Here are a few more book reviews and notices:
1. Male of the Species by Alex Mindt
This set of short stories about fathers is a big surprise. There are many ways to go overboard with a loaded concept like "fatherhood", but Mindt exercises tight control and delivers a powerful set of elliptical fables that I (as a dad of three) can relate to in various ways. The first story, Sabor a Mi
is a knockout, featuring an angry old man hitchhiking to his daughter's lesbian wedding in a car with a hapless drifter who's just been kicked out of his home by his family, or so it seems, for the crime of being a coward. The rough humor and loose boundaries recall Raymond Carver. This is one of the better books of short stories I've seen in a few years.
2. Interfictions: An Anthology of Interstitial Writing edited by Delia Sherman and Theodora Goss
Interstitial writing, I have now learned, means writing between genres. This wide-ranging and intelligently packaged collection aims to confound expectations at every turn. I thoroughly enjoyed a fanciful story by Mumpsimus
blogger Matt Cheney that walks a razor's edge between hobbit-esque fantasy (complete with creatures and maps and shovels) and gay romance, but turns out to be literary metafiction at heart (the lead character keeps complaining about too much surrealism and is allergic to non-sequiturs).
3. Transparency by Frances Hwang
Frances Hwang is an expert at the short story form, and the fictional miniatures in this new collection are precise and sharp. I do find her stories perhaps a little too
perfectly crystalline, though, sort of like when you eat at somebody's house and the tableware is so perfect you can't enjoy the meal. That's not to say I don't enjoy these inter-generational slices of life, which hint at subtle conflicts and leave much to the reader's imagination. But they may be more to some people's tastes than they are to mine.
4. Re'enev by Mike Maranhas
I have to admit to being thrown off by genre-confusion when beginning this novel. The cover features a large butterfly flying into a lurid sunset, and I could only imagine I was holding either an apocalyptic Christian tract or a romance novel. But I'll hold my sarcasm, because the words inside are much better than the (terrible) cover illustration. Re'enev
turns out to be a realistic mystery novel involving a quarrelling husband and wife who become lost on a strange island. The prose voice is strong, with a dramatic sense of urgency, but I could not get over my initial shock of genre confusion, and I didn't get very far into the book. I hope somebody out there will give it a try, though -- and I hope the publisher will rethink the artwork.
5. Eeeee Eee Eeee by Tao Lin
I met Tao Lin, the incredibly prolific and very appealing up-and-coming writer and poet, outside Town Hall at the PEN World Voices Festival two weeks ago. A skinny young Asian man was handing out cards for a book by, of all people, Tao Lin, and I looked at him and put two and two together like I'm sometimes capable of doing. "Tao?" I said, being careful to pronounce the consonant softly as in Tao Te Ching
. Yes, it was him. I introduced myself as the guy who's reviewed him
before, and Tao grinned shyly and ran away. Which is exactly what I'd expect from this very magnetic and very childlike writer. What can you say about a book called Eeeee Eee Eeee
? I like it, that's all.
Tao also has another new book out from Melville House, Bed
, but at this point I'm just starting to lose track.
6. North of Sunset by Henry Baum
I almost dove into this satirical suspense novel, apparently about a vanity license plate killer running loose in Los Angeles, which seems to be where Barfly
meets O. J. Simpson. That might not be a bad combination, but I decided I didn't feel in the mood for a hard-boiled L.A. noir this month, and I gave the book a pass. You can read more about Henry Baum here
That's it for me tonight ... I'm sorry I punked out on so many other titles I wanted to review, but I did my best. Pick up the slack for me, you all -- happy reading and goodnight.