Dismantle the Sun (Booktrope, 324 pages) is literary, but if you are looking for a novel of bright sunshine, lollipops along with skittles and beer, this is not the book for you. It reeks pathos; “wrenches” is the term used on the back cover of the book, and the work lives up to that term. It is an uncomfortable read because you are being dragged into the intimate, excruciating dynamics of a couple where the wife is dying and the husband is struggling with that reality.
As cruel as the world itself.
If a Man be Mad (Permabooks, 156 pages)…there couldn’t have been a more appropriate title for this gem hidden amidst the American literature. Walker Winslow, writing as Harold Maine, had written this fascinating book while living in Big Sur, at a time when other great writers, such as Henry Miller resided nearby. Whether it was Winslow’s gift or the proximity of some of the greatest in modern American literature, Mr. Winslow has achieved what only but a few writers are capable of. He shook my world. Continue reading
At the onset, our protagonist in Editorial (CreateSpace, 140 pages) is sent to live with an aunt/uncle after the untimely death of his parents, and he finds the routine and familiarity therapeutic in a sado-masochistic sort of way, until the day comes when his aunt and uncle basically throw him out on his own with nothing possession-wise to speak of other than his porn mag collection. Well, at least our narrator handles it well: with wit, sarcasm, and what was probably a heat stroke induced delusion.
“His death began the moment we saw him. It just took a long time to consummate that death. We began to kill him when we first saw him…”
The Death of Patsy McCoy (Inflatable Rider Press, 147 KB) is a story about a murder, but long before that, it was a story about suicide. The suicide of a small town, the suicide of a new kid seeking acceptance, and the suicide of five young men who would never be able to push aside memories left behind in their childhood, memories that are nothing more than the strewn wreckage of innocence gone lost. Continue reading
Lindsay Hunter’s Daddy’s (Featherproof, 210 pages) is a fairly disturbing look at life in a southern rural area, though I think the book probably is meant to depict many rural areas. What the work is able to do, however, is entertain on more than one level through her craftsmanship in voice. The cold, matter-of-factness with which she writes is met in a simultaneous observational sentimentality, which works to then give us an inner clock-working machine we can hear clicking. Have you ever known a girl who has a deadpan sense of humor and this sort of distant manner yet simultaneously is obviously deep in existential thought? That’s what we’re working with here. Continue reading
With all books, there is a difference between author and narrator. Sometimes the difference is slight, sometimes great. Omniscient narrators tend to reflect the author’s stance about the story more than, say, first-person narrators, which often strike poses very unlike the authors’, excepting the case of confessional “fiction” (which is not actually fictional). At first I thought the narrator of Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West (Modern Library, 384 pages) spoke without irony, without distance being injected between his voice and the author’s feelings about the story. As I read on, I felt more and more an ironic distance between McCarthy and the narrator. I felt as if McCarthy were telling me to resist this narrative for its excesses, its hyperbole and its superstition and fatalism. Continue reading
This is probably the hardest review I have had to do yet. Prior to The Thin Wall (Twisted Knickers, 124 pages), I had read two previous books by Cheryl Anne Gardner, The Splendor of Antiquity, and Logos, and The Thin Wall is a radical departure from Gardner’s romantic roots into the realms of darker, subconscious psychology and individual philosophies she masterfully delves into in this work.
One word to describe this book for me? Drastic. Continue reading
“Male violence did it.” Martin Amis has a bit of a reputation for making sweeping, declarative statements like this one that ends the first paragraph of Yellow Dog (Mirimax, 339 pages). I’ve read all of Amis’ books except Pregnant Window and Koba the Dread (on my list, next) and I’m very familiar with the Amis conception of gender. I can make sweeping generalizations about his Men and his Women. Continue reading
The House of Meetings (Knopf, 256 pages) is a narrative delivered as a long letter from an unnamed narrator, an 86-year-old Russian man, to his step-daughter Venus, living in Chicago. He is in the midst of traveling back home after many years in the U.S. The point of his journey is to revisit a work camp in the Artic where he had been held prisoner and slave laborer in the 40s and 50s. Particularly, he wants to visit the “house of meetings,” where, late in the labor camp era, the Soviets had begun allowing some prisoners to meet briefly with their wives. The narrator’s brother, Lev, Continue reading