For newcomers to the world of Charles Bukowski, be forewarned: Pulp (Ecco, 202 pages) is probably not the best place to start.
I say this, not because it doesn’t rank right up there with his other books, or because greener readers will fail to grasp the allusions to earlier work it contains, but rather because as his ultimate novel (completed months before his death) Pulp can easily be seen as Bukowski’s final farewell. In it, the aged author takes his readers on one last foray into familiar territories of sex, madness, and death, while at the same time expanding on those themes in brilliant and often unexpected ways. Drawing on science fiction and hardboiled noir elements as well, the end result is a bizarre send-up of genre fiction that is just as hilarious and insightful as anything else he wrote. Continue reading
Americans have always had, in addition to wide-spread arrogance in imagining that their current literature is the best, the inferiority complex for not producing the Great Novel, nothing that could be compared with War and Peace and Brothers Karamazov or David Copperfield and Vanity Fair or Remembrance of the Things Past and Lost Illusions or The Magic Mountain and Tin Drum, or Don Quixote, or One Hundred Years of Solitude. Of course, it could be argued that Moby Dick, Invisible Man, Grapes of Wrath, The American Pastoral (Roth addresses terrorism before it became the central American problem) or Continental Drift by Russell Banks are great American novels, but somehow the critics and reviewers are still dreaming of The Great American Novel. And this novel has been anointed as such by many. Continue reading
One of the pleasures of literary fiction is its fluidity, how it engages both the physical world and mental states, moving back and forth in a manner that not only reproduces the experience of being alive, but adds to it. The book in hand is less a mirror than an additional, highly sensitive appendage of the self.
John Reimringer’s Vestments (Milkweed, 407 pages) highlights the process by staking out two sharply contrasting worlds: the earthy, often violent family of James Dressler, a young man growing up in blue-collar Saint Paul, and James’ calling as a Roman Catholic priest, Continue reading