Tuesday, January 17, 2017

C. McGee Takes It To The Toilet



Oh yes! We absolutely have a series on bathroom reading! So long as it's taking place behind the closed  (or open, if that's the way you swing) bathroom door, we want to know what it is. It can be a book, the back of the shampoo bottle, the newspaper, or Twitter on your cell phone - whatever helps you pass the time...



Today, C. McGee takes it to the toilet! C.'s first novel Exteriors And Interiors is available now from Roundfire Books. His forthcoming novel Feral Chickens will be out next year.  More of his writing can be found on CMcGeeWrite.com. Raised in Minnesota he currently lives in North Carolina with his wife, Beth, and their daughter, Jo.  



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



I love reading. I love the toilet. You put those two things together and you basically have a recipe for sublimity. Honestly, I can’t think of a better way to spend a half an hour. Unfortunately, Reading-On-The-Toilet does not feel the same way about me.  My love is unrequited. Actually, it’s worse than that.  Reading-On-The-Toilet straight up hates me. I know because it gave me hemorrhoids and you don’t give painfully swollen anal veins to someone you love, you give them to someone you despise. What a bastard.

I actually remember the exact moment that Reading-On-The Toilet revealed his true feelings. It was a summer day. The sun beamed down on us as we sat absorbed in Hemingway’s swift, muscular prose. Together we turned page after page, soaking in the sunlight that beamed through the window, keeping one another warm.  It was a romantic afternoon the likes of which one dreams. Then swiftly the dream became a nightmare.  As our afternoon together drew to a close, I turned and looked down in order to assess the size of the present that I had left behind for my lover, but what greeted my eyes was not a well formed brown package resting serenely beneath a layer of clear placid water, but rather a loosely shaped pile of shit residing at the bottom of a basin spider-webbed with ribbons of blood. It was a horrific sight the likes of which I had never seen. Indeed, the unprecedented nature of the scene left me both flummoxed and frightened. Desperately I combed my mind for explanations but none came, at least not right away.  I suspect understanding took me longer than it should have because I didn’t want to believe the truth, I didn’t want to acknowledge that I had been betrayed … but I had. 

Reading-On-The-Toilet had turned against me. He had stabbed me from behind, in the behind.  It was devastating. Is devastating. Neither my asshole nor my heart have ever fully recovered. I expect they never will.  I hate Reading-On-The-Toilet for that, for ruining me, for ridding me of my romantic notions. Still, I can’t help myself. Part of me is still in love with him, and that part of me won’t let the rest of me leave, not completely.  That’s why I still go back. Not often, just every now and then, when I feel like something is missing.  

But I’m careful when I do it.  I never linger. I keep it short and sweet.  Non-fiction exclusively, usually short essays by Hitchens or Sedaris, maybe an occasional comic by Allie Brosh; but no novels, no fiction of any kind.  It’s too risky. I’ll get engrossed and lose my bearings. End up coming to ninety minutes later butt-hurt and heartbroken once more.  I can’t do that. Not again.


Friday, January 13, 2017

David Bowie Reading Challenge: Post Apocalyptic and End-Times Tasks




I really love reading challenges because of the way it stretches your reading comfort zone, but I've always sucked at actually completing them. This year's Reading Challenge is built around David Bowie's discography. And it's a doozey. So I thought it would be cool to set up a series where we can recommend books to one another that can use against some of the tasks. 

Since I'm a sucker for post-apocalyptic and end-times novels, I thought it would be fun to start with those.





Brian Evenson

X doesn’t have a name. He thought he had one—or many—but that might be the result of the failing memories of the personalities imprinted within him. Or maybe he really is called X. He’s also not as human as he believes himself to be.

But when he discovers the existence of another—above ground, outside the protection of the Warren—X must learn what it means to be human, or face the destruction of their two species.


An amazing novel that probes deep into what it means to be human and whether what you think you are, and what you truly are, really makes that much difference in the long run. This novella, which takes place in a warren of sorts many, many years in the future, is a follow-up to Evenson's Immobility but works very well as a stand alone.


Can be applied against
  • We Are Hungry Men (David Bowie, 1967) - Read a book about a global catastrophe
  • Bombers (Hunky Dory, 1971) - Read a book about nuclear war or a book that features an apocalypse
  • After Today ( Young Americans, 1975)– Read a book that takes place in the future
  • Sunday (Heathen, 2002) – Read a book that is narrated by a survivor of some apocalypse


Can also be applied against
  • Future Legend (Diamond Dogs, 1974) – Read a novelette
  • Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family (Diamond Dogs, 1974)– Read the last book in author’s bibliography
  • Ashes to Ashes (Scary Monsters, 1980) – Read a book that is a follow up or sequel
  • Within You (Labryinth, 1986) – Read a book in which a character has multiple ‘personalities’ within themselves 
  • No Control (1. Outside, 1995) – Read a book that someone recommended to you
  • Leon Takes Us Outside (Outside, 1995) – Read a book that contains diary or date entries




Brian Francis Slattery

In the not-distant-enough future, a man takes a boat trip up the Susquehanna River with his most trusted friend, intent on reuniting with his son. But the man is pursued by an army, and his own harrowing past; and the familiar American landscape has been savaged by war and climate change until it is nearly unrecognizable.

Lost Everything is a stunning novel about family and faith, what we are afraid may come to be, and how to wring hope from hopelessness.

Lost Everything takes its readers on a slow, sleepy crawl across the Susquehanna River in a not-so-distant post apocalyptic future where civil war and severe storms, brought about by economic hardships in the face of global warming, threaten to bring the country to its very knees and take the lives of anyone stupid enough to get caught up in between. It's what's left when everything else has been taken. It's what drives a person to continue to fight for their lives when there is really nothing left to live for. It is a powerful and persuasive second look at what might be most important to us. It forces you to reevaluate what you would take with you when you can't take it all. And it pushes you to look at those you love in a painfully new light.



Can be applied against

  • We Are Hungry Men (David Bowie, 1967) - Read a book about a global catastrophe
  • Bombers (Hunky Dory, 1971) - Read a book about nuclear war or a book that features an apocalypse
  • After Today ( Young Americans, 1975)– Read a book that takes place in the future
  • Sunday (Heathen, 2002) – Read a book that is narrated by a survivor of some apocalypse

Can also be applied against

  • The Prettiest Star (Aladdin Star, 1973)– Read a book with an adjective in the title
  • Across the Universe (Young Americans, 1975)Read a book in which the main character has to travel a long distance
  • Red Sails (Loder, 1979) – Read a book that takes place on a ship or boat or features one as a means of transportation
  • Move On (Lodger, 1979) – Read a book that features someone who is constantly on the move
  • No Control (1. Outside, 1995) – Read a book that someone recommended to you
  • Looking For Water (Reality, 2003) – Read a book that features water in some way
  • The Next Day (The Next Day, 2013) – Read a book that takes place in the near future




Sandra Newman

In the ruins of a future America, fifteen-year-old Ice Cream Star and her nomadic tribe live off the detritus of a crumbled civilization. Theirs is a world of children; before reaching the age of twenty, they all die of a strange disease they call Posies--a plague that has killed for generations. There is no medicine, no treatment; only the mysterious rumor of a cure.

When her brother begins showing signs of the disease, Ice Cream Star sets off on a bold journey to find this cure. Led by a stranger, a captured prisoner named Pasha who becomes her devoted protector and friend, Ice Cream Star plunges into the unknown, risking her freedom and ultimately her life. Traveling hundreds of miles across treacherous, unfamiliar territory, she will experience love, heartbreak, cruelty, terror, and betrayal, fighting to protect the only world she has ever known.

Sandra Newman has crafted a fascinating and frightful alternate future, one that pulls you straight down into its very heart, though it's the unique language of Ice Cream Star that holds you there tightly. It's heady and ballsy and manages to break every dystopian barrier there is with a sophisticated ease.



Can be applied against

  • We Are Hungry Men (David Bowie, 1967) - Read a book about a global catastrophe
  • After Today ( Young Americans, 1975)– Read a book that takes place in the future
  • Something in the Air (Hours, 1999) – Read a post-pandemic novel
  • Sunday (Heathen, 2002) – Read a book that is narrated by a survivor of some apocalypse



Can also be applied against

  • Janine (Space Oddity, 1969) – Read a book with a female protagonist
  • Across the Universe (Young Americans, 1975)– Read a book in which the main character has to travel a long distance
  • Algeria Touchshriek (1. Outside 1995) – Read a book in which the title is the character’s name
  • No Control (1. Outside, 1995) – Read a book that someone recommended to you
  • Survive (Hours 1999) – Read a book about survival or in which a character beat the odds
  • The Stars (Are Out Tonight) (The Next Day, 2013) – Read a book with stars in the title
  • God Bless the Girl (The Next Day Extra, 2013) – Read a book written by a female author
  • So She (The Next Day Extra, 2013)– Read a book told from a female’s point of view




Benjamin Percy

In this post-apocalyptic reimagining of the Lewis and Clark saga, a super flu and nuclear fallout have made a husk of the world we know. A few humans carry on, living in outposts such as the Sanctuary-the remains of St. Louis-a shielded community that owes its survival to its militant defense and fear-mongering leaders.

Then a rider comes from the wasteland beyond its walls. She reports on the outside world: west of the Cascades, rain falls, crops grow, civilization thrives. But there is danger too: the rising power of an army that pillages and enslaves every community they happen upon.

Against the wishes of the Sanctuary, a small group sets out in secrecy. Led by Lewis Meriwether and Mina Clark, they hope to expand their infant nation, and to reunite the States. But the Sanctuary will not allow them to escape without a fight.
 

While The Dead Lands is most certainly a post apocalyptic book, it also reads like an epic fantasy. So much so that at times, I had to remind myself that it was taking place in an undisclosed future (or possibly a very distant past?!) and not some alternate world. Part Station Eleven (sprawling epic, years after an apocalypse, relics of the old world stored in a museum), part LotR (minus the elves and dwarves but with just as many bad ass battles), and part history lesson (Lewis, Clark, and Sacajawea - there are so many parallels), The Dead Lands can sometimes come across as a book that doesn't know exactly what it wants to be. And while there were moments where I felt Percy was trying to take on way too much, or was losing his focus, in the end he did a really nice job pulling it all together.


Can be applied against

  • We Are Hungry Men (David Bowie, 1967) - Read a book about a global catastrophe
  • After Today ( Young Americans, 1975)– Read a book that takes place in the future
  • Something in the Air (Hours, 1999) – Read a post-pandemic novel
  • Survive (Hours, 1999)– Read a book about survival or in which a character beat the odds

Can also be applied against
  • Andy Warhol (Hunky Dory, 1971) - Read a book that is an homage to something else
  • The Prettiest Star (Aladdin Star, 1973)– Read a book with an adjective in the title
  • Across the Universe (Young Americans, 1975)– Read a book in which the main character has to travel a long distance
  • No Control (1. Outside, 1995) – Read a book that someone recommended to you





Carola Dibbell

Inez wanders a post-pandemic world, strangely immune to disease, making her living by volunteering as a test subject. She is hired to provide genetic material to a grief-stricken, affluent mother, who lost all four of her daughters within four short weeks. This experimental genetic work is policed by a hazy network of governmental ethics committees, and threatened by the Knights of Life, religious zealots who raze the rural farms where much of this experimentation is done. When the mother backs out at the last minute, Inez is left responsible for the product, which in this case is a baby girl, Ani. Inez must protect Ani, who is a scientific breakthrough, keeping her alive, dodging authorities and religious fanatics, and trying to provide Ani with the childhood that Inez never had, which means a stable home and an education.

With a stylish voice influenced by years of music writing, The Only Ones is a time-old story, tender and iconic, about how much we love our children, however they come, as well as a sly commentary on class, politics, and the complexities of reproductive technology.

God, did I get lost in Carola Dibbell's vision of dystopian New York City. Coupons replace cash; swipes and spit tests replace photo ID's; phone calls and messages are received on Boards (which are both personal devices and outdoor, ATM-like machines); and public transportation consists of bubble cars, unreliable wind-powered trams and boats, and hovering magnetized trains. Giant domes encapsulate wealthy neighborhoods as a feeble attempt to protect against the threat of death that lives in every breath. It's a stark and gritty world where babies are conceived in basement laboratories and sold as "viables" in the global underground market. 

The Only Ones was one of many post-pandemic novels I had itched to get my hands on. It hinges itself on more than just surviving the unsurvivable. It tackles more than just rebuilding society. Dibbell's novel sticks its hands into the evolutionary food chain and calls into question the roles of man and god. 

It's a story about understanding your worth and overcoming your "heritage". It's about embracing motherhood, even if you don't know what that is, and the near-obsessive desire to give your children a better childhood than you had. 


Can be applied against

  • We Are Hungry Men (David Bowie, 1967) - Read a book about a global catastrophe
  • After Today ( Young Americans, 1975)– Read a book that takes place in the future
  • Something in the Air (Hours, 1999) – Read a post-pandemic novel
  • Sunday (Heathen, 2002) – Read a book that is narrated by a survivor of some apocalypse




Can also be applied against

  • Janine (Space Oddity, 1969) – Read a book with a female protagonist
  • Kooks (Hunky Dory, 1971)– Read a book about parenthood or that revolves around parenting
  • No Control (1. Outside, 1995) – Read a book that someone recommended to you
  • Survive (Hours, 1999)– Read a book about survival or in which a character beat the odds
  • God Bless the Girl (The Next Day Extra, 2013) – Read a book written by a female author
  • So She (The Next Day Extra, 2013)– Read a book told from a female’s point of view
  • The Next Day (The Next Day, 2013) – Read a book that takes place in the near future





Edan Lepucki

The world Cal and Frida have always known is gone, and they've left the crumbling city of Los Angeles far behind them. They now live in a shack in the wilderness, working side-by-side to make their days tolerable despite the isolation and hardships they face. Consumed by fear of the future and mourning for a past they can't reclaim, they seek comfort and solace in one other. But the tentative existence they've built for themselves is thrown into doubt when Frida finds out she's pregnant. 

Terrified of the unknown but unsure of their ability to raise a child alone, Cal and Frida set out for the nearest settlement, a guarded and paranoid community with dark secrets. These people can offer them security, but Cal and Frida soon realize this community poses its own dangers. In this unfamiliar world, where everything and everyone can be perceived as a threat, the couple must quickly decide whom to trust.

A gripping and provocative debut novel by a stunning new talent, California imagines a frighteningly realistic near future, in which clashes between mankind's dark nature and irrepressible resilience force us to question how far we will go to protect the ones we love.

Edan has done something wonderful within a somewhat "been there, read that" genre. As a fan of post-apocalyptic and dystopian literature, I've experienced just about every end-of-the-world scenario. From meteors to zombies to plagues,.. and while there is nothing wrong with that, I have a deep appreciation for the slow, unobtrusive way in which Edan ushered in hers. How scary to imagine growing up in a world where, little by little, we are pushed back towards the dark ages. Internet and electricity are spotty at best, colleges teach its students to farm, people trade gold for the silliest trinkets.

Through California, Edan addresses our biggest fears as she offers its characters the opportunity to rebuild society, and right past wrongs. Will they continue down the dark path that brought about their own undoings or move humanity forward in new and unexpected ways?

For the record, had my husband and I been characters in this book, fleeing the same dying city, we'd be dead within a week of exposure to the elements, dehydration, and us stupidly gorging out on poisonous berries or some ridiculously dumb infection by hangnail. We're just not cut out for the end of the world as we know it. Do you think it's too late to influence my kids into becoming crunchy granolas? This novel makes me fear for their future.


Can be applied against

  • We Are Hungry Men (David Bowie, 1967) - Read a book about a global catastrophe
  • After Today ( Young Americans, 1975)– Read a book that takes place in the future

Can also be applied against

  • Janine (Space Oddity, 1969) – Read a book with a female protagonist
  • Kooks (Hunky Dory, 1971)– Read a book about parenthood or that revolves around parenting
  • Somebody Up There Likes Me (Young Americans, 1975) – Read a book that is written in third-person
  • The Secret Life of Arabia (Heroes, 1977)– Read a book in which the protagonist is keeping secrets
  • No Control (1. Outside, 1995) – Read a book that someone recommended to you
  • Algeria Touchshriek (1.Outside, 1995) – Read a book in which the title is the character’s name
  • Survive (Hours, 1999)– Read a book about survival or in which a character beat the odds
  • God Bless the Girl (The Next Day Extra, 2013) – Read a book written by a female author




Clayton Smith

Three years have passed since the Jamaicans caused the apocalypse, and things in post-Armageddon Chicago have settled into a new kind of normal. Unfortunately, that "normal" includes collapsing skyscrapers, bands of bloodthirsty maniacs, and a dwindling cache of survival supplies. After watching his family, friends, and most of the non-sadistic elements of society crumble around him, Patrick decides it's time to cross one last item off his bucket list. He's going to Disney World. This hilarious, heartfelt, gut-wrenching odyssey through post-apocalyptic America is a pilgrimage peppered with peril, as fellow survivors Patrick and Ben encounter a slew of odd characters, from zombie politicians and deranged survivalists to a milky-eyed oracle who doesn't have a lot of good news. Plus, it looks like Patrick may be hiding the real reason for their mission to the Magic Kingdom... 

A post-apocalyptic novel that makes fun of itself and every book or film that's ever come before it? Uh, yes please!

Clayton Smith knocks it out of the park - The Magic Kingdom's parking lot, to be exact - with this hilarious tale of two BFF's who've managed to survive the apocalypse (which was brought about by Jamaican 'Flying Monkey Missiles' if you can believe it) by apparent sheer dumb luck. Time and time again I found myself wishing I could hop inside Clayton's world and tag along with these guys.Sprinkled throughout with pop culture references and served with a heaping dose of well written dialogue, I'm naming APOCALYPTICON the must-read book of 2014 for fans of post-apoc literature. Give yourself a break from all the end-of-the-world doom and gloom, and get your read on with this insanely incredible post apocalyptical novel with a huge heart. And HELLO?! Have you seen the cover? If my review's not enough to make you pick this thing up.... that cover sure as hell should be! 


Can be applied against

  • We Are Hungry Men (David Bowie, 1967) - Read a book about a global catastrophe
  • Bombers (Hunky Dory, 1971) - Read a book about nuclear war or a book that features an apocalypse
  • After Today ( Young Americans, 1975)– Read a book that takes place in the future

Can also be applied against
  • We Are the Dead (Diamond Dogs, 1974) - Read a zombie novel
  • Somebody Up There Likes Me (Young Americans, 1975) – Read a book that is written in third-person
  • Across the Universe (Young Americans, 1975)– Read a book in which the main character has to travel a long distance
  • Never Let Me Down (Never Let Me Down, 1987) – Read a book in which a character places their faith in something
  • No Control (1. Outside, 1995) – Read a book that someone recommended to you
  • Survive (Hours, 1999)– Read a book about survival or in which a character beat the odds
  • The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell (Hours, 1999) – Read a dark comedy



Eric Shonkwiler

Years from now, America is slowly collapsing. Crops are drying up and oil is running out. People flee cities for the countryside, worsening the drought and opening the land to crime. Amid this decay and strife, war veteran David Parrish fights to keep his family and farm together. However, the murder of a local child opens old wounds, forcing him to confront his own nature on a hunt through dust storms and crumbling towns for the killer.

Shonkwiler's sparse prose moved patiently across the page, building tension as it went, as raw and cutting as the dust storms that plagued his characters in this "apocalyptic western" debut. Nothing I read in the following eleven months even came close. It's a bleak tale of the beginning of the end of the world. Of a family man who feels the weight of everyone's worries on his shoulders. Of this man who, regardless of consequence, is determined to make sure everyone is alright, even if it means hurting the ones he cares about most. It's a tale of survival as much as it is one of destruction. And Shonkwiler pulls it off effortlessly. It's a killer read. It does all of the things you want it to and some of the things you don't. And that's what makes it so powerful. That's what makes it THE one.


Can be applied against

  • We Are Hungry Men (David Bowie, 1967) - Read a book about a global catastrophe
  • After Today ( Young Americans, 1975)– Read a book that takes place in the future

Can also be applied against
  • Please Mr. Gravedigger (David Bowie, 1967)– Read a book about murder, or that prominently features a murder
  • Somebody Up There Likes Me (Young Americans, 1975) – Read a book that is written in third-person
  • No Control (1. Outside, 1995) – Read a book that someone recommended to you
  • Thru These Architect’s Eyes (1.Outside, 1995) – Read a book that uses punctuation oddly
  • The Next Day (The Next Day, 2013) – Read a book that takes place in the near future



If you like this post and would be interested in seeing more like this one, let me know!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Drew Reviews: The Literary Conference

4.5 Stars – Strongly Recommended by Drew
Pages: 90
Publisher: New Directions
Released: 2010



 Reviewed by Drew Broussard





The Short Version: After solving a centuries-old puzzle and recovering a lost pirate treasure, author/translator (and Mad Scientist) César Aira sets out to put in motion a plan to dominate the world. Things go awry.

The Review: In some ways, this is the most digestible Aira novel I have read so far. In his embracing of B-movie aesthetics, which are (I now realize) delightfully well-suited to his "flight forward" style of just inventing and inventing and inventing, he's created something that manages to be both silly and also profound, something intellectually stimulating while also unequivocally tossed off. These dichotomies are what make Aira such a fascinating, compelling author - and I'm glad to've gotten one more of his books in before the end of 2016.

When I say that this book is the "most digestible", don't for a second think that I'm saying that it's not banana-pants crazy and silly and strange. It is right up there with The Seamstress and the Wind for wild inventiveness, featuring a mad scientist and a cloning device and a world-destroying ending - but also featuring surrealist theater, long swims in the pool, and the titular literary conference. All of this in under a hundred pages - but none of it feels hurried or rushed or like it didn't matter. This, my friends, is the beauty of César Aira.

This is also the first book of his where I saw - or, at least, I thought I saw - behind the veil. It's not the only book where the character of César Aira appears (I haven't read The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira yet, but do believe it to've been him in Conversations) but there seems to be something touching on the reality of Aira in this particular version. He's a mad scientist brought, unexpectedly, to a literary conference - a conference where he plans to clone a famous author in order to be subservient to said author's clone in their pursuit of world domination. A smarter psychological mind could go into the depths of what it means for Aira to wish to be subservient to another author, to feel as though other authors are more famous than he - but I can't help thinking that there is some small dose of self-reflection here. Take the later moment, as character-Aira watches an old play of his restaged (the reason for his coming to the conference). He is both critical and pleased with this early work, looking on it as he does from the perspective of his older self. Does this novel function similarly? This is, I suppose, a matter of one's interpretation.

Not so subject to interpretation: the hilarious denouement. Aira's mad-scientist plan goes awry, as mad scientist's plans often do, because of a simple failing on behalf of a minion - and it's in this that Aira presents one of his more straightforward stories, if it ends up being perhaps less impactful than something like ...Landscape Painter or Conversations. We know rather what to expect from a mad scientist's tale: the long-winded explanation of what he's doing, their undeniable brilliance that just happens to be warped in dark ways, their convoluted plan that could've been more easily pulled off in a hundred other ways that would've been less impressive-looking... and so as the plan falls apart and Aira must save his own life (in so doing saving everyone and becoming a hero), we get the full scope of a traditional villain-to-hero narrative - and that traditionalist arc is genuinely surprising, 
considering Aira so often subverts such arcs, not even necessarily through purpose so much as coming up with an oddball idea that sends the story spinning off in another direction. As such, you get to the end of the book and find that Aira has surprised in not surprising, as it were.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5. Genuinely silly and one of (in my experience so far) Aira's lightest-touch novellas. He takes great joy in the B-movie plotting and this would be a great introductory novel for those trying to see if they can get on board with the strangeness and the wacky tone that Aira often takes. This was my fifth in a year and while I didn't get the same flush of wonder that I did from some of the others, I still found such delights - and look forward to burning through another one or two on a snowy weekend sometime soon.




Drew Broussard reads, a lot. When not doing that, he's writing stories or playing music or acting or producing or coming up with other ways to make trouble.  He also has a day job at The Public Theater in New York City.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Lindsey Reviews: Only for a Moment

Only for a Moment by Tabitha Vohn
Pages: 79
Self published
Released:October 2016




Dog Eared Review by Lindsey Lewis Smithson 




In this first collection of poetry from writer Tabitha Vohn there is a wide range of both skill and emotion. Known more of her prose, Vohn has ventured into poetry, which she says she’s been turning to since she was 15 years old. Unlike many collections of poetry this particular book includes a forward to put the rest of the writing into context. I personally have mixed feelings about the inclusion of the forward, which details the writer’s intention and her emotional connection to the work. I some books a forward is necessary, especially ones that work with historical events or obscure details, but on personal collections I tend to think they pull the readers out of the book. A forward for a collection such as this subconsciously tells the reader how to feel instead of allowing the reader to simply feel; it puts a barrier up between the writer and the reader, preventing the reader from seeing themselves in the poems.

But that is a lot of talk about a forward and not the actual poetry. Onward. The poems within the collection read in a very linear fashion, as evidence by both the evolution of skill and emotion. As informed by the forward the first section, titled “Every Word From Your Mouth is a Heart Song,” feels like juvenilia. Thematically the poet tackles the aftermath of a death that is close to her heart when she was a teenager. The poems themselves feel very much like they were written by a teenager. This may serve as a boon for the collection, helping to demonstrate sincerity, but it can also be a bit distracting. If you read with an open mind the raw youth of the poems is heartfelt, or you may find them distracting.

The later poems show more poise-it is clear that the writer’s skill grew other time. There is also a more nuanced use of imagery, especially in the section “Forest Tales.”

Overall I could go either way on this book. It’s decent enough and I enjoyed it, but not sure if I would dive in for a re-read.


Dog Eared Pages:

14, 18, 24, 27, 29, 35, 36, 38, 46, 48, 55, 57, 73



Lindsey Lewis Smithson is the Editor of Straight Forward Poetry. Some of her poetry has appeared on The Nervous BreakdownThis Zine Will Change Your LifeThe Cossack Review, and Every Writer’s Resource: Everyday Poems.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Blog Tour: Apocalypse All The Time





We're thrilled to have an opportunity to jump on the promo-bandwagon for David S Atkinson's novel Apocalypse All The Time. The book was released though Literary Wanderlust in early December. 

The tour runs throughout most of January, so be sure to stop by the tour's homepage to see what other blogs are saying about the book!


Today, we're featuring a guest post from the author on our eternal fear of The End....
Enjoy!



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~




The Beginning of the End



I think the creation of a tongue-in-cheek book about the apocalypse such as Apocalypse All the Time can be directly blamed on Night of the Comet. Perhaps you remember, the laugh-filled movie about a couple of valley girls harassed by zombies due to a mysterious comet (unless you were inside a metal structure such as a projection booth or garden shed, such as the girls were). Maybe not completely directly, but it's certainly in there somehow. After all, weren't the late seventies and early eighties training us to laugh at the end of the world? WarGames, Spies Like Us, the list goes on.

Reflecting, I think of all of the people around the age of my parents who talked of duck and cover drills, of the Cuban Missile Crisis, of being terrified of the certainty that nuclear war with the Russians was going to end humanity…and soon. The threat was not less by the time people of my age group came along, but I think the world had lived under the threat for so long that most thought it wouldn't happen unless some catastrophic accident occurred. We still lived under the idea that the end of the world was a button push away (growing up as I did within twelve miles or so from Strategic Air Command, meaning I'd be glass instantaneously if a full-blown nuclear war ever occurred) for too long. It almost no longer seemed real.

Certainly not the way that it seemed real to any kid who ever hid under a desk from the Russians.

It's funny, because there was still the danger. For the next group, the Cold War ended (or so it seemed, recent events perhaps indicating that we should again start at least an eighties level of concern) and so they didn't even worry about it as much. For us though, nuclear war was a regular topic of conversation…just not with the fearful reverence of our parents. It was too absurd, too unreal…even though we were living in it.

Who could take the end of the world seriously when it was supposedly just around the corner but still never came? What else could a childhood like that lead to other than Apocalypse All the Time?



Obviously I don't know…because Apocalypse All the Time is what I came up with. Hope everyone digs.

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What the book's about: 




Doesn’t it seem as if someone issues a new apocalypse prediction every week? Y2K? The Mayan apocalypse? The Rapture? Doesn’t it seem endless? As opposed to the traditional trend of post-apocalyptic literature, Apocalypse All the Time is post-post-apocalypticism.

Marshall is sick of the apocalypse happening on a weekly (if not daily) basis. Life is constantly in peril, continually disrupted, but nothing significant ever happens. The emergency is always handled. Always. Marshall wants out; he wants it all to stop . . . one way or another. Even if he has to end the world himself.

Apocalypse All the Time explores humanity’s fascination with the end times and what impact such a fascination has on the way we live our lives.





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Check out the book trailer:




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David S. Atkinson is the author of Apocalypse All the Time (forthcoming from Literary Wanderlust), Not Quite So Stories, Bones Buried in the Dirt (2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards® finalist, First Novel (under 80,000 words)) and The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes (2015 National Indie Excellence® Awards finalist in humor). His writing has appeared in Bartleby Snopes, Grey Sparrow Journal, Atticus Review and other literary magazines and journals. Learn more about David and his writing at www.davidsatkinsonwriting.com.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Page 69: The Crashers

Disclaimer: The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....






In this installment of Page 69, 

we put Magen Cubed's The Crashers up against the test!








Set up page 69 for us (what are we about to read):

This page from the sixth chapter follows Adam Harlow, one of the main characters, as he tries to get through his daily life with his newly discovered superhuman strength. However, superpowers aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, as he’s quickly learning.




What’s the book about?

The Crashers is a superhuman sci-fi/fantasy novel following five people who survive an act of domestic terrorism. They are former detective Kyle Jeong; single mother Norah Aroyan; Afghanistan veteran Adam Harlow; the genius Clara Reyes; and the dying Bridger Levi. These five strangers emerge from the incident to discover they’ve gained powers, but have also lost the ability to die. Dealing with the fall-out of the attack, they must figure out how to take care of each other in a city that’s quickly spiraling out of control if they want to save their home from itself.




Do you think this page gives our readers an accurate sense of what the book is about? Does it align itself with the books overall theme?

This page deals with the effects of both Adam’s PTSD and his superhuman strength, and how they manifest in his life. For Adam, strength and powerlessness feel the same way, in how they alter his ability to interact with the world around him. Strength can help as well as harm, and Adam’s learning that in this part of the story.

Trauma and survival are key themes to the book. Each character is rebounding from a unique series of losses, anxieties, and defeats. All of their new abilities fit into their respective journeys of healing, and help them reclaim their lives after the trauma of the attack that left them superpowered. At this point, Adam hasn’t found that balance, and is still figuring his powers out.

In that respect, I think page 69 offers an accurate sense of what the rest of the book is about.







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PAGE 69
THE CRASHERS



Adam killed the toaster first. It was an accident. He was trying to place his whole wheat into the slots when he busted the cover off and crushed the flimsy metal inside. The microwave went next when he ripped the door off without even realizing. The shattered coffee pot and ripped cabinet hinges followed. He bent a wrench in half at the shop when a door slammed, and he had to kick it across the floor before anyone else could notice what he did. He ripped the door from his car after work on Friday evening and spent his entire Saturday afternoon putting it back on.

Strength wasn’t what it was cracked up to be. In the movies and the comic books, it was a plot device—a cheap trick to use at parties. No one ever talked about what it was really like to be so strong. It poured out of his muscles like steel and snapped his spine straight when he least expected it to, turning him into an unmovable object without his consent. Life was fraught with danger now. It was filled with held breaths and hands kept tucked away. The prospect was a terrifying one, forcing Adam to take up even less space on the sidewalk and inside crowded elevators. One miscalculation could crush and maim.

In a way, nothing really changed. His body wasn’t his; it was still a cage that kept him separated from everyone else and afraid of what might happen if he let another person get too close. Before, he would break if touched, but now he could break other people. Nothing about it was fair, but he had no say in that, either. The only time he didn’t feel so fragile was when he bent over a car engine. Work at the shop was more than work to Adam. It paid the bills and kept a roof over his head, but it was his church. His tiny altar at Bob’s Repair and Restoration was the only safe place he had left. A sea of noise and grease and grubby, metal parts, it afforded him a consistent stream of puzzles to take apart, tease out, and put back together again.

When he didn’t have work, maintaining Betty occupied his time. Just as before, it made him feel safe. He changed the oil, tweaked the engine, and gained satisfaction going to the junkyard for spare parts. The Barracuda was a masterpiece in the making. He’d hauled its disused shell from his neighbor’s backyard before his sixteenth birthday. Alone with his car or in the guts of some stranger’s SUV, he could finally breathe. Strength didn’t matter there; only the silence mattered.


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Magen Cubed is an author of novels about monsters, superheroes, and various other kinds of strangeness. Her first novel Fleshtrap was released in 2013 from Post Mortem Press, and her superhero fiction series The Crashers kicks off with its first book in 2016. The Crashers: Koreatown is coming in 2017, along with several horror/paranormal romance novels about monsters and the people who love them. Magen also lives in Texas with a little dog named Cecil.