Ander Monson's interconnected story collection Other Electricities, while consistently displaying prose writing of quite effective poetic intensity, was, for me, something of a slog to get through. I found the deliberate heaviness of the writing allied to the grimness of the subject matter (violent death and grieving, the cold darkness of winter in northern Michigan, and the aimless, disconnectedness of most of the characters) difficult to take. The creativity of Monson's use of language and form did keep me interested however and I don't want to leave the impression that this is anything less than first rate prose. So I do respect what he achieves here; I think it's just that at this stage in the development of my reading tastes, I've come to prefer writing with elements of whimsy and wit.
In the short novel i poisoned you, Pablo D'Stair succeeds in very believably putting the reader in the mind of a spree killer. Subtlety and restraint are much in evidence here and the violence, when it does happen, surprises. A very effective character study.
Mar 21, 2010 3:52AM
Finished Kim Chinquee's new book, Pretty, earlier today. She demonstrates here as masterful a control of highly compressed fictive spaces as in her previous collection, Oh Baby. Definitely among the small handfull of the flash fiction/prose poem format's best practitioners along with Joseph Young and Daryl Scroggins.
Read another Tim Hall story collection: Triumph of the Won't. This doesn't feature as much the wickedly inventive satire of One Damn Thing After Another but it does demonstrate Hall's mastery of plot and characterization in more conventional fictive modes. The sly hipness of the quasi-autobiographical narrators is basically the same in these pieces as in the later book and it's definitely very much worth reading as that one was.
Mar 16, 2010 05:12AM
I found Blake Butler's novel in stories, Scorch Atlas, less successful artistically than his other book, Ever. There are several quite brilliant sections ("The Gown From Mother's Stomach" and "The Ruined Child" for example) but there are several long stretches of writing that seemed too much to be striving to reformulate the style and ideas of the later works of Beckett (The Unnamable, How it Is and the Nohow On triolgy). Perhaps Scorch Atlas represents a young writer not yet fully emerged from the shadow of his influences though I'm just assuming the fictions in this book predate the maturer and more original work of Ever, a book that does indeed bode well for Butler's future .
This upcoming release looks very promising indeed! Here's the blurb from the New Directions website:
The Microscripts by Robert Walser (May) Robert Walser wrote many of his manuscripts in a highly enigmatic, shrunken-down form. These narrow strips of paper (many of them written during his hospitalization in the Waldau sanatorium) covered with tiny ant-like markings only a millimeter or two high, came to light only after the author’s death in 1956. At first considered a secret code, the microscripts were eventually discovered to be a radically miniaturized form of a German script: a whole story could fit on the back of a business card. Selected from the six-volume German transcriptions from the original microscripts, these 25 short pieces are gathered in this gorgeously illustrated co-publication with the Christine Burgin Gallery. each microscript is reproduced in full color in its original form: the detached cover of a trashy crime novel, a disappointing letter, a receipt of payment.
Vera and Linus, a flash/microfiction collaboration between Jesse Ball and his wife, the Icelandic poet Thordis Bjornsdottir, was a pure pleasure to read. The stories mix the whimsy and cuteness of children's fairy tales with scenes of matter of fact sadistic mayhem in some highly creative and delightful ways. An added plus is the beautiful look and feel of the book itself. Recommended!
Mar 11, 2010 02:58AM
Just finished Owen Egerton's story collection How Best to Avoid Dying and overall enjoyed it quite a bit. Some of the pieces were somewhat forced for effect and lacking in subtlty but Egerton relies on his very well developed imagination to make up for such failings in many others of these. 3.5/5 stars
Talk Poetry by Irish ex-pat Mairead Byrne is full of wry and cracked observations of the quotidian rather in the manner of stand-up comedy but delineated with the eye and ear of the poet. The book is great fun. P.S.--I recommend reading out loud.
Mar 03, 2010 11:43PM
Read another chapbook of finely crafted flash fiction, The Land of the Free, by Geoffrey Forsyth. Fairly mainstream in style but I like the understatement and subtlty. Well worth seeking out from the good folks at Rose Metal Press.
With Joseph Young's Easter Rabbit I've learned that when a writer of fiction distills, omits and pares down his subject to the extent and in the manner of the microfictions in this collection, the mind of the reader becomes a much more active participant in the creative process. I found my imagination working to flesh out the wisps of narrative in an effort to understand what I was reading. And furthermore, I found this phenomenon to be very intellectually stimulating. Of course the similarity of what Young is doing to what a poet does is undeniable and he does it extremely well whatever label you put on it. These are highly intriguing and often strikingly beautiful miniatures. Highly recommended
My overall reaction to Greg Gerke's story collection, There's Something Wrong With Sven, is mixed. On the one hand, there are quite a few fictions here which are completely engaging and wittily entertaining and on the other hand there are quite of few which left me disappointed or just baffled. There is certainly an eclecticism in his writing which, in itself, is not a bad thing and I don't think the variety of modes he chooses accounts for the hit and miss quality of the pieces in the book. But the best stories here (e.g., "This is Where We Keep Vivaldi's Body" and "Laws of the American Middle West") show a terrific flair for absurdist irony and satire which reminded me at times of Barthelme at his best. Gerke's efforts are not helped by an unusually large number of printing errors such as ommitted words, etc., especially noticable in the first half of the book. 3/5 stars.
March 1, 2010 05:59AM
One Damn Thing After Another by Tim Hall: wickedly funny stories here. Hall engages in some of the best absurdist satire I've read in quite a while. The writing is brash, arrogant, clever and literarily well crafted. On the edge of being 5 stars. I'll definitely be looking for more by this author.