Friday, May 25, 2012

Zone One by Colson Whitehead

Zone One
by Colson Whitehead

I think I might have accidentally insulted Colson Whitehead when I met him at this year's Get Lit! Festival in Spokane. After his reading/Q&A with Jess Walter at the Bing Crosby Theater, I got in line to have books signed. The only "book" of Whitehead's I had was actually the second issue of Electric Literature, in which he has the story "The Comedian." (More about that when I properly talk about the whole collection in another review.)

I said, "I have this, but I haven't read Zone One yet." He started to flip through the book to find his title page. I continued, "I wanted to, but that library always has it checked out."

"Oh," he said, somewhat surprised, "well, when you do, I hope you like it."

"Yeah, thanks." I took my book and fought the urge to say, "I don't mean I think it isn't worth buying! It's just that I've been trying not to buy so many books when I'm broke to begin with."

But I didn't. I took my book and my now-signed Financial Lives of Poets from Jess Walter, and I tried to assume that everyone thinks they sound more awkward than they actually are.

What I meant was: "Hey! Your book is really popular at my library. That's pretty cool."

But see, now I've got writer guilt because I loved Zone One, and now I want to support the cause. Now I'm thinking, "Well, maybe next time I've amassed Powell's credit..." Most of all, I'm thinking that I'm rather lucky that through this book reviewing gig, I've become familiar with so many great writers, and that the the rabbit hole nature of the internet, while most of the time a vehicle for procrastination, is still so beneficial. Especially for a person who spends a lot of time "resting."

(Total parenthetical side note: A woman in her 40s had Jess Walter sign her forearm and confessed to me, while we were in line, that she would totally leave her husband for him. I didn't really know what to say to her, but it's true that Jess Walter and Colson Whitehead are both good-looking men. I mean, let's be honest.)

Right. Back to the literature at hand. Yes, Zone One is an outstanding book. I've seen it referenced to as the "literary zombie novel," which isn't inaccurate, but it's also about loss, the reassessment of priorities, methods of survival both psychological and physical, and that American dichotomy of cynicism and market-tested hope.

Also, nowhere in the book does the word "zombie" appear. They have more utilitarian, enforcement-parlance names: skels and stragglers. This is neither George Romero nor 28 Days territory, and it's definitely not Shaun of the Dead. It's true that most of our cultural touchstones for "zombie apocalypse" are cinematic, but that's perhaps because of the longstanding assumption that anything remotely "horror" is relegated to pulp/mass market or the domain of Stephen King. Snobbery says those types of books are not "serious" literature. Lines are mentally drawn and suddenly it seems noteworthy that a "serious" writer like Colson Whitehead would have a "hybrid" novel, as though themes of loneliness and grieving have no place in a world where people lose everything. That people find it unusual speaks more about the audience than the writer. Genres are for marketing. Writers want to tell a great story.

They were your standard issue skels, and then there were the stragglers. Most skels, they moved. They came to eat you — not all of you, but a nice chomp here or there, enough to pass on the plague. Cut off their feet, chop off their legs, and they'd gnash the air as they heaved themselves forward by their splintered fingernails, looking for some ankle action. The marines had eliminated most of this variety before the sweepers arrived.

The stragglers, on the other hand, did not move, and that's what made them a suitable objective for civilian units. They were a succession of imponderable tableaux, the malfunctioning stragglers and the places they chose to haunt throughout the Zone and beyond. An army of mannequins, limbs adjusted by an inscrutable hand. The former shrink, plague-blind, sat in her requisite lounge chair, feet up on the ottoman, blank attentive face waiting for the patient who was late, ever late, and unpacking the reasons for this would consume a large portion of a session that would never occur.

Mark Spitz is one of the civilians on Zone One patrol. He and his sweeper teammates, Gary and Kaitlyn, are to canvass lower Manhattan, building by building, room by room, checking for these frozen stragglers. They shoot them, bag them, and leave the bodies (or what remains of them) on the street for the disposal crews. They have to remain vigilant, but vestiges of the former world slip through into idle conversation. Gary talks about his island plans for when the job is done, and Kaitlyn reminisces about old parties and her family. Mark Spitz doesn't volunteer much of anything, but everyone has a story of what happened "Last Night." Whether you get the silhouette, the anecdote, or the obituary depends on how long you will travel together and whether or not you seem deserving of the details.

Although the adjectives tended to be neutral in later retellings, the obituary was the sacred in its current guise. The listener usually responded in kind, unless revisiting that longest of nights dispatched them into a fugue, which happened occasionally. They'd spent some time together. This might be the final human being they'd see before they died. Both speaker and listener, sharer and receiver, wanted to be remembered. The obit got it all down for some calm, distant day when you were long disappeared and a stranger took the time to say your name.

I saw a review recently where the reader complained that they wanted more nightmare-fuel from Zone One, that the contents of the book weren't scary enough. The thing is, this story takes place years after the "main event." This isn't a "What's happening? Where do we run?" story. The worldwide epidemic has already happened. Television, the "cloud" and the mobile service are only memories. Phones have barely made a comeback in limited areas. Same with electricity. Batteries and juice boxes act as currency. Though skels are still out there, some fenced-in camps exist with names like "Happy Acres," and society is trying to recover in the little ways it can. A set of natural triplets born after Last Night have become a source of hope for many. This isn't a story about shock and initial adrenaline; it's day-to-day survival.

Most of the remaining humans have PASD — Post Apocalyptic Stress Disorder, since "trauma" is likely an inadequate word to describe what happened. It manifests in different ways. Gary speaks in the first person plural, as though he is still speaking on behalf of himself and his brothers. Kaitlyn is always chatting and has become a stickler for the rules. Mark Spitz is anxious and wired at night, and everywhere he goes, he sees ash. It doesn't matter if the incinerators packed with skel and straggler bodies is running — to him, it's snowing with their remains all the time. He can taste it. Other people have taken to optimism and what's been coined by some as "the American Phoenix," and by others, "that pheenie bullshit." Everyone tries to cope.

What's especially great about how Whitehead tells this story is that he keeps the scope limited. We don't know everything as readers because it would be near-impossible for anyone in that world, even at the makeshift government in Buffalo, to have all the information. We are confined to Mark Spitz's point of view, both in the Zone and how he got there. Everything else is rumor or a story revised and perfected over the last few years. The wall surrounding the Zone causes the teams to feel even further removed from the world. To many, Buffalo might as well be myth.

This isn't all to say that nothing happens. Plenty does, and it isn't all idle chatter and survival stories. Colson Whitehead has written a fantastic, expertly-written story that occurs over just three days, and I think it's worth reading more than once to really catch everything he has happening beneath the surface. I'm prone to apocalyptic dreams on my own without any encouragement, and so nightmare-fuel is not my benchmark for success. If I'd read Zone One by this past April, I would have been able to tell him that it's one of the best books I've read so far this year. If you haven't already, do seek this one out.

Yes, I did eventually check out this book at my local library. Support yours.


This review is part of Pajiba's Cannonball Read, in which participants aim to read and review 13, 26, or 52 books in one year. The count ends December 31, 2012.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

It Chooses You by Miranda July

It Chooses You
by Miranda July with photographs by Brigitte Sire

For once, I'm reviewing the most recent book I've read. My reading has far, far outpaced my review-writing the past few months, but this is a library book. External deadlines! That's what I need! To be honest, I picked up It Chooses You on a whim. It was around the corner from Colson Whitehead's Zone One, which I'd just plucked from the 'New Books' section. Though I remember getting an email from McSweeney's talking about the book's release last year, I had no idea what it was about, and I didn't even read the back of the book until I got it home and had already read twenty pages. Not to get too heavy-handed with the metaphor, but despite a stack of books at home, this book chose me.

"Oh, it's funny you brought that home," my husband said that evening. "I just heard her on NPR today, talking about this book. Sounds interesting." The fates had conspired, perhaps.

Previously, my knowledge of Miranda July was limited to watching Me, You, and Everyone We Know, which I liked well enough, and seeing a handful of online videos regarding her art projects. I haven't read any of her other books, though I faintly recall one of her short stories in the New Yorker. A friend of mine declared her, "one of my all-time favorite people," and I'd mentally filed her away as "someone I should investigate more, at some point." Being me, I tend to forget these things unless there's a physical or online note to remind me, and even then, sometimes I need those reminders to smack me upside the head. My brain ain't what it used to be.

So instead of doing all the good things I'd decided upon more recently — like better sleep, writing those ten reviews piling up, finally writing that story/essay/whatever, folding another load of laundry — I started this "meant to investigate" from years prior.

Or, as anyone who has tried to write anything recently knows, these are the places I set the stage for writing but instead looked up things online. Some of this could be justified because one of the characters in my screenplay was also trying to make something, a dance, but instead of dancing she looked up dances on YouTube. So, in a way, this procrastination was research. As if I didn't already know how it felt: like watching myself drift out to sea, too captivated by the waves to call for help. I was jealous of older writers who had gotten more of a toehold on their discipline before the web came. I had gotten to write only one script and one book before this happened.

I used to write more of everything when I was living in the boonies and forced to use dial-up.

Having reached a "stuck" point in her screenplay, The Future, July distracted herself by reading the PennySaver. She didn't really want return to her script, or to mindlessly wander the internet that day, so she decided to call the number listed with a leather jacket for sale. "The implied rule of the classifieds is you call the phone number only to talk about the item for sale," she says. "But the other rule, always, is that this is a free country, and I was trying hard to feel my freedom. This might be my only chance to feel free all day."

Armed with snacks, a tape recorder, and fifty dollars to pay the person for the interview, she set out with a photographer, Brigitte, and her assistant, Alfred. She wanted to know more about the people behind these ads — their hopes, their fears, how they got through their days. Her very first interview was with Michael:

[…] a man in his late sixties, burly, broad-shouldered, a bulbous nose, a magenta blouse, boobs, pink lipstick. Before he opened the door completely he quietly stated that he was going through a gender transformation. That's great, I said, and he asked us to please come in. […] I glanced at my questions, but now they seemed beside the point.

Each interview is accompanied with a portrait of the person and a photo of the item being sold, along with a few other environmental shots — calendars, pets, bedrooms. Without the photos, I think the interview transcripts would lack a certain poignancy. Not everyone is such a surprise "reveal" like Michael, but everyone has a very distinct story. There's the 17-year-old kid, Andrew, who sells bullfrog tadpoles and wonders what college will be like. There's the well-off Indian woman, Primila, who sells handmade outfits from India to help with building an irrigation system in one of the villages. Dina is a woman with magenta eyebrows and multiple piercings, selling an old Conair hairdryer for $5. "The thing is, I love decoration. I like art," she says about her distinctive style. "So why not?"

I clicked through all the pictures Brigitte had taken so far. What was I looking for? I supposed I was looking for calendars. And there they were. Everyone had them, and they were all hardworking calendars. They seemed weirdly compulsive for a moment, as if I'd stumbled on a group of calendar fanatics, and then I remembered that we all used to have these, until very, very recently. We all laid our intricately handwritten lives across the grid and then put it on the wall for everyone to see. For a split second I could feel the way things were, the way time used to feel, before computers.

It's not that July is going on an anti-tech fast by interviewing these people who predominantly do not use computers, or by avoiding her own computer — it's more that she realized how quickly the way we live changes. And since she's always interested in how people get through their day, the differences and changes are worth noting. She is interested in how people connect.

Eventually, the interviews bring her back to thinking about The Future, and what she should do with the one character that gave her trouble. I won't spoil it, but it's lovely.

Really, It Chooses You was a great surprise, and I loved reading it. Its sincerity snuck up on me and reminded me of my own way of speaking to people. Frequently do I say I want to know the stories behind people, creators of art and otherwise, and I love how July puts herself into her projects because not doing so would be dishonest. Of course she's invested — this is how she lives her life, in the orbit of the day-to-day with other people. We are all in this together, after all.

More than once, I have had people tell me — particularly the menfolk — that I get them to talk. That they are not usually in the habit of discussing their lives, their concerns, their interests. "Why do you want to know?" they ask. "What does it matter?" Because I'm curious, I say. Because I find you interesting. Because I like knowing what led people to where they are now, all those great stories, the hidden and the perfected. Give me an anecdote or a confession. Give me all the rest of that good stuff. Be forewarned though, like July, I will likely end up writing about you. Your name may not be in the text itself, but you'll be there, your words floating in and out, shining up the place. It's not about making you uncomfortable; it's about you knowing that you are worth hearing.


This review is part of Pajiba's Cannonball Read, in which participants aim to read and review 13, 26 or 52 books within one year.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Internal News as of 5-22-12

Slightly overdue roundup of where I've been writing elsewhere lately.

At Persephone, we have 2 installments of Alphabet Soup: The Letter B and The Letter C. Featuring usual suspects Bush and Oasis, as well as Fleetwood Mac, Dum Dum Girls, Echo and The Bunnymen, David Bowie, Tori Amos, Pretenders, The Breeders and, yes, more.

Also at P-Mag, the following food posts: Quinoa Mac & Cheese and Red Lentils, Kale and Rice. Apparently I'm on a vegetarian theme lately.

ALSOx2, I talk a little bit about the good fun that is Fright Night. The one with Colin Farrell and David Tennant, of course.

This week's Word Riot Notes From Elsewhere has oodles of good stuff. There are some short stories to peruse, tips on writing, a comic for Maurice Sendak, and some cool bookmarks of the literal kind, not the online kind. Enjoy.

(Edited 5/23 to actually have the link for Notes From Elsewhere this time. Sorry!)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Into This World by Sybil Baker

Into This World
by Sybil Baker

The crux of Sybil Baker's Into This World comes in the very first line: "You're giving up stability for the unknown." The speaker, in this case, is Allison Morehouse's father, Wayne. Allison has just informed her parents that she's quit her longtime job, for reasons she is not completely sharing, and her "do-the-right-thing" father cannot wrap his head around it. A Korean war veteran, he has favored a steady paycheck and benefits, and in ways that we will soon discover, this often comes at the expense of his heart. Before they can finish this conversation, however, they are interrupted by a frantic phone call from Allison's sister, Mina. Though she does not tell her sister exactly what she's upset about, she says of their father, "He lies."

Allison decides, especially in the absence of a job and her former marriage, to go visit Mina, who has been living in Korea and teaching. Their parents hope that Allison will convince Mina to move back "home," but Allison's not entirely sure that's why she's going. All she knows is that there is a tremendous absence in her heart, and by staying where she was, she had no hope in filling it.

After the kids finished the song, Jason opened the door to the classroom. Mina greeted them in an exaggerated, dramatic voice.

"We have a surprise today. My sister flew all the way from Washington, DC." The children whispered and giggled as they turned to Allison, who stood at the entrance of the classroom.

She'd not been prepared for the little Minas chiming hello at her.

"She's not your sister," one of the children said. "You're Korean. She's American."

"She is my sister. I'm adopted." Mina then said a word Allison assumed was Korean and the students murmured again. "English," Mina said. "Show my sister your English."

"How long you visit Korea?"

"One month."

"Do you marry?"

"Not anymore."

Mina came to live with the Morehouses when she was a toddler and Allison was not much older. At first, Mina tried desperately to interact with her new sister, and Allison would hide in her room. Eventually, Mina quit trying, and all the way through adulthood, the sisters have a tenuous relationship. They never really seem to understand each other, and up until Allison's trip to Korea, they haven't really tried. What ensues is a mixture of familial revelations and a long, hard look at the difference between good connections versus "good for you" connections. How does one have them overlap? And what does duty mean in the face of love? The story flashes back some to Wayne Morehouse's two tours of duty in Korea, and while we spend a lot of time in Allison's head, we eventually see events from Mina's point of view.

Though some of the "lies" are easy to spot about midway through the book, as there's some (perhaps intentional) heavy foreshadowing, Baker writes in a way that still kept me second-guessing my assumptions, and there are still a few elements surrounding the truth-telling that I did not see coming at all. It's a lovely book, and she does not let her characters get overly sentimental or romanticize their surroundings. Both Wayne and Mina have their own complicated feelings about Korea. Allison doesn't know what to expect, apart from what she has heard from her father, which is to say, the Korea of decades prior. Like everything, the country has changed. There's much to do with marriage, parenthood, sisterhood and friendship, as well as alienation and loneliness. Everyone has their armor, and everyone has the stories they hope they never have to tell.

He was pleased with his plan and proud of his willpower. While his buddies were fucking not just their yobosayos but any other thing they felt like, night after night, bragging of their conquests, Wayne had still done nothing but attend skivvy shows. Worse, he thought, the guys lied to themselves, pretending that the Korean girls liked what they were doing, wanted to be with them, that money was not exchanging hands, that these women were here not out of abject necessity, but because they, like the soldiers, liked having a good time. Some of the guys pretended the yobosayos were like real girlfriends, pretty sweet girls who fawned over their pasty asses, girls who cared not in the least about marriage or a green card, girls who were not desperate to escape. At least Wayne knew where he and Bonnie stood, that she loved him not for looks or money, but because they'd come from the same place and were meant to be together. It was as simple and complex as that.

"As simple and complex as that" — Yes. I read Into This World very quickly, staying up entirely too late one night (more so than usual) because I was sucked into the story. If we had to winnow down our criteria for what makes a good book, I bet that would be at the top of the list: 3am reading. I'm glad I spent the time, and I can understand the urge to recreate one's world. The characters here fluctuate between using that change for betterment and for escape, and their methods aren't always likeable, but they come from a place of personal truth.

ETA: This book does not officially come out until May 22nd. GoodReads is currently giving away 5 copies, so you have until the 24th to throw your hat into the ring.

Full Disclosure: Engine Books sent me this advanced reader's copy, so there's always a chance that the finished product and my pull-quotes do not 100% match. I thank EB for the gesture, and I will continue to be fair in my reviews.


This review is part of Pajiba's Cannonball Read, in which participants aim to read and review 13, 26, or 52 books in one year. The count ends December 31, 2012.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Internal News as of 5-12-12

May 12 is Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Awareness Day. Combine an awful flu with a hangover, subtract the puking, and you'll get a bit of an idea of what my bad days are like. Read more about my experiences and a more detailed list of symptoms in my review of Toni Bernard's book How to Be Sick.

Longtime readers of this site may remember my Alphabet Soup project from 2008 -- a year I can't believe was four years ago already. In it, I talked about my 5 favorite songs for each letter of the alphabet. I've always felt like there were things I'd missed and that I could to do a better job with the project, so I'm pleased to say it's been revived! Head on over to Persephone Magazine for the first installment, The Letter A. Each new letter installment will appear on Tuesdays.

Also at P-Mag, I talk a little bit about watching Luther.

Over at Word Riot, my weekly Notes From Elsewhere covers all kinds of goodies, from interviews with Grace Paley and Rick Moody, to bookshelf ogling, to Japanese moveable type, to literary cocktails. Plus a bunch of other stuff. Go take a look-see.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to make myself clean the kitchen before I work on another book review.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Playground Swings and Yearning by Jeffrey Scolley

Playground Swings and Yearning
by Jeffrey Scolley

Periodically, I end up in a position to review a book, an album, or something similar from someone I personally know. With Electric City Creative, this obviously happens more often. Great Falls is only so large, and the magazine focuses primarily on local arts and culture. When it comes to people I know who have written books, especially ones who live in the same city, the pool is considerably smaller than that of the musicians and visual artists. So I like to support the cause. Given that more people read this site than read my magazine (let's be real), and given that now I obsessively feel the need to review every book I read (no matter how much my reading outpaces the reviewing), I want to promote my friends.

It's only as I open the book for the first time that it really sinks in — What do I say if I don't like it?

My husband teases me a bit and says I may be a hard-ass editor on people I don't know (or don't know well), but with people I do, I'm a forgiving softie. He's not entirely wrong. I still feel like a bit of a jerk for criticizing certain elements of Jamie Ford's Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet because, as honest as I was being, I've now spent time in the man's house. I start thinking, "Was I too harsh?"

I know that's not how reviews are supposed to work, but think about it — You want to cheer on your home team, even if you are less than thrilled with specific elements. Finding the best way to say that can be challenging.

So when Jeff Scolley tells me, shortly after I bought his Playground Swings and Yearning, "I want to know what sucks," I'm going to have to hope he meant what he said.

Your book does not suck.
But please,
Next time,
Do Not Center Align Your Poems.

Also, it's probably not a good idea to say, "I don't like reading" on the back of your … book. Especially since I have evidence that's not entirely true.

Since the book is self-published through POD printer Xlibris, Scolley's lack of design experience shows. The cover and inside pages needed someone to come in and make it a prettier package, and of course we'd like to say that it shouldn't matter, that it's the writing that counts, but layout is still important. I wanted to be able to read in a way that made Scolley's voice echo in my ears.

Because I know him, I know he's a performance poet and an actor first. Having grown up in New Jersey and later having lived in NYC, he is no stranger to slam poetry competitions, and he does well. He's a born performer — good-looking, emotional where it counts and committed.

You want to watch him, to soak in what he has to say and feel it right along with him. Without actually hearing him say the words, this book doesn't quite do him justice. Some of these poems' natural habitat is not on the page, and because of that, the collection is made weaker.

Because there are 13 knots up the side of my spine
and I'm getting tired of fighting this lumpy throat condition.
Your name doesn't taste good any more,
coming back up,
but for some reason I'm vomiting
"I miss you" in puppy dog eyes and heavy shoulders,
hoping you'll have pity on me
and take me back to your spiderweb.

--"November 27 12:41 am"
(Not centered because this isn't my 1997 Angelfire site.)

He's since talked about why the reason many of his poems have timestamps for titles is that he wrote them on his phone, and that's how the notes were saved. I understand wanting to preserve the moment, but those time stamps mean nothing to the reader, except to tell us that he often writes poetry late at night. Give them titles. They need real titles.

The oft-heard phrase "puppy dog eyes" might seem like nothing much in reading it, but I know if I were to hear him on stage, everyone listening would be like, "Damn, man, how dare that girl break your heart."

One of the poems that works better on the page does have a title, but it doesn't quite feel like the right one — "My Pants are My Hiding Place." The experiences described are those that occur out of one's pants — first physicals, masturbation, sex with fair-weather friends, with an older girlfriend. It is all about honest discovery and the loneliness that follows. Even if "My pants are my hiding place" is the first line, the pants are really beside the point. Here is where we get to the meat of everything Scolley writes:

I have plenty of secrets and
many parts of me are still a mystery to myself.
Sometimes I think that even my fingers are coated
in the skin of another lover and I can't feel who I fall in love with.
I fall in love too often and
I can't feel it at times.
I tell myself I have a shield on my heart.
It doesn't work.

Scolley writes as a hopeless romantic who is still trying to figure out what he wants, and he desperately would like a woman there to hold while he does. A woman who, just maybe, might turn out to have desires complementary to his own. Love, lust and loneliness — he's got it bad, all right. At some time or another, we all know from where he speaks.

No, I don't think a traditional book is his best medium. Scolley needs a recording — audio or video — to really present his work in the best way. Sure, make a book as liner notes, an accompaniment, but no matter what, Get An Editor. Playground Swings and Yearning has some gems, but the whole package feels like everything remotely useable was thrown in, rather than the best material only. Judging by the newer stuff I've seen him perform, I know he's grown as a writer. He is better than what I read. That is certainly not say that what I read was bad, but it needed more work. I wanted it to be outstanding, rather than a "good enough" introduction.

If I had to pick a favorite title though, it's easily "When I Cry, I am Almost Always Standing Up." Hell yes. Tell me more.

How there's never enough time between
"I love you,"
and hanging up the phone
without thinking you did it wrong.

I'm not sure if the "you" is referring to himself or the girl, but the majority of the poems deal with a girl he already seems to know is slipping away. All the I Miss Yous in the world, all the hot late-night phone calls and "teasing temptations" are not going to save them once the physical distance becomes more permanent. Maybe I have an unfair advantage because I know a little bit about how the story ends past the last page, but in between the lines of what's written, it's there, and he is hoping so hard it will disappear. Do not leave me all alone, these poems say. I cannot yet bear to be alone.

There will be other women. Every person who makes Scolley's heart sing will be written about — the poetic and romantic parts of his being will compel him to do so, even if that other person is a stopgap to stave off facing the silence.

Chronic loneliness, it always interests me, and I want to see him explore it more, but I want him to do it better. I want the poems to have learned something from what came before, even if the future seems like madness.

If I'm prone to forgiveness when it comes to the people I know, fine. That's the way it should be, I think. I want to be won over, and at times, I've been just as much of a crazy lovestruck fool as the man speaking in these poems. And I understand the difference between a "voice," a point-of-view, and the living person who created them. I have written and erased and written again my stories of undoing, the things I wish I'd said, and the moments where all I want to do is lay in bed next to someone I love and let the world spin outside our door. I understand.

When we write about our most personal moments, we are changed by having documented them. Every completed work is a new evolution — or maybe even revolution — and Playground Swings and Yearning is step in that process. I know Jeff Scolley's best work is yet to come, and I can't wait to find out what that is.

Still, this? This is pretty fantastic:

Full Disclosure: I bought this book with my own fool money at Hastings. Because when your friend puts out a book, you buy it.


This review is part of Pajiba's Cannonball Read, in which participants aim to read and review 13, 26 or 52 books within one year.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Internal News as of 5-4-12:

This week, I had 2 book reviews appear over on Persephone Magazine: The Recipe Project by One Ring Zero and others, and The Marbled Swarm by Dennis Cooper. The Recipe Project is a fun hybrid of food and music, featuring interviews with notable chefs and recipes put to song. The Marbled Swarm is a rather strange novel that I described as a combination of "Lolita and Eyes Wide Shut, and then added cannibalism and a dollop of Hostel." Yeah. It's an "experience."
In this week's Notes from Elsewhere at Word Riot, I have a somewhat shorter link roundup, but it includes some great interviews, a shout-out to a Great Falls writing group, and pours one out for Adam Yauch.

Hope you enjoy. I've got another book review in the cooker for here, so you'll be seeing it soon. Until then...