Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Strange Behaviors: An Anthology of Absolute Luridity OUT NOW

Last year, I sat down late one night after I'd been drinking. I banged out a piece that was dark, surreal, and violent. To top it off, it was a one act play. I filed it away as something I figured would remain unpublished. Then a small, relatively new press named NihilismRevised put out a call for an anthology. They were looking just for the kind of thing like that play. I sent them the piece, and they accepted.

I'm sharing this anthology with some other great authors like Jordan Krall and Michael Faun, and I'm very excited for it.

There's a limited edition of only 100 and a regular edition. Links to them both are below.

If you pick it up, I hope you enjoy reading it!

I'll have another big announcement coming soon, so stay tuned.


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Brief Thoughts 24

A Fan's Notes by Frederick Exley

This "fictional memoir" follows Frederick Exley through his various jobs, his struggles with alcoholism, his romances, and his flailing attempts at becoming a writer.

The title is an interesting one. In the beginning of the book, Exley has what he believes to be a heart attack while watching a football game in a bar. In reality, it was simply an anxiety attack brought on by his excitement at watching the game. Football is a major part of Exley's life. He recounts how his father could have been a football star and his relationship with a couple players who went on to become professionals. Exley, of course, had no hope of becoming a football star himself.

Later in the book, as Exley is struggling to write a book, he gets drunk and picks a fight that leaves him bruised up. After this fight, he comes to realize that' he's lashing out in ways like this because he feels he'll never be a great writer and knows he'll never be a great football player. He feels that he'll be nothing more than a fan.

Now, in spite of that depressing arc, this is actually a very funny book. Much of the book involves Exely's misadventures with various strange characters. Of the most notable is when he meets Mr. Blue, an eccentric old salesman obsessed with cunnilingus, and Paddy the Duke, a fellow mental hospital patient who pisses off everyone in the ward by beating them all at table tennis.

I think it's safe to say Exley became more than just a fan with this book and created a great piece of literature himself. Highly recommended.

Buy A Fan's Notes by Frederick Exely here. 

A Man for the Asking by Catherine Breillat

Catherine Breillat is most known as a French director of controversial and provocative films, but she's also a novelist and many of her books have been made into films, most directed by herself. A Man for the Asking was her first book, written she was only 16 and published when she was 17. Despite that, its graphic content made the French government restrict sales to anyone under the age of 18.

The story is pretty simple, a promiscuous man called D.P. tries to seduce a woman called L., but L. is (possibly) a virgin and doesn't want to have sex with D.P. unless he devotes himself entirely to her. The book isn't really driven by its story, its written in a very stream-of-consciousness manner and as is driven more by poetry, mood, and imagery.

There are several times where I could certainly tell a 16 year old wrote this. There are many attempts at being poetic that just come across as goofy. Using the phrase "gold in them thar hills" in reference to L.'s thighs strikes me as the most egregious. Then there's the fact that ending has D.P. committing seppuku with his own penis, pulling out his heart, and stuffing it in L.'s vagina. It's clearly trying to say something about sacrificing oneself for love but it just comes across as pretentious and silly.

There are also moments of wordplay which probably worked better in French, such as "cuntdown," "Penix rises from the ashes," and "pussy willyous." I want to blame a big part of why the book reads so ridiculously on the translation, but based on some French reviews I found, it isn't a well-remembered book in the original language either.

There are moments of brilliance here and some indications of Breillat's talent. A moment where D.P. envisions L. as a creature with several teats that he suckles from was actually striking instead of goofy. It's a shame this Oedipal image isn't fully explored. It's clear some humor was intended in many parts, like when D.P. trades double entendres with a mistress. I also found it entertaining enough that I got through it relatively quickly despite the dense style. But while this book is aspiring to be Story of the Eye, the aura of juvenilia still surrounds it. Breillat would go on to explore the themes of love and sex much better in her later work.

There was also apparently a film made based on the book. However, it was buried when the producer went bankrupt. That's a bit of a shame. I'm actually curious to what route was gone to translate this to the screen. 

I only really recommend this if you're already a huge fan of Catherine Breillat, or if you're really into weird French literature.

Buy A Man for the Asking by Catherine Breillat here.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Top Five Reviewed and Non-Reviewed Reads of 2017

Normally, I do a top ten of the books I read at the end of each year. This year, however, I read far more books than I have in past years. Because of that, I've decided to do two top fives instead, one of the books I didn't do a full review of and one of the ones I did. Keep in mind, "full" reviews, if I did a Brief Thoughts on it or discussed it in my 31 Horror Book Challenge, I'm counting it as a non-reviewed one.

That may seem like an odd distinction, however, I go into books I plan on doing reviews on with a different mindset than books I read just for pleasure. So the division makes perfect sense in my mind.

Let's get into the books.

Non-Reviewed

5. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Part campus novel, part noir story. It took me some time to really get into this book, but once I did, I absolutely loved it.

4. Angel Dust Apocalypse by Jeremy Robert Johnson

A mix of bizarro, crime, and experimental fiction that moves through each genre flawlessly. This is easily one of the best short story collections I've ever read.

3. Songs in the Key of Z: The Curious Universe of Outsider Music by Irwin Chusid 

An entertaining encyclopedia of some of the weirdest music and the people who make it. 

2. Savage Night by Jim Thompson

Like Thompson's The Killer Inside Me, this book deals with repression in mid-20th century America in the guise of a pulp crime story. This has one of the most baffling, but beautifully terrifying endings I've read in a novel. 

1. No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai

This book is up there with Camus's The Stranger and Houellebecq's Whatever as one of the best existential works I've ever read. An incredible and painful work of genius.

Non-Reviewed Honorable Mentions 

- White Jazz by James Ellroy
I Am Suicide by Philip LoPresti
The Impossible by Georges Bataille

Reviewed

5. What We Build Upon the Ruins by Giano Cromley

Another short story collection up there with the best I've ever read. Sad stories about building upon a past that can never be revived. (Full review)

4. In the Woods of Memory by Shun Medoruma 

The first English translation of the Okinawan author. It's an amazing examination of how tragedy lingers with the people it directly affects and those around it. (Full review)

3. Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix 

An excellent and informative look at the books from the horror fiction boom from the 70s and the 80s. This book is a horror fan's dream. (Full review)

2. Hell Hound by Ken Greenhall

Existential horror from the 1970s that I'm thankful is back in print. (Full review in print

1. ANSWER Me! All Four Issues, edited by Jim and Debbie Goad

All four issues of the most offensive zine ever created in one volume. An absolutely essential read. (Full review)

Reviewed Honorable Mentions 

- Cartoons in the Suicide Forest by Leza Cantoral (Full review)
- Liquid Status by Bradley Sands (Full review)
- Sorry, Wrong Country by Konstantine Paradias (Full review)