Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Reading Log

Feb 21, 2010 03:24PM

Just read Randall Brown's Mad to Live, the 2007-2008 Fiction Chapbook Winner from California State University, Chico's Flume Press and it's very fine writing indeed. Brown's characters are all dealing with their "issues" and several of the stories pack a real emotional wallop but there is a tinge of melodrama, a kind of overloadedness to the writing. Fortunately, this is somewhat leavened with wit and insight, and in the later pieces, with metafictional irony. Recommended.

Feb 23, 2010 05:45AM

I really liked Amelia Gray's interconnected flash fiction collection, AM/PM. Wit and whimsy combine with sensitivity and creative use of language to make for a thoroughly engaging and fun book. This is among the best of the many little flash fiction type things I've read recently.

Blake Butler's Ever

Ever, by Blake Butler is a bit hard to pin a label on regarding genre; novella?, prose poem sequence?, flash fiction cycle?... But that very elusiveness reflects a pushing outward of the boundaries of what the most innovative writers are currently doing with language in the service of artistic expression. As with Gary Lutz, Butler's fiction absorbs our attention by continually amazing us with the way it beautifully dances close to the edge of incoherence without falling in. There's excitement and wonder in that balancing act when it's managed with the linguistic skill and subtle precision of a writer like Butler. Highly recommended.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Reading Log

Feb 17, 2010 01:47AM

Thomas Cooper's Phantasmagoria is another very well done chapbook of flash fiction. His style tends toward the more surreal and magic realist modes and he does those very effectively.
4 out 5 stars.

Feb 19, 2010 01:30AM

Finished A Nest of Hooks by Lon Otto which consists of stories ranging in length from an average sized paragraph to one of almost novella length. The quality of the writing is very high. Otto shows great sensitivity to the subtlties of male/female relationships and the stories are expertly crafted structurally with a nice arc to the unfolding of events and often a particularly poignant or insightful ending. The 1978 publication date might account for what, for me, felt like a kind of old fashionedness to the realism on offer here but then, my reading has focused heavily on the newest crop of literary talent for quite some time now so that's not too surprising. Anyway, A Nest of Hooks is fine stuff.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

from the Reading Log

Now into Agota Kristof's "The Notebook" and am quite intrigued by the use of 1st person plural as the narrative voice (twin boys). The only other story I've read before employing this device was Gert Hofmann's "Our Conquest" which is a truly masterful novel also from the children's point of view. Anyway, "The Notebook" has me excited after 39 pages.


Am now into the 2nd novel ("The Proof") of Agota Kristof's trilogy having finished "The Notebook". Her writing is very spare, one might say elemental as opposed to simple and I'm enjoying the effortlessness of the way it reads. The story is completely engaging and the central characters, fascinating, and I'm going through this book much faster than usual.

Finished "The Proof" and am still really enjoying the good old fashioned page turning drama in these books; drama of the familiar "angst and tragedy at the hands of faceless Communist apparatchiks" Eastern European variety.


Now into the final novel of Kristof's trilogy: "The Third Lie", and am even more impressed with what she does here in undermining the fictive premises governing the events of the first two novels thereby forcing the reader to grapple with a classic post-modern issue: narrative reliability. Really interesting writing here.


Finished the Kristof trilogy. This truly is a masterpiece.

The Joy of Angst

Wilhelm Genazino's The Shoe Tester of Frankfurt was a thoroughly enjoyable read. The central character who is telling us his story teeters on the edge of insanity for most of the book while continually conveying his own absurdity in charmingly witty and amusing self analyses. There are definite echoes of the comic aspects of Kafka here and the stories of the contemporary Norwegian novelist Dag Solstad also come to mind with his protagonists who similarly obsess debilitatingly over countless existential life issues.

The writing is quite dense at times with paragraph lengths of over two pages but that shouldn't deter a prospective reader. Many are the literary delights to be had with this book.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Reading Log

In his novel-in-stories, Burning Babies, Noah Cicero effectively and with a certain raw crudeness befitting the bleak brutality of the lives depicted conveys the psychology of white trash culture. The text is unfortunately undermined, to a certain extent, by the very large number of typos. Frequently whole words are left out leaving the reader to try to decipher what's missing. While annoying, the impact of the author's powerful vision of a world gone mad is not blunted. Fans of Celine would do well to check this guy out.

Just finished a very good flash fiction collection by Kristina Born, One Hour Of Television, which reminded me somewhat of some of Ken Sparling's more recent writing. Both are Canadian and it could be that Born (the younger writer--she's 22) has absorbed some of Sparling's craft into her own style. There are thematic and character interconnections throughout the tiny pieces comprising the book as, for example, a number of very funny satires on the subject of nuclear warfare. Another writer to watch for.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Reading Log

Read a neat little (18 pgs.) chapbook by Matt Debenedictis, CONGRATULATIONS! There's No Last Place If Everyone Is Dead, featuring very finely chiseled sentences comprising flash fictions of a decidedly morbid edginess. Some real talent on display here, well worth reading.

Feb 08, 2010 4:42AM

Really liked Mary Miller's story collection Big World. The 14-30 yr. old female protagonists of these pieces are generally pretty screwed up from having bad parenting and/or profound tragedies to deal with and there is much escapist behavior in the form of drinking and casual sex going on but the narrative voice, which is consistent throughout, is witty, sarcastic, funny, a bit cynical but also frequently insightful making for a very engaging reading experience. The writing does raise for me the issue of whether characters who show such a lack wisdom in the poor choices they make in their daily lives can believably display the kind of wit, intelligence and insight these women do. This didn't significantly detract from my enjoyment of Miller's fiction, however, due to the charm of that very same drollery.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Reading Log

Jan 29, 2010 03:23AM
Finished Kim Chinquee's Oh Baby, a collection of prose poems and flash fiction. The works here are all very beautifully crafted, lapidarian even. They are also interestingly interrelated with recurring characters and an overarching structure to the whole book. An excellent review can be found here: http://bigother.com/2010/01/28/run-run-run-run-you-better-run-all-day-and-run-all-night-on-kim-chinquee%e2%80%99s-oh-baby/#more-3856

Feb 3, 2010 02:58AM
Ken Sparling's Hush Up and Listen Stinky Poo Butt turns out to be his most purely delightful and accessible book of the three I've now read so far. It's filled with charming and/or alarming vignettes of a father's daily life taking care of his two young boys during a period of increasing conflict with his wife and captures his explosive rages and frustrations along with his love and kindness. One of the most fascinating features of the book is this central character's frequent conversations with his creator, Ken Sparling, with whom he confides his troubles and asks for advice while at other times author and character bicker and annoy each other. A very enjoyable book.