Tag Archives | Novel

What the Merry-Go-Round Goes Round (2)

I just posted a draft of Chapter 2, “Morningfloaters” from my attempt at a Young Adult novel called, What the Merry-Go-Round Goes Round at Fictionaut.com. You can read and or leave feedback if you are so inclined. Thanks.


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What the Merry-Go-Round Goes Round (1)

I just posted a draft of Chapter 1, “Girl in the Thicket” from my attempt at a Young Adult novel called, What the Merry-Go-Round Goes Round at Fictionaut.com. You can read and or leave feedback if you are so inclined. Thanks.

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GoodReads Note: The Castle by J. Robert Lennon

Castle: A Novel Castle: A Novel by J. Robert Lennon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
First 10 pages of this book are okay .. and then the next first 150 are amazing. The book works on withheld mysteries which can often feel like a kind of trick, but the absence of any clue to the narrator’s story becomes creepy, vivid, and mind bending. The book degrades significantly when these mysteries are revealed. The writing uses the narrator’s stuffy self-conscience to both ironic and oddly self-revealing ends, but once things are shown the story becomes a knowable trope. The book’s connection to Vietnam and Iraq feel even more remote and unconvincing despite the compelling detail. I wonder if this is the problem of all puzzles, rebus, and stories that are essentially puzzle pieces being put together as a narrative? Twin Peaks had this same issue. As soon as Bob was explained, the show lost its compelling inner workings. As Lost winds up its seasons long narrative it becomes less and less compelling. I wondered in reading the last half of the book how satisfying it would be read a book where the withheld mystery was never actually revealed? (Five stars because I ended up reading this book in 2 sittings, and was on the edge of my seat in utter lit angst the firs time.)

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Przewalki’s Horse by Eckhard Gerdes

Przewalksi's Horse by Eckhard Gerdes

Przewalski’s Horses are the last species of wild, rather than feral, horses. Mustangs come from escaped domestic horses. The Przewalski’s Horse is named for a nineteenth Russian general and naturalist who went on a quest to find the horse. Przewalski’s Horse, the recent novel by Eckhard Gerdes, is about a working class writer, a bar fly a postal worker maned Keith Fine in the midwest, who drops of his life and goes on a quest to rediscover his former writing life in Chicago.

Gerdes has written published six novels since 1986 and professes an interest in the occurrence of chance, the random divergence in plot. This novel, however, is mostly conventional in structure and tone. Keith wants to return to his former life. He drinks a lot. He had trouble. For example, he writes, “I really tried to be a good husband and a good father. After a while, though, it got harder to pretend that everything was okay. I had a large inner-world dying to get out. And now it’s coming. It’s been held back for so long. Now it’s coming out in streams of freedom.”

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Alarm by Mike Daily, A Novel

Alarm Mike DailyIn Alarm, Mick O’Grady is a young man who is struggling in a way familiar to anyone who has grown up working class or lower middle-class. His family, his parents, a context of where he came from, is absent. There is no one to co-sign for an apartment or cover tuition. O’Grady lived in another city before he moved to Los Angeles. His mother is maybe back wherever he came from, somewhere else that is not where he is at in the beginning of the novel. O’Grady is dirt poor. At one time he was less poor, at least wealthy enough that he has a library of books and CDs to sell when his money runs out. He sells his Sonic Youth CDs to buy vegan patties not because he is vegan but because vegan patties are cheaper than meat patties. Books and music and vegan patties are interchangeable to O’Grady; they are objects required for his sustenance.

O’Grady lives in a crummy apartment. The books opens with a sequence of brutally crummy jobs. He gets a job unloading bags of cement from a truck. Everyone at the warehouse unloads cement from the truck by hand for some inexplicable reason. My first job involved similar rituals, the warehouse work was less about performing something of use than merely doing what I was told. O’Grady unloads cement. He gets a job for several days putting together pens. When he gets enough money for food he buys some food, and he also buys a CD.

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Guantanamo: A Novel by Dorothea Dieckmann

Guantanomo Dorothy Dieckman Soft Skull PressI wrote this review trying to follow what I thought was a new format for The Stranger‘s book section. Three months and no word, so here it is: In Dorothy Dieckman’s novel (translated by Tim Mohr and published by Richard Nash), Rashid, a German tourist of Indian decent, using a Lonely Planet Guide to look for an adventure in the postwar zone of Afghanistan, finds himself rounded up by American soldiers under murky circumstances. The normally lucid handles of nationality and religion dissolve as Rashid finds himself bagged, tagged an enemy, and carted to a small cage stowed in rows alongside other cages filled with men with similar varied and confusing stories. Everyone imprisoned has been reduced to an enemy combatant. In turn, the male and female American soldiers who watch over them are also reduced to the role of interrogator.

Like Beckett’s Malone, this novel spends pages dwelling on the mesmerizing physical minutiae of the protagonist. He is a bundle of frayed nerves trying to cling to consciousness in a situation where any sense of context has been removed by senseless forces. In Beckett, this might be an existential crises, in Guantanomo this is Dick Cheney’s war without end. Rashid watches sunlight. A gecko takes up residence behind a plywood panel. The gecko, too, is in prison, and the protagonist’s imprisonment makes just as much sense. Increasingly, national boundaries only make sense for the larger multi-national structures like the World Bank. For citizens of the world, whether they are workers being detained in the United States for lacking the applicable administrative paperwork or they are tourists traveling for dubious reasons in Afghanistan it makes as much sense to imprison these people as it does to lock up geckos, spiders, and moths. This excellent short novel directly confronts the confusion of citizenship and identity in the context of Globalism where terrorism, war, or even Lonely Planet Guide tourism are not constrained by national boundaries.

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Twilight by William Gay

Willaim Gay - TwilightI wrote this very short review awhile ago for an some publication on domesticity. Odd. Nothing came of it. So here it is: In William Gay’s recent novel Twilight, another nearly pitch-perfect Southern Gothic tale by the author of The Long Home and Provinces of Night, set in the piney woods, hollers, and decaying small towns of a 1950s Tennessee abutting a feral wilderness named the Harrikin. The home is the most dangerous place in rural America. Nearly everyone dies with a few yards of their front porch.

Kenneth Tyler, the son of a bootlegger, is working at gaining a degree of respectability in the small town of Center when his sister discovers that something is amiss with their recently buried father. The town undertaker has been molesting the town’s dead. When Tyler and his sister attempt to extort money from the necrophiliac, the undertaker enlists the local thug to silence them. The thug, Granville Sutter, is also the son of bootlegger. Sutter has made himself invulnerable in his willingness to do anything. He even lives in a neat and tidy home. His “room [was] neat and austere. Yesterday’s dishes washed and put away on the drainboard. Cot carefully made.”

After Sutter menaces Tyler, Tyler burns down Sutter’s home and seeks safety in the feral wilderness. What ensues is a long chase through a mythic landscape filled with backwoods homes. Tyler sits on an old goatherd’s rickety porch, travels through the ruins of a plantation-era mansion, visits the parlor of a senile witch, and finally finds solace in the remote farmhouse of born-again bootleggers. But the house in the wilderness proves the most dangerous place of all culminating in a grisly mass murder. Like a great old-time song, Twilight is an artful arrangement of southern tropes revealing the domestic Goth of the American household.

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Review of Peter Carey’s Theft


“For five summers we had a NORMAL LIFE,” Hugh Bones says in Peter Carey’s new novel Theft: A Love Story. He says this after a tranquil period of operating a lawn service with his brother, Michael “Butcher” Bones, a failed superstar painter. In this period outside of Butcher’s pursuit of his art career, he and his brother manage to live life. For my review at The WaterBridge Review.

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Review of The Time in Between by David Bergen

“I am lost,” Charles Boatman says in David Bergen’s new novel, The Time in Between, to a sympathetic expatriate, Elaine Gouds, who he discovers lost, herself, in contemporary Vietnam.

Book reviewed in The WaterBridge Review.

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Review of Madison House by Peter Donahue

In 1907 the City of Seattle began to wash one of its seven hills into Puget Sound in a project known as the Denny Regrade. According to city engineer Reginald H. Thomson, the regrade benefited “The Seattle Spirit.”

Read my review in The Belltown Messenger edited by Mr. Clark Humphrey

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