Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

books of the year: non-fiction

John Clute - Canary Fever

Paul Cronin - Herzog on Herzog

Gary K Wolfe - Bearings

books of the year: poetry

Richard Wilbur - Anterooms

I'm cheating now: it's the only poetry book I've read this year but it's a great book.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Koko Be Good

Jen Wang
Koko Be Good

First Second Books, 2010

In the center of this graphic novel are the three heroes. Jon Wilgur graduated from university, learns Spanish and plans to leave to Peru to his much older girlfriend to help orphans there. Koko is a reckless girl, with a head full of confusion and vacillation. She lives here and there and could not find a place in her life. The third character, Faron, is a loser who works in the cafe. At a party Koko makes scandal, robs her rivals, and then runs away, taking Jon’s recorder: it has message his girlfriend dictated to him. Jon and Koko unexpectedly meet in a cafe and he asks to give him what belongs to him. They start friendship, and Koko decides to start a new life and be good.

The book is much more interesting in watching images rather than follow for the plot. All three characters are so doubtful people think that you may choose any of them, but you hardly succeed to empathize with him. Koko’s path from roguish and brutal girl to good girl, helping the needy, is too tortuous to believe that Koko really wants to be good. In general the whole story, with all three storylines, is rather undistinguished to make the paper in that condition.

What a truly «good» in this novel, is that's how Jen Wang draws. She knows how to perfectly play the scene, where to show the hero in close-up, and the pages where the characters do not say anything even seem to be fragments of almost perfect comic book. Selected by the author, brown and green colors are successfully combined with the general mood of the novel: the sadness and doubt.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Stars in the Bright Sky

Alan Warner
The Stars in the Bright Sky

Jonathan Cape, 2010

In the summer of 2001 six young women are going to travel. Five of them are from Scotland, and the daughter of wealthy parents Ava is English. Where do they fly, the girls do not yet know themselves: to save money, they want to book last-minute trip anywhere, just to relax. They stay overnight at the hotel at the airport, have plenty of drink and tell each other what has changed in their lives for a year, gossiping. Tickets are booked in the morning, but before the registration it becomes clear that most reckless of them, Manda, can not find her passport. The other girls at first don’t believe her, thinking that Manda just wants to be in the spotlight (and she always wants it), then decide to fly without her, or they would lose money, on which tickets had been bought, then suspect that one of them took Manda’s passport, while she slept – in one day she annoyed her friends so what they think vacation it will be unbearable with Manda - but in the end they all together refuse to flight, deciding to spend a couple of days in England, and when the passport is found, to buy tickets anywhere else.

Warner from the first page introduces the reader to confusion: he puts a reader that it will be a novel about how the six frivolous girls flew to distant lands, where they found adventure on their heads and other body parts, but no: the girls in the book fly nowhere, and all the action takes place exclusively at the airport, in hotels and in the park. The plot of the book plays a minor role (some reviewers were outraged that the action of the novel is almost absent, and the book is almost 400 pages): the main thing here is the dialogue. It's hard to believe, but the man managed to so significantly, so richly convey girlish talk that creeps into question: is the author a man for sure? Manda, stupid, ambitious, tough girl, has her mouth not shut throughout the novel (except for those moments when she is so drunk that she cuts down on the spot). She tells Ava, to which most of the girls from the company was not familiar with before (Ava and Finn, also a student, live together in one room), and along with everyone else, about her adventures, about which the whole town heard, about someone else's stupidity and her own resourcefulness.

«She says, It’s called Guinness. I go, Eh? She says that it’s called Guinness, and the street number is one thousand seven hundred and fifty nine. I says, Shelly McCrindle, you stupid fucking hoor. That’s just a sign outside the pub advertising that it sells Guinness, and one seven five nine is no the number of the street, it’s the year in all olden times and that, when Guinness was first ever invented or something like that, cos if you look over there on the beer pumps now, yous’ll see that number written. Anyone knows that. Seventeen fifty-nine. Dumb hoor.»

- this passage is a remarkable example of Manda’s speech. Dialogues are made so beautifully, so I think that I came into the room with these girls in. You do not notice book’s volume at all.

Dialogues are not the only hilarious component of the book, of course, and when Warner takes up the description, he writes caustic and amazingly accurate comparisons. «The Stars in the Bright Sky» is satire, but rather soft: on the modern manners of youth, the difference between the rich and the middle class, on the "world as an airport". Warner is not as simple as it may seem, he thumbs his nose behind back: the epigraph from Kafka, talks about philosophy, a quotation from Samuel Beckett as a tattoo on one of the girls.

In the words of Manda, this is brilliant book. It's gonna be a classic.

Long Time Dead

Tony Black
Long Time Dead

Preface Publishing, 2010

Alcoholic Gus Dury is back in business, though not in the best shape. At the beginning of the novel Dury is on a hospital bed: because of the endless consumption of alcohol his hands are trembling, and, worst of all, Dury begins hallucinating. The doctor strongly recommends the patient to refuse alcohol; otherwise a quick death waits Dury. Dury’s life is completely falling apart:, he finally broke up with his wife, he hasn’t any job, he really has nowhere to live, so if Durie will stop drink, it would be quite unbearable for him. His friend Hod is no better condition: his business has come to an end, and he still owes money to the local thug: the prospects of become dead are the same as that of Durie. Hod finds escape out of the situation: the movie star Gillian Laird’s son Ben found hanged, maybe it's not suicide, and Hod offers Gus take the case, ripped off the rich ladies hefty sum. Decently dressed, the two friends pay Laird a visit, and Dury’s ability to carry on a conversation in the most difficult circumstances brings them what they wanted: the actress hired them to investigate the death of her son. Ben Laird is far from an angel, how he is imagined by his mother: drug trafficking, the supply of interested students in prostitutes, excessive ambition. Dury has no time to even really take up the investigation, as he finds another hanged, Joe Calder, head of the form, where Ben Laird studied. And between these two deaths there is clearly a connection.

If the previous book Tony Black’s book about the Scottish detective-alcoholic Dury was quite unsuccessful, then this is the two heads above. Black removed from the «Long Time Black» everything that hindered the previous novel. Dury is the same sympathetic to the working class hater of the rich, with the same conservative lifestyle "before had been better," sharp-tongued (sentences in the book can be compared with sips of whiskey, as the same short and scorching) pushing forward, but with remnants of conscience. The most exact words about Dury says his mother, when comparing him with his father: «I know you have the same dark place inside of you, son ... but you have a better heart than him. Please, son ... try and listen to that heart of yours, and not the other place».

Dury in this novel is hardly a detective in the classic sense, he doesn’t solve the case, thinking only his head: how there is something would be solved if he is either drunk or with a hangover that could barely stand on his feet and spit blood.

Black in this book presented not only a detective intrigue, but, more importantly, the story of a man who is on the edge and have not given much thought, would he remain alive or not: all that he had he already lost.

This is a book that is worth a drink in one gulp.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Stripburger 53

Stripburger 53

Sometimes there are cases that one or other graphics work is well watching if it’s divided into separate images, which individually would be of some interest. But in the aggregate, as a single story, often such work does not make absolutely no impression. Lack of plot has a bad effect on the general message of the graphic stories. This will not name comics and the picture, too.

In "Stripburger", comics magazine, published in Slovenia, part of the works described above suffers from the disease. Each piece of the story of Alexandar Zograf is a good picture in an interesting black and white technique, but as a comic it does not work. The same can be said about Paul Ashley Brown, Coco (he has two stories on the Harms), Domen Finzgar. Maya Veselinovic’s «The Bridge Has to be Beautiful» seems to be a good story, with interesting style, but it is too much sentiment, dissolving all impression of the comic strip on an emotional level. In this issue two graphic stories truly stand out and are remembered. Alessandro Tota’s is about two friends who go to the store for beer and cigarettes, but when they pass one of the houses, they have noticed in one window a rope tied to the ceiling: someone is going to hang himself. It’s touching, simple-painted story about lightness of being. If Tota is realist, Spanish cartoonist Alberto Vasquez is a fantasist. The protagonist here is a shadow demon with a beak-nose. He robs the poor, eats the chicks from the nest, and hangs on tree the mice babies. Fairness, of course, will prevail in this wonderful story with an optimistic ending.

And yes, this magazine has an incredibly funny cover.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Richard Yates

Tao Lin
Richard Yates

Melville House, 2010

Two talk on Gmail chat. Her name is Dakota Fanning, his - Haley Joel Osment. Almost the entire novel is just written of their instant messaging. It would be very boring (what’s interesting in reading the log of someone's chat?) if it were not so strange.
At first, you think only the author calls two characters Dakota and Haley, their names are only in his narrative they are named after the actress and actor. But after the middle of the book appear episodes when Haley speaks to Dakota, respectively, calling her Dakota, and she calls him by name, Haley. Such method for the author, to make heroes of the novel two young people, but to give them names of actual celebrities, is a way to simultaneously show the syndrome of social networking (people hiding behind masks, in result then become themselves these masks), and a way to reset the structure of the novel, the attempt to find a new approach to an already bored forms.

Tao Lin generally spins the structure of the novel to the ground, and then collects it with only the necessary details. If this is not a dialogue in a chat, the author in describing actions of protagonists keeps to the most realistic and minimalist style.

«They walked a few minutes holding hands without talking then stopped. Haley Joel Osment gave Dakota Fanning the things he drew on the train. “Thank you,” said Dakota Fanning and gave Haley Joel Osment a bookmark she made that had octopi and squid on it. They walked across the steel bridge. They stopped at an intersection. They stood apart looking at the ground. Haley Joel Osment kicked things on the ground. There were pebbles and pieces of concrete.
“Where should we go?” said Dakota Fanning.
Haley Joel Osment was quiet a few seconds.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I thought we were going to the ledge.”
“Mosquitoes will bite me,” said Dakota Fanning.
“Let’s go to the ledge. I’ll cover your arms and legs.»
“Mosquitoes will bite me,” said Dakota Fanning.
“Mosquitoes go where there’s light. It’s dark there.”

However, what is this all about? Dakota Fanning, 16, lives with her mother, goes to school, in the beginning of the novel works at McDonalds. Haley Joel Osment is a writer who lives in New York, sometimes goes to book readings. Together with Dakota they go to shops, steal stuff out there, go to each other homes, have sex, ask Dakota’s mother to allow them to date, because Dakota is only 16, record songs for each other, in general, do everything that would do any other boy and girl of their age. This novel could easily be written (or couldn’t) by Richard Yates, if he lived in the era of Web 2.0 it and was able to use the Internet.

This book is best read in one sitting (it has only about 200 pages), otherwise it is difficult to adjust to each time to a peculiar style of Tao Lin. «Richard Yates» essentially has no beginning and no end, this is a fragment of life, a fragment of instant messaging, fragment is unremarkable, but how many in our lives there is remarkable at all?

Tao Lin wrote a very touching and very strange novel. For all its simplicity, it is also the book pretty difficult to read and even more difficult to interpret. Lin definitely said a new word in the literature.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Little Prince (graphic novel)

Joann Sfar
The Little Prince
Adapted from the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010

Full disclosure: I have not read «The Little Prince» by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

By and large it makes little sense to retell the plot of this book: those who wanted have read the book by Saint-Exupery long ago, and perfectly familiar with the plot, those who have not read, apparently, has never been interested in this book, and no longer interested. In short, the beginning of the story is about that: a military pilot whose plane breaks down makes the landing in the desert. The pilot smokes a cigarette, talking with the smoke from it in the form of a serpent, draws a hat, but insists that this is a snake swallowed an elephant. Then he repairs the plane, escapes from the sun in the shadow of an airplane wing, and at night sleeps there. In the middle of the night a boy with golden hair, huge blue eyes and long green scarf wakes up the pilot and asks the pilot who understands nothing to draw him a sheep.

Sfar in his adaptation uses the banned method: he often shows the little prince in close-up, so that in the page you see only huge blue eyes of the prince and stop paying attention to everything else. In them there are already gone childhood and childhood, which is always with you; thirst to know everything; understanding that there will be no better, but not worse, too; reflections of the non-existent worlds.
The Little Prince almost always looks at the sky, even if he looks at a drawing. When they with the pilot examine star map, the prince could not tell whence he came, he knows only that his planet is so small that it can not allow baobabs grow on it.
In space, there are flying ducks here, on planets there is enough space for only one person (of all episodic characters in this graphic novel the most memorable is the king with a long and strange-snag nose, he is very funny), the fox offers to be friends.

But we need to repair the plane and fly back to where there is not little prince, only soldiers, airplanes, adult life, but if today you are alone, it does not mean that tomorrow you will not meet the boy with the golden hair, who laughs and does not answer to questions. He just has not reached the Earth.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Richard Wilbur
Anterooms: New Poems and Translations

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010

To write poetry in rhymes in English, when it seems all possible prosody have been experienced in a few centuries, one must possess great courage: to save it only can a special feeling of words, even breathing, and your own voice. In his new book, Richard Wilbur, who will soon turn 90, has proved that he didn’t lose his flair for writing good poetry, because he has not lost his own voice in so many decades.

Despite his age, in Wilbur’s poems there hardly the theme of death sounds, only theme of the fragility of life. The poet, who had been at war, whose life had been filled with a lot of big events, is now turning his attention to small things, but not insignificant for him: a worm crawling on the window, the tops of trees, orchard. Small things and small distances which Wilbur measures the long life.

Whatever my kind may be,
It is not absurd
To confuse myself with a bird
For the space of a reverie:

My species never flew,
But I somehow know
It is something that long ago
I almost adapted to.

Wilbur has shortness of breath; all his poems are often stretched for more than one page. Lines end at expiration, so that each poem ends with a whisper. In «Psalm» and «Trismegistus» the poet turns to God, trying to understand what his life was.

Shingles rhyme prevails in Wilbur’s verses, like a way to show: there is a beginning, birth, and the end, death, and life, then, indeed, is in the middle.
Among the translations «Thirty-seven Riddles from Symphosius» stands out, sly look at ordinary things.

Do not stop in the anteroom, come further.

n+1 magazine (number nine)

n+1 #9 Spring 2010

n+1 is an intellectual magazine of more than 200 pages, published twice a year. Much of it has given over to non-fiction, but fiction can outdo all the non-fiction at once: this is a snippet of the novel «The Ask» by Sam Lipsyte. It is a pity that this is only a fragment, not a separate story, but it is still phenomenally funny: makes sense that Lipsyte is one of the best living writers.

Coverage of topics in non-fiction section ranges from the zombie renaissance to the avant-garde food. What impresses in all articles, is the fact that, whatever painful topic for the society (not just the U.S.) are not covered, the authors dispense with the tantrums, blaming everyone and everything, but approach to writing, on the contrary, with irony.

We will know what webism is and how it became a social movement. Will know is whether in fact full employment in terms of practice and theory. From the report «Miami Party Boom» by Emily Witt we soon learn about Witt, than about the boom of partying. This, however, does not hurt the report. Terrible things are described in the section «Magazines of the Americas». Those who live in Russia, already accustomed to incessant terror in parts of the country. In Mexico, such terror covers the whole country completely. Two articles in this section are more calls for help than the weighted notes, but it's worth reading: terrible things happen in Mexico. The article by Mark Greif «Octomom, One Year Later» is a detailed account of how contemporary American society reacted to Nadya Suleman, who in January of 2009, gave birth to eight babies, and what Nadya experienced within the year since the birth of children. The reviews section has not only books reviews (explanatory analysis of recent books about zombies and attempt to comprehend their success with the readers from Mark McGurl), but also food review. Molly Young tried three so-called "miracle fruit". The highlight of this issue in my opinion is the second part (easy to read in isolation from the first) of travel writing by Elif Batuman «Summer in Samarkand» about author’s travel to Uzbekistan. It seems so easy to write a funny piece about how people of a civilized nation has visited Uzbekistan, but Batuman easily coped with this problem, incidentally also raised a number of important themes: the differences and similarities of people, understanding, how selective our memories are.

In general, as they say on the internet, plus one to this journal. Great read.


Tony Black

Arrow Books, 2010

Given up on the liquor and only adjusted to life with his ex-wife ex-newspaper reporter Gus Dury in middle of the night has been waked up by the phone call: his brother Michael has been shot. Police assume that this is simply mugging gone wrong, but Dury does not believe that. In the house of his brother unexpectedly a lodger shows up who behaves in a businesslike way, Michael's partner in the factory business Prentiss is hiding something, though, and said that he would never have caused harm to Michael, and a few days after the murder Gus with his friend Mac finds a mutilated body of a former factory worker. All this suggests Dury to the idea that the murder of his brother has something to do with his business.

Tony Black perfectly captures and passes on to the paper Scottish city life, the life in it really boils. Protagonist emotionally describes traffic jams, street vendors, drinkers at the bar, snow and cold weather. In the mouth of the narrator's are put thoughts of the author on more social issues: refugees from Eastern Europe, surging into the country, unemployment, the collapse of banks, fake goods. The intrigue here is worse: an investigation now and then interrupted by reflections of the narrator on his brother, then on their worthless lives, then by visits to a psychologist that very much a nod in the direction of pop literature. These reflections and insertions have no organicity with whole text of the novel. Dury in the book is not a man who thinks his head and solves puzzles, and not even the one who asks questions to the right people. He is rather the one who knocks his fist in the answers from people who somehow are correct. (This is not Chandler rather Welsh plus Spillane.)

To not fall asleep in the middle and read up a predictable but catchy finale makes author’s style, rock, like a hammer, flavored with a solid layer of slang and Scottish words.

You can read this book, or you can’t. There won’t be any loss.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mome vol. 1 and Mome vol. 2

Mome vol. 1
Ed. by Gary Groth and Eric Reynolds

Fantagraphics, 2005

Mome vol. 2
Ed. by Gary Groth and Eric Reynolds

Fantagraphics, 2005

«Mome» is an anthology of comics coming out four times a year. This year the twentieth volume arrived on the shelves, and I'll start with the first two books.
Anthologies have their advantages and disadvantages. They open up new names (at the same time allowing to read works of already well-known authors), they can be read from beginning to the end, or starting with any story, stories in them are usually short, so they do not overtire even those who have distracted attention. By cons I would took the lack of completeness of some stories: to see what will happen next, you need to buy the next volume. And if you started with the second, then it is unclear how this or that story began. It would be much better to print the fully finished stories. (We should also mention that in addition to comics, there are also long and fairly thoughtful interviews with someone from the contributor of the book.)
In the first and the second volume there are a lot of things to enjoy. Stories differ both in length (there are one-page strips, too) and in narrative technique.

In the first volume in a simple black-and-white depiction of «I Feel Nothing» Gabrielle Bell presents her protagonist, a young girl who called to visit, just to sit, a young man, kind of a rich drug addict. In the midst of the evening the young man invites the girl to become his girlfriend, sniffing with powder, to quit work and sit at home all day in his company. This is a story, perhaps, in the vein of Jeffrey Brown (he is in this book, too), even in style. Brown himself is presented here in «Part Time». It is very funny story about how Brown makes procrastination at the time, as he is pressing by deadlines. It is great comics, not even just comics, but metacomics! His comic strip in the second book is a real mystery. What not takes away from Brown is his self-irony.

Direct narration in the first volume is also in Sophie Crumb’s comics. She is represented by three things here. The first, «Eddy Bear Takes His Share», is a short story about how a girl brings home a beggar. The second, «Tanya», is about almost the same thing - the mysterious corners of life (Crumb writes and offers us a graphic story of the history of our compatriot trapped in the U.S. in the hope of a happy life). Crumb’s stories are almost always about one thing, but this is understandable: her comic are parables with clearly derived moral. Andrice Arp in both volumes contributed graphic stories on the material of Japanese mythology. They are well drawn, but they don’t have enough energy. In a completely insane way drawn story of Kurt Wolfgang «Passing Before Life's Very Eyes». These are memories of the old man, already almost breathing his last, and here in front of his eyes sweeping the whole his life. This is a comic about the opposition: in Wolfgang’s each fragment of page vie angel and devil, Robinson Crusoe and Friday, the old man and a young man, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. This is a story in yellow tones on how quickly you live and quickly die. In «Mome vol. 2" Wolfgang has more mundane story about two young punks in 1977. In the second book Martin Cendreda (in vol. 1 he had great one-page strips) has story «The Magic Marker» about, well, a magic marker, a kind of analogue of a magic wand. Of course, possession of a marker does not bring brightens to a faceless character, who looks like Pinocchio.

Two of the most bizarre stories in the first two volumes of «Mome» are "221 Sycamore Ave» by John Pham and «Overpeck» by David Heatley. Overpeck is the name of a town, where live a girl-duck that walks down the street completely naked, eternally quarreling Negro children, drawing pictures autistic girl. In Heatley’s all the time something moves, flashes, and the pages are like a scattering of colored beads in the form of dogs, bicycles, broken swings, trees. The three parallel storylines unfolds in this story. Where they will lead to, it is not clear, but it is still terribly entertaining. "221 Sycamore Ave» is drawn as if the comic book was made by the drawing teacher: solid right rectangles, circles, and prospects. In the first part we are introduced to a girl named Mildred Lee, which makes the lessons, and then crawls under the table and stays there. In a room at the same time there is the most mysterious character of all that are found in two books - a man-bag. All the time he just sits on the couch and never says anything. Soon, we are presented another hero, Vrej Sarkissian, who enjoys all the smells of the outside world.
In these two books there are a lot of interesting and confusing, enjoyable and intriguing.

Do not be a mome, read these first-rate collections of comics.

Null Immortalis

Null Immortalis: Nemonymous Ten
Edited by D.F. Lewis

Megazanthus Press, 2010

«Null Immortalis» is an anthology of 26 stories, the final part of a series of 10 books, where the stories remained unsigned, and the names of the authors reveal only in the next volume. «Null Immortalis» violated this rule: it is the first time the stories here are not anonymous.

However, to say that «Null Immortalis» is just another anthology of strange stories that are close to horror, would be untrue. It is also one solid megatext, zero-text, all the fragments of which are united not only stylistically and thematically, but formal: in all stories there is a common hero, SD Tullis. On the one hand, it's just a name, on another - the name of something more. SD Tullis is what we are pursuing all our life, this is what kills us, and what makes us strong. This is the secret of life, but also the mystery of death.

Art canvas of “Immortalis”, like all patchwork fabric linen, is very uneven. I am glad there aren’t straight horror stories whose purpose is to just scare the reader, but there are not so many outstanding stories.

The problem of fathers and children affected by Daniel Pearlman in «A Giant in the House». To young son, his father seems a giant. Gradually, the son is growing, catching up with his father. Their relationship is wavering, strained. Pearlman punishes the father for coldness toward his son. «Apotheosis» by D.P. Watt is, perhaps, the best in this anthology. This is a metastory where the protagonist, a writer, discovers that some of his prose is stolen and published under a different name, Tullis. The most striking thing for this writer is that he himself had sent his text to unknown plagiarist. Watt wrote a nearly perfect story about information and how it absorbs everything: information is nameless, and this is the worst thing in it.

Joel Lane's prose, as always, is measured and insinuating. So he begins his tale «The Drowned Market»: «History is always a problem. No wonder people are so keen to forget the past. You can get to a certain point in your life and you can't move for the fragments of history silting up the place. You can cover them up, but they won't go away. For a publisher, it can be especially difficult because people assume the past is all that matters to you. They forget that you still have to breathe ». Writer, confronted with the consequences of the financial crisis in publishing, begins to behave strangely: sends chilling manuscript to publishers and then suddenly disappears. Quiet, but a discouraging story.

About the emptiness - around and within us – is the story of Reggie Oliver «You Have Nothing To Fear». The protagonist helps his friend Lord acquainted with one model, which then becomes the object of the exhibition. Lord with one Tullis multiply and multiply her images, exploiting her. The elegant style of Oliver prose helped him to create a bleak story about the substitution itself. Plot of «Holesale» by Rachel Kendall might initially seem unoriginal: a crook sells black holes. But Kendall has a flair for details, piercingly sad intonation, so it brightens up the plot. «The Toymaker of Bremen» by Stephen Bacon has the same problem: not very original plot (the boy's parents disappear, and he lives in the house of strange toymaker Gustav, in whose house extraordinary things happens), but the author writes well enough to not spoil the plot. Children in his story are as living, despite the fact that they are ... (to look at the title).

It is an unusual anthology, which says: Each of us has own Tullis inside.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Best American Short Stories 2010

Best American Short Stories 2010
Ed. by Richard Russo and Heidi Pitlor

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010

Guest editor of the new book in well-established series of «The Best American Short Stories» became Richard Russo. And if this year has turned out, whether Rousseau has made such a choice of the already-selected stories, but in the book there is not purely stylistic works. The editors have opted for Story.

I can not say that the stories selected are only with a plot, but in all of them there is well-told story, while the book does not include the stories of so-called genre writers (although there are a couple of science fiction stories here, but they are the representatives of McSweeney's).

The anthology truly lives up to its name: all included in it stories are worth reading, and few of them - admiration.

The collection opens with stories by Steve Almond and Marlin Barton. They at first seem very strong, but once you get to the middle of the book, one realizes that they are not so stand-out: Almond’s story of relations between the two card players, a doctor and a patient, seems a bit artificial, and Barton lacks stylistic depth. Much more powerful looks «The Cousins» by Charles Baxter, and it is, probably, the best story in the book. The story is told from the face of one of the brothers (they are not very similar to each other), and with that Baxter acted very advantageous. The image of himself that the elder brother makes in his own words, in the end is not the same image which it is seen by the others. «Safari» by Jennifer Egan is also a family history, but with more exotic entourage. «Safari» is a more complex story, Egan passes narrative needle through the present and the future of heroes of the story, the father and his two children. Egan's prose here is the melting air, wild and dangerous animals; intoxicate style.

The old man Arty Groys, the meaning of his life had been returned by the young prostitute, is memorable hero of the story by Joshua Ferris «The Valetudinarian». Perhaps the author of this story was too straightforward, not so many tasty details in the story. Had the author more sense of humor, this story would have become a burlesque story. Unusual twist with usual components (husband owns repair shop, he can not longer repair engines, as before, while his wife sleeps with the youngster, who works in this shop; youngster, in fact, is the protagonist of the story) is using by Wayne Harrison in his «Least Resistance». The author has vigorous style, it perfectly matches to the story of how everything is always possible to fix. Rebecca Makkai in «Painted Ocean, Painted Ship» managed to turn usual plot about how a university professor is unjustly condemn for misunderstood words and deeds, in a vivid story, painted colors of love, confusion and sadness. Kevin Moffett played with narrative in «Further Interpretations of Real-Life Events». The narrator writes the story, his father writes the story, and the narrator quotes the six rules of storytelling, which narrator was taught once by his mentor at the university. The comic, laminating one layer of narrative on another, story about fathers and children. The story of Tea Obreht «The Laugh» is with a touch of the supernatural.
The most laughable story in the book is «All Boy» by Lori Ostlund. In it eleven-year-boy lives with his parents on the verge of divorce, likes to read and to his 11 years knows a lot of unusual words for a child of his age. Sarcastic «Raw Water» completes this collection. Wells Tower wrote a satire on the well-fed society, and yes, it's fantastic (and science-fictional a bit)!

Not all stories are equally good: some are overly sentimental; some are like scenarios of a mediocre Sundance movie.

Copious book.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


China Miéville

Macmillan, 2010

The beginning of this novel, perhaps, would elicit a sigh of disappointment at someone: another story of the secret police department that investigates cases involving otherworldly phenomena. However, after 60 pages it becomes clear that «Kraken» is much more - large, commensurate with the grandeur with kraken novel, both realistic and postmodern.

Billy Harrow, the protagonist of the novel, works in the Natural History Museum, where in the Darwin Center main exhibit is a giant squid, Kraken. Billy conducts a tour, the group is approaching the room with a huge clam, but entered in the hall, everyone can see that kraken has disappeared. The police interrogate Billy, but he does not know anything about theft, he is in shock. Interrogating Billy policemen are a special department, the FSRC (the Fundamentalist and Sect-Related Crime Unit) and offer him to work for them. Billy is scared and does not want to get involved. Soon our hero is kidnapped by the two most dangerous men in London, Goss and Subby. They lead him to the Tattoo, another criminal who actually is tattoo - a tattoo on the body of a man. Tattoo also wants to know from Billy, where kraken and how Billy was involved in its theft. From torture by Goss and Subby scared curator is saved by Dane Parnell, he worked as a security guard at the museum. Moreover, Parnell is one of krakenists: his church worships kraken. Parnell also needs to know who stole his god. All parties need kraken, but no one knows who took it.

«Kraken» is a very funny novel. Miéville puts one layer of absurdity to another, one mad plot twist to another, one original method on the other, if all taken at face value, you can be sorely disappointed. But if in the overall dark atmosphere and in anticipation of the apocalypse you could make out the irony of the author, you will laugh and laugh page by page. Well, in fact: the giant squid as a god; iPods as a means of protection; people folded in the form of origami to the size of the box; tattoo GG Allin on the body of a century dead; flickering bulbs as a sign of SOS; one of the possible kidnappers of clam is a fan of Star Trek. Almost every chapter has something that makes at least smile, but it should be understood that «Kraken» is not a parody. It's not a parasite on any topic, it is quite original.

Separate topic is the language of the book. The whole book is written in British English, sort of, full of slang and sophisticated swearing. Sometimes it is difficult to break through such language "windfall", but, first of all, it's almost always funny, and secondly, we must understand that almost all the characters in the novel in one degree or another connected with the criminal, and thirdly, Miéville is a great stylist (even difficult to say against this novel, what prevails here, a plot or a style), so after the first hundred pages you get used, and then you will get a huge pleasure, really. Here are a few paragraphs, for example:
«THE TATTOO WAS GOING ON. HIS HIRED GUNS RAGED AND VIOLATED trusts that had held for decades, all the way through everything, hunting for the quarry they had had and lost.
The Chaos Nazis were nothing, of course. Who was afraid of them now, drowned, screaming and up-fucked? The freelancers, the full-timer knuckleheads and others were happy to audition for the newly open position of lead bogeymen, and the UMA pickets were unwilling bit parts in these violent run-throughs and résumé-building attacks. Wati was gone from the room above Camden, back, gone, back, shoring up, fixing and failing.
“Tattoo’s gone fucking batshit,” Collingswood said. “What is he doing? Has anyone spoken to him?”
“Won’t talk,” said Baron. He puffed out his cheeks and exhaled. “We can’t bloody find him.”
“He doesn’t need our permission,” Vardy said. The three sat like a support group for the morose.
“Come on,” said Baron. “I don’t employ you two for your looks. Talk this out.”
“We’ve got the Tattoo declaring war,” Vardy said. “Sending Goss and Subby in here. Dealing with our prisoners.”»

Sometimes the novel is sluggish. It's a pretty densely populated, and it sometimes hurts the book: Miéville describes, extremely charmingly and even plausibly, various layers of London from Londonmancers to radio-in-his-body man, but behind the abundance of episodic character the author loses London itself, which was conceived was very important. As a result, a sense of impending doom is there, but that's in place of the city is white spot.

That «Kraken» is also metafiction indicates at least a presence in the book an important component in the form of ink, and in the final letters will play their role.

If someone says that this novel is not as good as the previous Miéville’s novels, I'm puzzled: what's better? Delightful reading, without any doubts.

The Ask and the Answer

Patrick Ness
The Ask and the Answer

Walker Books, 2009

The first volume of the trilogy ended very unexpected and darkly (and of course, on the most interesting part): Todd and Viola finally reached what they thought saving city of Haven, but there was no rescue, as was the mayor of Prentiss, one, without an army. Haven surrendered without a fight.

The second book starts with the fact that Todd and Viola are separated. Todd now works for mayor, and Viola, recovering after being seriously wounded, remains in a house of healing. House of healing is headed by Mistress Coyle, and she is dissatisfied with the new regime. Earlier mayor and now president, Prentiss again, as once in Prentisstown, separates women from men. Once it has already led to bloodshed, so that Coyle is confident that history may repeat itself again. President Prentiss also speaks to the people, declaring that the war is over and that soon Eden will be implemented, and they only need to wait for arrival of the ship with the new settlers.

If «The Knife of Never Letting Go» is a "horizontal" novel (the characters in it just ran and ran, encountering enemies on the way), then this book is rather a "vertical" novel: there is also quite running, but not on straight and vertical there is related to the power, the novel is primarily about it. Another difference between the two books: «The Ask and the Answer» is much more violent book (because there are almost no jokes), there are far more killings, and if not killings, so cruelly tortures. If in «The Knife» Todd could not kill, in «The Ask» he couldn’t, too, but he is well enough in torture of people: President Prentiss left him no choice.

In the new conditions Todd Hewitt is changing, and Ness is very good shows his evolution. Todd is no longer a boy, he broke down (not for nothing that he himself said: «Inside, I'm dead dead dead»), but he also feels that some force in it matures; and Viola and Prentiss see that power in him.

«The Ask and the Answer» is a like-children book about not quite children things: terror, war, betrayal, cruelty and meanness. The Ask and The Answer in the title are the names of two organizations, Answer - female terrorist, Ask - men's torture. Ness shows here: what is the ask, so is the answer, during the war (for which it has quite a woman's face), there is no good and bad, everything is mixed.
This novel is not a blank filler between the beginning and end, as is usually the case in the trilogy. Bright, stinging, dynamic, very original.

Ask: Is it worth reading? Answer: Well, yes, certainly.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The South Korean Film Renaissance

Jinhee Choi
The South Korean Film Renaissance

Wesleyan University Press, 2010

In this academic study Jinhee Choi recounts how Korean films conquered the world and why it happened. It's no secret that South Korean cinema have had success both at festivals and among ordinary viewers in movie theaters, becoming the leading box office abroad, too. “Old Boy” had been seen by even those who are watching about a movie a year, so that in very general terms, the South Korean cinema has a representation of a huge number of film enthusiasts. But what was triggered the renaissance of cinema in Korea, not everyone knows.

Choi begins her book with exactly that: what was the impetus to ensure that state and private investors interested in the film industry and began to invest in it, as a result the first blockbusters (the author notes that the term "blockbuster" highly conditional and a blockbuster in the U.S. is different from blockbuster and its understanding of it in South Korea) appeared. The author considers in detail, how have its influence on the formation of a Korean-style blockbusters improving networks of cinemas, quotas on foreign films in local theaters, the political situation in the country, the interests of viewers, filmmakers themselves.

Having dealt with the causes of the Renaissance, Choi takes for the most popular genres of Korean cinema. In the chapter on gangster movies, it compares the crime films of Hong Kong and South Korea (finding the latter more emotional), dwelling on the gangster comedies. In the chapter «I'm Not a Girl, Yet Not a Woman» the author looks for reasons of the success of contemporary romantic comedies at the audience (mostly young). The main heroes of the chapter on so-called teen pics suddenly become horror movies. In the next chapter with the subtitle «« High Quality» Films» “high-concept” Korean films are compared to so-called arthouse films of other countries. The final chapter is devoted to new wave directors.

The book is rich in a huge number of movie titles that are so desirable to be rewritten in the notepad, then to watch everything, but this does not mean that the author has only used an extensive approach: in the chapters on genres, Choi examines some mise-en-scene, accompanying the description of the scenes footage from a movie.
To get more pleasure from the book, it is recommended to look at least a couple of examples of South Korean cinema – thus many places in the book will be more understandable.

Sometimes the author does not have enough pressure so that the reader threw the book at the half and ran to watch a movie just mentioned on the pages.

Highly recommended.

Animythical Tales

Sarah Totton
Animythical Tales

Fantastic Books, 2010

This is a pretty thin book (only 124 pages, very small print and that is inconvenient to read), so give it a short review.

It is difficult to call a general reason why I was quite disappointed after reading this book. Each time the problem of one story doesn’t become the problem of the next one, but there is another problem. «A Fish Story» and «Choke Point» are very well written stories, near the end of each of the stories you expect the unexpected culmination and denouement (if not, the story simply has nothing to show: he is too smooth, with the elusive plot), but they don’t show up. In «Flatrock Sunners», the story of a boy and his imaginary friends, there is all aspects to get an exemplary horror story about childhood, but the writer is too cold, overall temperature of the story goes below zero, and contact with reader gets lost.

Quite unexpected there is a story, with a sort of stylized British humor, about a man who wanted impress people, but did not know how. Jokes in «A Little Tea and Personal Magnetism» are mostly predictable, but they are all funny.
Best story in the book could be called «Bluecoat Jack». A very dark tale about loneliness and loss itself, where again the coldness in the description is admirable and add suspense, accompanied by a mystery.

Overall impression: it is a quite dull collection.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Knife of Never Letting Go

Patrick Ness
The Knife of Never Letting Go

Walker Books, 2009

THE FIRST THING you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don't got nothing much to say. About anything.
"Need a poo, Todd."
"Shut up, Manchee."
"Poo. Poo, Todd."
"I said shut it."

From the first lines of this novel (by the way, they’re very funny), we learn about the main feature of Prentisstown, the town where the protagonist of the book Todd Hewitt lives: everyone can read the thoughts of another. These thoughts are transmitted in the form of noise, incessant stream that does not stop ever, even during sleep. If someone can read someone’s minds, it does not mean that a lie disappeared from the world: Noise is called a noise that something important might be hidden behind other thoughts, make unimportant louder. So there are secrets.

Wandering through the swamp in search of berries, Todd with his dog Manchee suddenly stumble upon the silence. It simply can not be silent in Prentisstown, noise goes from all, even the insects. The silence soon turns out terrified girl, who not only doesn’t speak, but does not make Noise. Foster parents of Todd, Ben and Cillian, find out about the silence and immediately collect rucksack for Todd, give the map and send him out of town. Todd has to get to the next settlement: it turns out Prentisstown is not the only town on New World. Todd takes Manchee, the girl, too (she would have been killed by the local priest), and three of them flee to the nearest town. Behind them is a pursuit: boy Todd, who will become a man in a month, on the day of the 13th anniversary, is wanted by the mayor of Prentisstown.
«The Knife of Never Letting Go» is obviously a page-turner, with each chapter it ends so suddenly, on the most interesting place so that one must possess great strength of will to refuse to turn the page to the next chapter. There is almost no description in Ness’ book, but a lot of action. The whole book is one long chase, action-non-stop. Does this mean that the novel is brainless quest, hit-and-run? No way! Ness worked much with the language of the novel. Due to the fact that Todd can not read the words so knows language only by ear (and indeed on New World written language has been simplified, and forgotten for many), and Todd is a single narrator, the book is written in English of XIX century and English simplified, street, without a word from the depths of the dictionary.
«And are they gonna a-welcome us?»
«People are scared of what they don’t know, Todd pup,» she says, standing. «Once they know ye, the problem goes away.»

The book is all rhythmic, fast-paced; sentences often are like a machine-gun fire.
This novel is both Utopia and young adult novel at once. New World here is a kind of a planet where people came from Old World, hoping to build Garden of Eden and start all over again. But as always, some people are worse than others, and dream of paradise is crumbling. Throughout the book the author will still throw and throw new secrets, new mysteries, and clues of previous confusion of this world.
Theme of growing up in the novel is connected directly to the question: what makes a child an adult? Murder, on which everything and everyone pushes Todd? Not without reason the knife, mentioned in the book's title, plays a key role in the adventures of Todd and the choices of the future.

Patrick Ness, have written a book for children (as it presented by the publishers), actually wrote the book for all children and adults, too. This book is inventive to the last detail, affecting tears and breaking through sweat, funny, but about serious matters. And there's Story. If you think just tell the story is nothing, you're wrong.

Such a book should be picked up immediately in two copies: one on the shelf of a child, the other for himself. And it is only the first volume of the trilogy.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Seven Cities of Gold

David Moles
Seven Cities of Gold

PS Publishing, 2010

About our time. Muslims have reached the New World and started bloody battle with Christians. Shed much blood, even weapon of mass destruction was featured. This world is cruel, violent, poorly developed. There is no hint that the level of technology of that world is getting to that level of our world. In 714 AD, the history went the other way: seven Catholic bishops had fled from Spain across the ocean to North America to build seven golden cities and found the Christian empire. Japan, homeland of the protagonist of this novella, Chie Nakada, the doctor, does not participate in wars between Muslims and Christians. When the Japanese government hear about terrible weapons and about obsessive Christian leader, hiding somewhere in the depths of the continent, they sent a peacemaker (though with purpose to kill) Nakada to travel up the river Acuamagna in search of the leader Clara Dos Orsos.

While Nakada and her aides are floating down the river, on both sides of it opens a terrible picture: mountains of human corpses, fires, armed men. Nakada can not help anybody; she has a goal that should be reached at any price, to find Dos Orsos.

It really is a journey into the heart of darkness, the world after 9/11 as if there were never this date, but every day is always September 11; world crumbling, the world, where everyone slides on deaths, as on the water. The author essentially gives no guidance (place names say nothing to the reader), about the history of this world we know not from the author but the publisher, thus Moles makes it clear that his novel should not be read as some particular journey but as a metaphor of the journey to one’s own death and the death of all living, read like a hallucinogenic trip, during which death and life are irrelevant, they disappear as a concept from consciousness – Nakada is an opium addict, forced, even by power beating her "medicine" from people. The alternatively-historical component plays almost no role in the book, it clearly is secondary, the primary is the journey of the soul.

Moles has very poetic style, he tells this fast-moving story slowly, without admiring violence. Nakada is a charming drug addict.

«Seven Cities of Gold» is a brilliant book, an example of good fiction, but just fiction, not an alternative historical fiction.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Project Itoh
Translated by Alexander O. Smith

Haikasoru, 2010

The protagonist of this book, Tuan Kirie, a young girl working in the secret service, begins her story from her childhood. She and two her girlfriends conceive to kill themselves. The leader of this small group of young suicides is another girl, Miach Mihie. She starves herself almost to death, overeats, reads books and knows that once kids died on jungle gyms. In the world of the future everything little Miach does with herself is banned. After the terrible disaster (possibly nuclear) called Maelstrom governments of most countries of the world decide that it is time to put an end to the human deaths and prevent future catastrophes, so they create a global network of governments so-called admedistrations, the main objective and concern of which is human health. Person's life is almost given to society, life becomes main value. Because of the implanted devices overseeing a human life, a person almost never gets old and lives for hundreds of years. Naturally, the device WatchMe make out human diet, which excluded cigarettes, alcohol, fatty foods, spicy foods and anything that might cause any injury. All information is also obtained from the chip set, AR; books are banned as sources of harmful knowledge (respectively, all the books, where people not only kill, but just smoke, may show a bad example and even call to action).

Body does not belong to a man - and Miach hate it. So far she has escape: WatchMe is set only to adults, so you need to have time to kill yourself until adulthood. Persuading friends, Miach invites them all to drink pills and die, it is the only way to prove that the body and life belong to the owner, not the society. Miach dies, but her friends, narrator Tuan and Cian Reikado fear and stay alive.

Tuan still doesn’t like society. Now, as an adult, she works in a special service Nexus, which is engaged in problematic regions (in some regions not all people have WatchMe). Tuan chooses this job because WatchMe can be disabled, that is, quite simply, as another officer says “for the beer and the smokes”. Seemingly dead Miach horrifies - and throws a puzzle to Nexus - whole planet: first, at her command a few thousand people at the same time suicide, and then she puts a condition: to stay alive, every person on Earth must kill another one.

Dreams of utopia will always be spoiled by something - or someone: it is, among other things, that Japanese writer wanted to say in his book. Knowingly troublemaker, endangering the lives of all people in the world, was just a child: in the minds of children the most audacious plans are maturing, kids are almost not constrained by fetters of everyday life; their thinking is not contaminated with stupidity and petty fears. Itoh’s description of children at the beginning of the novel, their conversations, thoughts, are most successful part, with tender voices, despite the fact that the author knows that child fragility and honesty will be over soon. Until the middle the book reads like a fairly well-designed utopia, global, but with Japanese characters, but after the middle the author adds another plotline – detective one. The villain is known, but the main thing is not who?, but why?.

Sometimes the author for deeper describing the world of medical utopia (though it is medical only on the surface), is forced to mark time, so the protagonist sometimes repeats many times that she said in earlier chapters. Itoh’s terse language is consistent with the language of the narrator, Tuan (she in this world she despises cannot talk to anyone properly), what is more, she thinks in the html language, and the whole book is written with such markup:
"< recollection >
I want to dance on the graves of those kind, healthy people.
A waltz, I think.
< / recollection >"

Itoh didn’t quite make out the plot, so the ending rushes headlong, and the confrontation of ideologies to a greater degree occurs in dialogs, but not in turns of story. (Behavior of Miach in the end is rather non explainable.)
«Harmony», actually, is a book about what price you should pay to achieve harmony in the world and whether it is necessary at all if the price is too high.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

“Remember You’re a One-Ball!”

Quentin S Crisp
“Remember You’re a One-Ball!”

Chomu Press, 2010

This novel, before Chomu Press publishid it, was rejected by many publishers. This is quite understandable: the book is quite strange, moreover, it is not well written.
A story unfolding before the reader is notes of a young man named Ramsey Blake. He graduates from university, does not know where to go for as long as he is invited for an interview with director of the school where he studied. The director, while interviewing Ramsey, suggest to future teacher that he is very suitable for the vacant position: Ramsey himself a graduate of this school. So tired student begins to work in school, teaching junior classes. There he meets a girl Jacqueline. Ramsey clearly suffers from mental illness: he is afraid of people, barely controlled by his mind, besides what he says about himself: «I may have had sex, I had certainly never fucked anyone». Life with Jacqueline takes really stressful for him. In parallel, he wrote the note, where he tells the story of his classmate who was teased one-ball. This oath, one-ball, went from children's song:
«Rule Britannia!
Three monkeys up a stick.
One fell down and broke his dick.»

Of his classmate Harley Owen, of abusing him, of child abuse and worldwide conspiracy, Ramsey remembers (and read about that in the dossier passed to him by the director) because in that class, where he has learned, there is another one-ball, Norman. Both boys really have one testicle: a second one children hurt in accidents, so it should be deleted.

Soon Ramsey finds a link between the two cases and sees the mysterious behavior of the director and reading a book titled "Learning to say" yes ". He understands a lot, but could understand one thing: a place devoted to him in this story.
If the narrator can not until the last minute understand what is his role in the story of two one-ball boys, reader understands that after only three dozen pages. This however did not spoil the whole picture: the novel is already written in a very uneven way. The book is heavily skewed, as a face of the person that does not like anything. This, of course, is a multi-faceted novel: there are the memories, the memories within memories, records, excerpts of self-learning book - but it seems that the fragments are often not in own place. Some fragments (for example, Harley Owens’s dossier) would have looked good in the form of short stories, but among the clutter of other fragments the best places lose their luster. Convincingly described the history of child abuse was almost nullified by unconvincing explanation of the origin of one-balls.

The author has the ability, of course, but if you ask me, whether I liked the novel, I will just shrug my shoulders.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Evolve: Vampire Stories of the New Undead

Evolve: Vampire Stories of the New Undead
Ed. by Nancy Kilpatrick

Edge Publishing, 2010

Decided to make an anthology about vampires, Nancy Kilpatrick took on a very heavy burden. There are so many books about vampires that make something stand-out is almost impossible. And an author, who writes about bloodsucking creatures, puts himself in bounds: the space is narrowed, the majority of moves is known so the creator of the book or even a story about vampires still writes like in a game setting or novelization. Walls from right and left - either reader will not understand, or publisher will not publish.

Editor of «Evolve» hadn’t expanded customary bounds, too, and hence failed.
In the vast majority of the stories here there are all the same Goths teenagers who want to either become a vampire, or become victims of vampires; vampire hunters and hunters on vampires, bloodsuckers clans; rather spirits and ghosts, rather than vampires; vampires-musicians. Some stories are written better, some worse, but the style does not help the situation when the whole point anyway is reduced to the bite.
However, the book turned out not completely disastrous, if we assume that some stories were better than average. Kevin Cockle in his «Sleepless in Calgary» comes from the premise that to become a vampire can not through bite of a vampire, but only if you want yourself and drink the blood of other people. The author puts the protagonist in front of choice: a boring monotonous life of a person or free, not burdened with the work existence of a vampire. That's just is a bloodsucker worth a trust?

In Bev Vincent's «A Murder of Vampires» someone kills vampires. Nobody wants to help them, but one policeman. He takes this case. The story is not quite carried through (no explain of motives of the murderer), but the relationship between humans and vampires are written in not a trivial way.

Two of the most powerful stories were placed in the final part of the anthology. In «How Magnificent is the Universal Donor» Jerome Stueart there are virtually no vampires (at least those that originate through Stoker's Dracula). The story can be attributed to pure science fiction, and this is the definite plus. After the spread of a mysterious virus BDD, which kills 40% of carriers, to find a man with an almost perfect blood tests is nearly impossible. In the blood of people there is a virus or chemistry to treat patients. Doctors still find one person who has an ideal blood, hoping to use it to heal millions of patients. But the husband of carrier of the ideal blood (it’s a gay couple) does not trust doctors: they have forged the death certificate of his partner and does not let him see the body. This man has to pretend to be a doctor to get into the Medical Corps, where the doctors are going to remove all the blood from the kidnapped. Heroes of the story turned out some cardboard (taken as if straight out of 50's science fiction movies), but the plot did not require realistic characters.

Kevin Nunn in «The Sun Also Shines On the Wicked» tells the surprising story of how a vampire can sunbathe. To do this, he needs only a mirror and an assistant, watching over time. This story is not just a story with an inventive plot, but also a meditation on what is an eternity.

In general, the anthology is not as good as could be.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Crazy Love

Leslie What
Crazy Love

Wordcraft of Oregon, 2008

I should start by saying that this book can equally be considered a collection of so-called science fiction or a collection of so-called mainstream, realistic fiction. Or a collection of both. What way a reader chooses to approach to this book, nothing could prevent him from obtaining the highest degree of pleasure. It is certainly one of the best books I've read this year.

17 stories in the book is the essence of a rich imagination and a rough but compelling language. Each story has a new idea, which more practical and calculating writer could expand to the extent of if not a novel, but long novella for sure. What does not spray her imagination over a wide area, stopping at seemingly narrow space of the human soul (and the body, too), but such self-limitation leads to a striking and far more successful results.

Already in the first story of the collection «Finger Talk», we read a story about two gorillas: one real, with a gift to speak through sign language, and another, a woman who walk almost all the time in a gorilla suit. Gorilla Koko helps to work out personal live of completely entangled woman. Fantastic element there is minimal, and it can be reduced to the imagination of the heroine, but it is enough to electrify the story. In the following, «Babies», at the beginning a woman named Roni Sue washes dishes; she feels uncomfortable, she's pregnant. And further: «The best she could do was remind herself that soon she would be blessed with babies, lots of tiny babies, and the bad parts would all be over.» Why will she have a lot of little kids? - The question is haunted. And soon we learn that the house is inhabited by a lot of cockroaches and people from the office comes in and sprinkles a house. And this story gives a dual interpretation: inside the woman are the larvae, which appeared after pollination with pesticides, or is it just imagination? Throughout the text hints are scattered that predispose most to the first version. But first and foremost it is a story about love: to children, whoever they were. The plot of «Why a Duck» has place on a dirigible. Two ghosts again and again crash, this is why their life is unbearably monotonous. And their love vanishes out of boredom and monotony. And a duck rescues fading feelings. In «Going Vampire» the narrator is a vampire. He works in Hollywood. Selecting the next victim, he seems to be willing to repeat what has made many times, but he sees something special in the new girl. Vampires can not only love, but they have a conscience.

Even less stand-out stories, such as «Frankenfetish», for example, where, after mother's death from cancer, the father and his two sons almost worship the surviving cancer cells, capable to draw not all sort of readers, remain highly penetrating, with a good layer of irony and sometimes dark humor.

And yes, all the stories in the book are really about a crazy love.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Action Philosophers!

Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey
The More-Than-Complete Action Philosophers!

Evil Twin Comics, 2009

A good idea occurred to the writer Fred Van Lente and illustrator Ryan Dunlavey: to portray the teachings and works of philosophers and thinkers of the past in the form of comics. Incarnation came to 320 pages in A4 format, so that this book can surpass some of the standard, consisting of letters, books on philosophy by the volume.
This book can hardly be regarded as a textbook, though it is not just an entertaining comic book. In the collection there are at least two layers, so that there are at least two approaches to read it.

Comics can be read as a guide to philosophy for a sort of lazy teenagers, for whom the word philosophy is almost not pronounceable, and Superman and Batman mean to their lives much more than Aristotle and Freud. In an accessible and beautifully illustrated form the book finally tells young people how the Stoics differed from the Cynics, how Spinoza earned his living, what were the major differences between the teachings of Jung and Freud. The authors of the book in chapters about each philosopher present a story about him in the form of biography, adding to it basis of the teachings of the thinker.

If you know philosophy or you are not interested in some of the philosophers, additional layer can be omitted, enjoying only the graphic stories. And here is something to see: Diogenes as a dog; St. Augustine drinking straight from the bottle in bed with two beauties; Schopenhauer in his underwear, watching TV; Karl Marx and the three little pigs. Philosophers there indeed produce an action, the philosophy here is not boring mutter.

The book is naturally very funny (perhaps only philosophers of the XX century have turned dull), you will not fall under the table with laughter, but the smile will not go from your face, that's for sure.

Philosophers would have liked it.

chapbooks from Nightjar Press, part 3

RB Russell
The Beautiful Room

Mark Valentine
A Revelation of Cormorants

Nightjar Press, 2010

This is the third pair of chapbooks, of which I write this year. Before that publisher Nightjar Press didn’t fall flat, as it turned out, and on the third time it didn’t as well.

RB Russell's story is beautiful and tight as the room where there were heroes of the story. Young couple chooses a suitable apartment, so that he is comfortable with the work, and she feels comfortable to have a rest. Room is immediately liked both of them: bright, spacious, with excellent views. In addition, other options did suit neither husband nor wife. Having admired the room, the husband decides that he will not buy it: this is a place to relax in the summer, but if you become cold, life here is no longer available. Wife really likes the room, and she persuades her husband to buy it. Matrimonial dispute is broken with weird noise from behind the wall.

The beauty of the story is not in a surprise ending, but how Russell, confining the narrow space and a minimum of characters, creates a memorable story about freedom, love, and that even the walls can not stop one who have wings.

Valentine’s, (he brought an element of the supernatural to a minimum), story turned out less charming, but a memorable one. The narrator is a writer who arrives in the province, deciding to start and finish a book on birds in Britain, mentioned in folklore, in the quiet place. The author seems to be follow a guide "What should be in a good story": a remote hamlet, the fragments of the book of protagonist, admonishing local resident, the relationship between reality and the book, mortal danger. It's all written in good style, but following the conditional pattern lubricates impression. Anyone who has read at least some of the British horror, will already have an idea about the next step of the author.

I highly recommend both stories.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Sixth Black Book of Horror

The Sixth Black Book of Horror
Ed. by Charles Black

Mortbury Press, 2010

This anthology, which by its title, which includes the word «black», on the one hand, warns that it is a collection of horror stories, on the other - simply announces that the book was compiled by a man named Black, has the usual suspects, which can be found in any of something worthwhile book of the horror genre, and the names that I see for the first time.

The British have no problems with ideas, but often they tend to overly straightforward horror that has one purpose - to scare a reader. Maybe someone will like it, but not me:, I'm waiting from the story something more ingenious than just talking mannequins, and serial killers, inhabiting bodies of children.
I'm not even going to mention unsuccessful stories, they're really boring and written in a very rustic manner.

First-class stories (or, with the amendment - the first class in the horror genre stories) is four there. «Traffic Stream» by Simon Kurt Unsworth could easily adorn a collection of early Stephen King. The two men agree to meet in the evening to discuss the business case. One is already waiting in the office, and the second is about to drive up. However, he can not find the way to the office and generally seems to be lost. He calls up with a partner, asks him to wait while he unsuccessfully tries to find his way. Unsworth gradually pumps the atmosphere and the horror of the driver passes to the second man. Almost flawless story where no one can help to a man gone to hell. Gary Fry in his «Keeping It in the Family» also describes the madness, but madness of one person, not the madness of the world, like was in Unsworth’s. A married couple with a child decides to go relax for the weekend and take husband's brother. The brother gets along with children and suffers from schizophrenia. Fables and fantasies of madman (he also writes short stories) he tells the boy, are being implemented in reality. In Fry's story, perhaps, Lovecraft’s spirit flies, but nonetheless it is an impressive story.

Most elegantly written stories there are RB Russell’s «An Unconventional Exorcism» and Mark Samuels’ «Keeping Your Mouth Shut». Russell's story has a sort of spoiler in the title, and it spoils the story a little. The story is family history, with spirits, spiritualism, and, indeed, exorcism. In Samuels’, the protagonist is a writer-loser. Rather, even it is hard to name him loser writer: just over a few years of his career he didn’t wrote a short story. The story is more an exercise in style: seemingly lightweight, pseudo mad, but it is, from beginning to end, impossible to put down.

Anthology, I think, killed two birds: here a reader will find stories on their own fans of straight scary horror stories and connoisseurs of fine British horror with a touch of British humor. But it would be quite enough one dead bird.

Tesseracts Thirteen

Tesseracts Thirteen
Ed. by Nancy Kilpatrick and David Morrell

EDGE Publishing, 2009

Annual Canadian anthology Tesseracts, until this collection supplying readers with quality science fiction, in the issue number 13 turned into an anthology of horror and dark fantasy. It might have been expected just by looking at the names of the editors: Nancy Kilpatrick, author of many vampire novels, and Morrell who is not just the author of "First Blood" and the literary father of Rambo, but also a writer, who wrote lots of thrillers with elements of horror.

What Canadian horror writers distinguished in comparison with their colleagues from the United States or Britain to the better side is a gentle approach to the description of the heroes of the story. This collection is inhabited not by the rough casts of characters, not the outline, but full, with the backgrounds and believable motives, characters.

However, solving this problem, many authors of the anthology couldn’t not solve the other, just no less important: to put the characters in such story, in which character’s three-dimensionality would have helped to the creation of three-dimensionality of the described world, where characters are placed. Most of the stories, having good inclinations, did not turn into something extraordinary. In the «Stone Cold» Kevin Cockle realistically described life of invalid, who also always feels a chill - he never gets warm. Unfortunately, behind a description of everyday life the story is lost: it seems get frozen together with the hero. The story of Rebecca Bradley «Kids These Days» has absolutely charming beginning: in the described world, children have lost all the life skills, something struck their brain: they can not themselves move or drink, or even respond to anything threatening their lives. Parents have an extremely hard to cope with their offspring. However, a story that could have been just finished brilliantly as well, the author has brought to the unbelievable horror ending. Such problem and with Susanna Church’s. It «The Tear Closet» unfolds the story of domestic violence from the view of a little girl, but introduced element of fantasy fades from the fact that the author almost sinking her story into melodrama, with one goal - to squeeze out a tear in the reader.

The two strongest stories are in the final part of the anthology. David Nickle in «The Radejastians» doesn’t give away many, so increasing fascination of his story. The story of three men who hard to call friends arrive in another country (another planet? Author hardly gives any hints on where the story takes place: it may be an alternative Earth, and perhaps a different planet.), go to obscure work, and one of them is invited to a certain church, to compare, whether it is better than the one where he visited before (What was that another church and where it was, still unknown). This story is not about God, but about religion, about how to find themselves and then lose. Another gem of the anthology is eerie tale by Mary E. Choo «The Language of Crows». It's a strange story of the family where the husband dies and the wife remains hostage to his whims. While reading this story, crow caw actually fills your ears.

A nice addition to a very good fiction part is review of Canadian horror and fantasy, written by Robert Knowlton.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Oh Pure and Radiant Heart

Lydia Millet
Oh Pure and Radiant Heart

Soft Skull, 2005

Ann, an odd librarian, one night has a dream: in the desert in New Mexico, a man falls to his knees, and on that background there is an explosion of the atomic bomb. Sleep does not bode anything abnormal: Ann and her husband Ben, working as a gardener, live in Santa Fe, near the spot where in 1945th were the first tests of nuclear weapons, and Ann is well aware of who is the man in a dream - father of atomic bomb, Robert Oppenheimer. However, the dream does not leave it up until on the street she meets the man she unerringly recognizes by the photos, available in all the history books. Oppenheimer and two other scientists who worked on the atomic bomb - Enrico Fermi and Leo Szilard – are replaced in our time right after the first test explosion in New Mexico. Each of them feels that he is transported in time not alone, but all three, so they quickly find each other. Ann tracks and finds them, too. She tells them that she had a dream about a man in the desert. Each of the scientists has some money, but money is out, and the inventors of the atomic weapons transported in our time need somewhere to live. Anne offers the three of them to stay at their (with her husband) home. Scientists agree.

They eagerly start to absorb information about themselves, about how nuclear weapons were used after 1945, and how in general the world has changed over the years that followed their sudden transfer in time. They make excursions into the desert where the tests were passed, then all together fly to Japan to look at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There they get acquainted with the son of one of the richest people in the world, and opens to him the secret of the three scientists. Shortly after returning to the States around the trio a cult has been created.

This Lydia Millet’s novel is both hilarious satire on all in the world and in the same way a completely serious novel. Those who are inclined to reading this book as a satire will find here a large-scale ridicule of modern religion (Christian fanatics see Oppenheimer as Christ), intelligence, science fiction, politics. This is indeed a very funny book: Szilard surfs the Internet, uses teen slang, Oppie smokes marijuana, Fermi closer to the end of the novel differs little from autist - but not with his language. Millet has a very lyrical style; some chapters without exaggeration are finished poems in prose.

The book is written very even: not in the sense that it is not able to awaken the senses (it is able), but that throughout its length the novel does not sag, nor drops into to patter, does not slow down like a train before the station; plot is not stalled.

This can be called a collage-novel, too. Chapters, moving a story, interspersed with chapters, telling about real events: about scientists, the bomb, the U.S. foreign policy. So Millet combines facts and fiction in a wonderfully poetic book.

The author is also a delightful portraitist: each of the heroes of the book is described with love. Also in the background of thinking on God, history and loneliness heroes of the book are not lost, each of them is very memorable character.
«Oh Pure and Radiant Heart» acts with the effect of the atomic bomb: First, the book blows off and tears, like an explosion, and then left a long aftertaste, like radiation. After reading this book it is quite possible to become Hibakusha.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Word of God

Thomas M. Disch
The Word of God

Tachyon Publications, 2008

Reviewing the book written by God through normal review standards is something not quite right and comfortable. And fearful - all written God may deem blasphemous, on the one hand, and on the other - What to fear of if God who wrote a book is not worshiped and prayed by you? Disch, like any creator who creates his own world with his commandments, found such a comparison is quite appropriate for a literary game.
This novella can be read as a satirical statement about religion, but it's better to read like quite inventive memoir. Now, when Disch is no longer alive, the book looks like a logical final of writing career. Here is the places about the thoughts on suicide, and Disch-poet (in a book published a few poems), and the plans for the future, and Philip Dick, and the youth of the writer, and his old age, and on creativity, in the end ends. This is quite unevenly written book (sometimes the author forgets where he starts), but it has things for which we read books, including those ones that are not written by gods but by men: fear, hope, love, death, despair, sadness. In the text of the book Disch puts some short stories that make up a coherent story about Disch itself, his mother, Philip Dick, Thomas Mann, 39th year, and of course, this is all science fiction that Dish wrote all his life.
And if at the beginning of reading this book, we still doubt whether the author is God, then at the end we don’t anymore. Now it seems clear: God is.