deadgod

      boring boredom bores in to bore boredom

  81. mimi

      just riffing off of ‘poop on’
      thaz all

  82. yeahp


      that first sentence screams ‘ive never even bothered editing my own stuff before’

  83. deadgod

      But your comments/replies are occasionally treated thoughtlessly and disrespectfully, and, while you sometimes reply ‘go fuck yourself’, you haven’t yet quit “wast[ing your] time writing for [this] site [where your] work [is  treated] so poorly”.

      Ought Kyle to do as you say, not as you do??

  84. deadgod









      speak, group-spoken grip




  85. Guest

      you finally get it

  86. MFBomb

      Really, deadgod? Are you serious? Please say, “no.” Please say, “oh, Bomb, I was only kidding!” 

      Or, are you another one of these types who conflates comments in a comment stream (or Tweets, or Facebook status updates) with more formal writing manifestations like, uh, published books? Why would you insult Kyle (or any other writer with a published book) by comparing his or her work to comments in a comment stream on a blog? 

      Furthermore, are comments in a comment stream on a blog important enough to warrant formal reviews? 

  87. deadgod

      [Here is some play concocted in response to this typo (I’m pretty sure) in the reply to which it replies:  “groupseak”.  It is in no way abusive of or even negative towards either that reply or its poster, nor is it “off” the “topic” of ‘what people say here’.]









      speak, group-spoken grip




  88. deadgod

      No and yes.

      No, I’m not being “serious”, because I don’t think you are generally “serious” about ‘thoughtful’ and ‘respectful’ conversation about writing.  Your hot humorlessness is constant evidence to the contrary of your protestations of concern for these values in and of dialogue.

      Yes, I’m being “serious”, because I don’t think, for example, that War and Peace and Tolstoy’s ephemera are on two different continua.  It’s not a matter of ‘conflation’ of unlike media, but rather, of comprehending the unity and coherence of some particular voice – yours, say, or Kyle’s – in any number of media.

      You say directly that Kyle’s skin should be a thin as yours.  In accordance with your own criteria, who actually has “insulted” Kyle on this thread–I, in reflecting your ‘advice’ to him onto your own practice, or you??

  89. MFBomb

      “Hot humorlessness”=Ah, the “it’s-all-just-a-joke/fun-n-games-day-at-the-circus” defense (after the fact, of course, as if the purpose of these reviews was ever to provide some sort of comic twist on the book review genre).  Good stuff, deadgod. I’m laughing. Really. 

      I also noticed that no one even mentioned this idea of humor-fun-cake-and-pinata-busting until Darby brought it up, 50+ comments later. Maybe you’re just fashionably late to this PART-AY though, despite having posts on this thread that precede Darby’s post about this wild, raucous party with a bowl of mashed potatoes to stick your ___________.  See, I’m not all that humorless:-)

      And I’m not sure why you think having thick skin has to always relate somehow to not wanting to waste one’s time writing formally for a site that treats one’s work with such disregard in a book review; what’s even more disconcerting–and Nathan pointed this out earlier, while you were busy rolling on the floor from “hot” laughter–is that the book has been out for several years now.  Finally, the “if-were-I-him/her” construction is often employed rhetorically to express what the writer would do him or herself in the situation and is not always a simple attempt to speak for the writer.  Surely, deadgod, you don’t think I’m too stupid to fall for all of your strawman troll tactics, eh? Nope–I’m not. Go bait someone else with your non-sequiturs.


      Just playin’:):):):):)

      Aren’t I so funneeeeeeeee!?

  90. MFBomb

      Sorry, I was laughing so hysterically that I forgot about Brooks mentioned a “party” before Darby. 

  91. Guest

      Why do you spell humorlessness without the second u when you’re from Canada?

  92. Cremistress

      standard blah

  93. deadgod

      No, MFBedlamite, I don’t think your humid tantrums are rational enough to fall for.

  94. deadgod

      I’ll have Poupon with that riff

  95. deadgod

      boring boredom bores in to bore boredom’s bitch

  96. MFBomb

      A certain poster who could be easily mistaken for this dull, lifeless, and arcane reviewer and consults a thesaurus when posting blog comments shouldn’t lecture others on their “humorlessness.” 


  97. Cremistress

      Human beings are overrated.

  98. Anonymous

      You could respond by answering how you feel Samuel Beckett at age 18 would fare in a 2011 USA university writing program.  Yes, he was educated university-level in Dublin, but right here, right now.  Do you not think that everything that makes Beckett, Beckett, wouldn’t be squashed?  I do, firmly so.

  99. John Minichillo

      First, who takes a U workshop at 18?

      Second, when I made the analogy that V Woolf surrounded herself with other writers and was certainly influenced by them, your response was that it wasn’t a workshop, workshops didn’t exist, and that there was no sense speculating.

      Now you ask me to speculate how Becket would have fared in a workshop?

      You are trying to suggest it would have ruined him. Like hell.

      Please understand there’s nothing that V Woolf or Beckett were doing that wouldn’t be welcome in a workshop. The thing about a workshop is that it’s as flexible as it’s members – generally people who are well-read and who are serious about writing. They WANT to be surprised. If a workshop produces mediocre work it’s not because mediocre work is encouraged, it’s because it is extremely fucking hard to be original and surprising.

      Beckett managed to come out from under the shadow of Joyce. I can think of nothing more daunting. The worst workshop imaginable could not have produced that kind of pressure.

      You can hate workshops and put them down all you want but your rhetorical strategies here are pretty lame.

  100. Anonymous

      I’m not Batuman, or Shivani or even Blake Butler, but it’s not necessary (and would hardly matter anyway because you have your agenda).  The only rhetorical strategy needed is one of directing your gaze toward the output, the fruit of that which you think is the best practice.  Modern domestic literature speaks for itself and makes my point for me.  By the way, do you think anyone around the world has respect for our writers anymore? 

  101. John Minichillo

      I don’t agree that American writers don’t get respect. But whatever. If you think the writers today are lacking there are so many other institutional factors that have a far greater influence over what gets published it’s ridiculous. It’s kind of like suggesting that the person you were at your senior prom is who you are and who you’ll be. If writers are so suggestible and tamped down by the workshop experience, then maybe they probably aren’t willing to really work for it.

      Your assumption is that the writers were good before the workshop and the workshop made them bland – and that just doesn’t make sense.

      If you think the writing sucks, maybe it has more to do with the people who actually decide what gets published – which workshops have no say in. Very few writing programs have any connection to agents or editors, the people who get writers contracts, and having gone through an elite program is no guarantee either. Workshops really don’t have the kind of power you suggest. The writer is within. It’s up to the individual to grow and develop. The workshop is only there for a short duration of that development, and it’s up to the individual writer to decide what to take away.

      I have seen more talented writers than there is room for. Most won’t make it. the workshop isn’t doing that; it’s economic forces.

  102. Indianapolis

      This post sure did stir up a lot of excitement. Minor’s book must be fucking powerful to have raised such a ruckus. I have to get a copy now.

  103. Brooks Sterritt

      I just want to state for the record that I’m not actually half-canadian.