book review

Book Review: In the Desert of Mute Squares by M Kitchell

by
Ben Arzate.

“Language is a trap. To deny the existence of whatever. A melancholy enticement. Like balloons. Language is a fucking disaster. I’m unsure of how to birth the participle. Underneath. No reason to ever go outside any more. The days choke in the darkness & supplicate to endless rest. There’s no question of what will happen in the future because there is no future. Life is a fatal attraction.”

M Kitchell’s In the Desert of Mute Squares is difficult to classify. Its publisher, Inside the Castle, describes it as a “text object,” which seems the most appropriate name for it. The form of the book, from its text placement, to its spacing, to its images, to the reader’s interactions with the book itself are just as essential as the text. As the excerpt above implies, this seems to be an attempt to transcend the frustrating limitations of language.

Even the title seems to be a self-deprecating acknowledgment of literature’s limitations, referring to itself as a wasteland of pages that can’t truly communicate. Slaughtered trees which can never truly convey the impossible. It includes the equally self-deprecating subtitle of or Errors; or, Dreams I Never Had; or, Late Capitalism. (more…)

Sacred Gardens: A meditation on possession in Don DeLillo’s novella The Body Artist

by
Justin Burnett.

bodyartist_first_edPossession is a strange concept. Like many of the categorizations we use to piece together what roughly might be called our social existence, possession is marked more by its ambiguities than its certainties. What do we possess? We possess our possessions. But what are those? Merely material things that cost money, that stand at one end of a transaction like the period at the end of a sentence? A mere placeholder for exchange, a trophy for participation in capitalist society, a pause after a civic duty duly discharged?

Perhaps it entails something closer to an aura, a relation within a context of other objects, accumulated for aesthetic or practical use. “It was his coffee and his cup. They shared the newspaper but it was actually, unspokenly, hers” (4). The coffee is his only in contrast to the newspaper (which is hers). Is this possession, then, this magical game of comparison, animating the space between the mute objects of our houses with a thin web of relations? An imperceptible fabric strung between the piano in the corner, the hand-painted cerulean lamp table, the sofa patched with soft, gently outlined squares, the white, porcelain coffee cup on the glass surface of the card table, near the edge furthest away from the stack of unopened bills? (more…)

Horrific Loves: Encountering the Other in Philip Fracassi’s Altar

by
Justin Burnett.

cover+-+AltarDiscussing horror as a literary genre proves to be an exceedingly difficult undertaking. A reader familiar with contemporary horror writers will undoubtedly protest against this statement, citing the fact that horror writers are generally more than happy to discuss their stock tricks, ways of thinking, and sources of inspiration. True enough. Contemporary horror writers are a gregarious crew. Yet when it comes to horror itself, our paradoxically macabre attraction to the dark and inhuman realms of terror, everything remains infuriatingly inexplicable. This paradox—our attraction to the repulsive as embodied in horror fiction—is dubbed famously in critical aesthetics ‘the paradox of horror’. I will utilize as a demonstration the appeal of Philip Fracassi’s recently published ‘Lovecraftian’ horror novella, Altar. The book itself is quite typical of its generic milieu, given how Lovecraftian horror is racing to the fore of contemporary horror fiction with the encouragement of affluent writers like Ramsey Campbell and Thomas Ligotti (or more recently, Cody Goodfellow and Jeremy Robert Johnson). One advantage of Altar’s utilization as a demonstrative model for horror fiction is that its simplicity and quintessentially Lovecraftian plot vastly complicates many of the theories offered up in supplication to the paradox of horror. It is my intention to challenge several theoretical ‘suggestions’ regarding the paradox by emphasizing the hitherto overlooked experiential “gap” in horror and the corresponding encounter with the Other. (more…)

The Role of Fantasy in Franz Kafka’s Amerika

by
Daulton Dickey.

amerikaIn Amerika by Franz Kafka, the character Karl Rossman is shipped away to America by his parents following a scandal with a servant girl. From hotel employee to bum to servant, young Karl experiences a panoply of adventures and emotions as he tries to find his way through life. Superficially, it’s a straightforward tale, a Huckleberry Finn-esque Bildungsroman. Since Kafka rarely wrote superficial tales, however, it is possible that Karl’s adventures mean something else–for Karl and for Kafka.

Interestingly, the title “Amerika” comes to us from Max Brod, who changed Kafka’s original title. Kafka’s title Der Verschollene, however, translates to “The Missing Person” or “The Man Who Disappeared.” Why would he give the novel a title that expresses the point of view of Karl’s family while the narration itself follows Karl, giving only passing mention to his family? (more…)

The Mortuary Monster by Andrew J. Stone — Book Review

by
Daulton Dickey.

mm-coverGonzalo lives a strange existence. Like his parents before him, he’s a cemetery man. Stuck in rut, Gonzalo wants something more. Bitter at his lot, he stumbles through life, performing his chores and routines, over and over again.

He lives and works at a funeral parlor. Corpses are his only friend–actual corpses: they walk and talk, stuck between here and the other side.

Gonzalo helps them transition from life to death. He treats them as friends, and sometimes even lovers. But everything changes for him when he father’s a halfbreed–half human, half corpse.

The Mortuary Monster by Andrew J. Stone is a novel filled with charm and imagination. It’s more fable than horror. Imagine if Neil Gaiman and Terry Gilliam wrote Night Breed, then you’ll have an idea of the wit and style of Stone’s debut novel. (more…)

Home is Where the Horror Is by C.V. Hunt—Book Review

by
Daulton Dickey.

Home is Where the Horror Is C.V. HuntDarkness lingers everywhere in this world. One way or the other, it will find you. Some of us are prepared for it while it blindsides others. The world itself is dark, filled with strange and perverse creatures. The strangest of which? Humans. While we each struggle with our existential slumbers, we try to make the most of it. Sometimes we’re lead to the light; at other times, chaos.

Evan Lansing is down on his luck. His passion for photography leaves little time for work, putting the burden making ends meet on his girlfriend, Naomi. Sure, he works part-time but he doesn’t make enough to help ease the burden. He wants the life of an artist, of a photographer specializing in scarred and deformed bodies.

His luck nosedives when Naomi breaks up with him. He moves in with his brother but his overbearing sister-in-law inspires him to get out as fast as he can. His mother recently died and left a cabin in the country. In need of repairs, the cabin sits and waits for improvements before Evan and his brother can put it on the market. To flee his sister-in-law, Evan volunteers to live in the cabin and work on it. Then the strangeness begins. He meets an odd set of neighbors who both repulse and fascinate him. But the strangeness, oh the strangeness lingers, always on the edge, always ready to change everything. (more…)

6 Awesome Celebrity Memoirs

by
Daulton Dickey.

This is by no means meant as a definitive list. Thousands of great artists and celebrities have produced thousands of great memoirs—or autobiography, whichever word we prefer these days—over the years. This list doesn’t even include some of my favorite memoirs, but, for brevity’s sake, I wanted to focus on the six that come to mind whenever anyone asks if I have a favorite memoir.

Groucho and Me
Groucho Marx
Bernard Geis Associates, 1959

grouchoandmeWhile his humor might feel dated, Groucho remains a true original. From his voice to his puns to his eye-rolling delivery—literally, the man punctuated gags and puns, usually jokes he knew were bad, by rolling his eyes or glancing upward—he’s spawned countless imitators, most notably  Bug Bunny.

He started comedy on the Vaudeville Circuit as a teenager. In the early twentieth century, theaters around the country offered variety shows featuring various performers: comedians, jugglers, singers, dancers, burlesque performers. Filled with puns and innuendo, vaudeville gags helped lay the groundwork for early cinematic comedies. Many of the biggest stars in the early days of film, in fact, started in Vaudeville, including Charlie Chaplin and, of course, Groucho Marx.

Groucho attained worldwide fame as the centerpiece of the Marx Brothers. He not only inspired generations of comedians—he also inspired counterculture movements, especially the movements of the 60s. Groucho—and the Marx Brothers—were fiercely anti-establishment. They challenged authority, the notion of government—democratic or fascist—and lampooned higher education. They also attacked the human condition, satirizing the wealthy, the poor, the credulous, those seeking fame and those running from it. Few targets escaped the brothers’ sights.

As a personality—both on and off the screen—Groucho was a prankster and a showboat, arrogant and miserly. He simultaneously sought and thwarted attention. In most cases, it’s better to view a celebrity’s autobiography as a sustained PR effort. Even in their worst moments, they later spin the story to minimize their appearance or effects on situations or people.

Groucho’s penchant for telling autobiographical stories and anecdotes in different ways to different people often makes it difficult to tell truth from fiction or to assess the veracity of his claims. It’s better to approach this is a book of dubious truths. Don’t let that discourage you, however.

Having little formal education, Groucho in later years aspired to become a writer. He devoured books and befriended some of the biggest modernists of the twentieth centuries—his letters to TS Eliot are great. He took writing seriously, and it shows. His prose is fluid, conversational, and never stuffy. Much of the book reads as if your funny uncle is relaying personal anecdotes. Although many allusions and jokes are dated, this books is still well worth checking out.

The Long Hard Road Out of Hell
Marilyn Manson with Neil Strauss
ReganBooks, 1998

thelonghardroatoutofhellIf you somehow don’t know who Marilyn Manson is, he’s a holy fuck read that first chapter nothing I could write can or will do this book justice so just read that first chapter fuck me what an insane and disturbing chapter Christ it will haunt you just read it already

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Very True Review of Very True Stories Starring Jeff O’Brien

by
Daulton Dickey.

So I’m sitting in my car outside work. Lunch hour drags when it’s hot outside and you forgot your lunch. I debate driving across town to grab a bite, but I’m neither hungry nor motivated enough to expend the effort.

Voices on the radio chatter, something about an ‘incident’ somewhere over the east coast or New England. I focus on the story but the ‘incident’ remains ill-defined.

Can’t be too important, otherwise they’d issue warnings, make declarations, cut to in-progress news conferences of sheriffs or mayors, FEMA or Homeland Security.

At least thirty minutes have passed since I started my lunch break. Christ, I’m bored. I light a cigarette and check my watch. Ten minutes have passed since I started my lunch break. Fuck me. How am I supposed to kill fifty minutes when I’m this bored?

I pull my phone from my pocket and open the Kindle app and flip through the titles inverytruestoriesstarringjeffobrien my library. One stands out: a woman kneels beside a heavyset bald man, who’s standing and thrusting his arm in the air. The title? Very True Stories Starring Jeff O’Brien.

What the fuck is this?

I have no memory of buying this book.

I download the file and read the opening page: a dude looking to get laid takes home a creature disguised as a woman. Tentacles emerge from her pussy and morph into two women.

What in Christ’s name is this? And who the hell is Jeff O’Brien? (more…)

Book Review: Sorry, Wrong Country by Konstantine Paradias

by
Daulton Dickey.

Konstantine Paradias is a man of many trades. In a country populated by a seemingly impressive amount of eccentrics, he seems to have encountered them almost daily while in the course of struggling to make ends meet. Depicting life in modern Greece, a country with a long and storied history and currently trapped in a bleak economic spiral, Paradias offers snapshots of weirdos, eccentrics, and everyday folk struggling to live and to enjoy life. A work of non-fiction, this book is hard to fit into any sub-categories: it’s neither memoir nor history nor current affairs, and yet it’s all three. It offers no sustained narrative or heavy-handed thesis. Instead, it’s a collection of vignettes offering snapshots of people the author has encountered throughout his life as a jack of all trades.

sorry wrong countryReading this book is like viewing Greece through a kaleidoscope. Cycling through every short chapter is akin to twisting the kaleidoscope, revealing new colors and images. In the process, and if you pay close attention, it shows you new ways to view and to understand every person you encounter. And that’s where this book’s greatness lies: in focusing on people, usually eccentrics or strangers most people would overlook or ignore, Paradias imbues this book with humanity, with a genuine respect, even love, or at least empathy, for everyone he encounters. (more…)

Review: Battle Without Honor or Humanity Volumes 1 and 2 by D. Harlan Wilson

by
Daulton Dickey.

dharlandwilson3In an age of corporate omnipotence and adherence to formula, experimental fiction has fallen further into the gaps, obscured by the shadows of genre and ‘safe bets.’ Of the few experimental writers working today, D. Harlan Wilson embraces the shadows, creating works without pretense to genre or formulae.

Wilson eschews orthodoxy in his latest works, Battle Without Honor or Humanity Volumes 1 and 2 (also recently collected in a single volume), and produces a work both maddening and refreshingly different—and new, which is what makes these books so interesting: you’ve not encountered anything like them. As a result, you can’t approach them as traditional novels. If you do, you’ll find the experience of reading these books less than enlightening. (more…)