Thursday, March 31, 2016

Buried in Books - My New Precioussssess

Because I can't possibly read every single book that finds its way into my home IMMEDIATELY, though I fully intend to die trying, allow me to show off our most recently acquired precioussssess...

For Review

Matthew Fogarty
Stillhouse Press
September 2016

Maybe mermaids and robots are lonely. Maybe stargazing dinosaurs escape extinction, and 80's icons share their secrets and scams. A boardwalk Elvis impersonator declines a Graceland of his own, Bigfoot works as a temp, families fall apart and come back together. This wild and vibrant collection of explorer's tales will take you from fabulist faraway worlds to Great Recession realism in a single breath.

*By request  / *Considering this for a future Author/Reader discussion  / *The cover is wicked sharp and it's got a killer title to boot

Brian Francis Slattery
Tor Books

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. 

*By request / *Considering this for a future Author/Reader discussion / *Sounds like a killer read and that cover, ohmagosh

The North Water
Ian McGuire
Henry Holt & Co
March 2016

A nineteenth-century whaling ship sets sail for the Arctic with a killer aboard in this dark, sharp, and highly original tale that grips like a thriller. Henry Drax is a harpooner on the Volunteer, a Yorkshire whaler bound for the rich hunting waters of the arctic circle. Also aboard for the first time is Patrick Sumner, an ex-army surgeon with a shattered reputation, no money, and no better option than to sail as the ship's medic on this violent, filthy, and ill-fated voyage.Sumner hoped to find temporary respite on the Volunteer, but rest proves impossible with Drax on board. The discovery of something evil in the hold rouses Sumner to action. And as the confrontation between the two men plays out amid the freezing darkness of an arctic winter, the fateful question arises: who will survive until spring? With savage, unstoppable momentum and the blackest wit, The North Water weaves a superlative story of humanity under the most extreme conditions.

*By Request / *Considering this for a future Author/Reader discussion / *Sounds like it could be a good'un

The Girl Wakes: Stories
Carmen Lau
Alternating Current
March 2016

Dark, strange, lyrical, and full of frustrated desire and whimsy, Carmen Lau’s debut collection of stories paints a vivid picture of femininity in the clutches of fantasy, reflecting the brutality of growing up a girl and challenging readers to rethink fairy tales as they’ve always known them. Within, you’ll find a tender heart, a painful core, and a paradoxically disastrous and beautiful coming-of-age of every and any girl, told through fairy tales that mirror real life and are at once contemporary and timeless. Joining the ranks of Angela Carter, Kate Bernheimer, and Allyse Near, Lau weaves tales of a girl who is too fantastical to be real and too real to be fantasy.

*From publisher / *I'm all over contemporary fairy tales

Your Glass Head Against The Brick Parade Of Now Whats
Sam Pink
House of Vlad
April 2016

The much-anticipated poetry chapbook by Sam Pink, author of the cult favorites Person and I Am Going to Clone Myself Then Kill the Clone and Eat It, who the Los Angeles Review of Books called, “Simply one of the best, darkest, funniest, wildest, and [most] touching writers we’ve got.”

*From publisher / *It's Sam Fucking Pink, y'all!

From My Wallet

Adam Cesare
Shock Totem Publications
January 2016

Robby Asaro is dead. And alive. He’s a ghost in the machine, keeping a watchful eye on the arcade where he lost his life two decades before. And the afterlife is good. The best thing ever to have happened to him. But when the conscious electric current formerly known as Robby Asaro makes a decision to protect one of his favorite patrons, Tiffany Park, from a bully, he sets loose a series of violent supernatural events that can’t be stopped. Trapped inside the arcade as the kill count rises, Tiffany and a group of gamers must band together to escape from what used to be their favorite place on Earth…and the ghost of Robby Asaro. From the author of TribesmenVideo Night, and The Summer Job,Zero Lives Remaining is a masterful mix of horror and suspense, dread and wonder, a timeless ghost story that solidifies Adam Cesare’s reputation as one of the best up-and-coming storytellers around. This is Adam Cesare firing on all cylinders—and he’s just getting started. 

*Kindle purchase / *Sounds utterly badass and it's about time I read a Cesare!

Jordan Krall
Copeland Valley Press

A nudist colony. A rare film. A donkey-headed woman.A murder. The hummingbird.Explore identity, marriage, madness, and obsession in a phantasmagoricorgy of violence and voyeurism.

*Kindle purchase / *That cover! That Title!

Jordan Krall
Eraserhead Press

A bizarro tribute to Spaghetti westerns, H.P. Lovecraft, and foot fetish enthusiasts. Screwhorse, Nevada is legendary for its violent and unusual pleasures, but when a mysterious gunslinger drags a wooden donkey into the desert town, the stage is set for a bloodbath unlike anything the west has ever seen. His name is Calamaro, and he's from New Jersey. Featuring Cthulhu-worshipping Indians, a woman with four feet, a Giallo-esque serial killer, a crazed gunman who is obsessed with sucking on candy, Syphilis-ridden mutants, ass juice, burping pistols, sexually transmitted tattoos, and a house devoted to the freakiest fetishes, Jordan Krall's Fistful of Feet is the weirdest western ever written. 

*Kindle purchase / *It's a bizarro spaghetti western, hello?!?!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

When Awesome Actors Read Children's Stories

Here are a few of my favorite things.....

Please enjoy this video of Christopher Walken 

and here he is again, reading
The Three Little Pigs...

How about Liam Neeson reading
Five Little Monkeys?

A subdued Morgan Freeman reads
Everyone Poops...

And of course, the best audio in the history of EVER....
Samuel L Jackson 

Got any clips of other awesome actors reading children's stories? Let us know and share them below in the comments!!!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Drew Reviews: An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter

An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter by C├ęsar Aira
4.5 Stars - Strongly recommended by Drew
Pages: 88
Publisher: New Directions
Released: 2006

Reviewed by Drew Broussard

The Short Version: An Episode... recounts the story of one Johann Mortiz Rugendas, a German landscape painter who traveled to Argentina twice during his life. On that first trip, as he strives to capture something new, an accident changes and mars him for life - but also, perhaps, provides the door he had been seeking...

The Review: When is a biography not a biography? Presumably when it makes up facts - but what is the line between what is made up and what is true, when you don't know the story to begin with? Take Johann Moritz Rugendas: he was a real painter. He really traveled to Latin America. A canny reader can discover these things through about fifteen seconds of Googling.

But the story recounted here, the destruction of Rugendas' face and his consequent strange artistic adventure, has (seemingly) no basis in truth. If I hadn't looked up Rugendas at all, would I have assumed that Aira made up the whole thing including the man himself? Or, perhaps more interestingly, that the whole story was true? Aira is consciously engaging with this uncertainty throughout the novel, interrogating philosophic questions as often as he is moving the story along. A line that stuck out to me from the last few pages of the book reads "Reality was becoming immediate, like a novel" - and it's this simultaneity of "reality" and "novel" that informs the limbo that this novel lives in. If reality becomes more like a novel, but a novel is more immediate - and the novel that we're reading is depicting a reality... what is then real?
The experience of reading this slim novel - novella, really, seeing as it clocks in at only 88 pages - is one of a constant opening or expanding. Things begin in rather small, ordinary terms and context: we're given some background on Rugendas and the circumstances that will bring him to Argentina. The tone is conversational, but also relatively dry: it feels like ordinary non-fiction, like a short biography. But as the story moves into Rugendas' travels, that same tone begins to shake and warp into something different. Yes, there's still the sense of a biographer delivering to us a story... but it feels, now, more like a story than it does a biography. 
I find it difficult to articulate the alchemy of Aira's work here, for one thing because it feels entirely different from anything else I've ever encountered. I could not pinpoint the moment where my sense of the novel shifted, even upon going back over the text, and I think this is because there isn't a single point: Aira is shifting the novel's stance from the very start, so that nothing is quite what it seems to be. The novel's true intentions, you might say, are veiled.
Speaking of veils, let's move back to plot for a moment and discuss the fictional (or at least apocryphal) event that changes Rugendas' life: the storm. This is a Lear-esque storm, one that seems the painter out on a heath of sorts without much in the way of sanity - but where lightning never deigned to strike the erstwhile king, it does strike poor Rugendas, in one of the most electrifying (sorry, I couldn't help it) scenes I've read in quite a while. That pun is actually meant to be informative: the scene feels like Aira is, in fact, attempting to capture a bolt of lightning on the page - the crackle of it, the jagged lines we think of when we imagine one, the actual literal electric energy of lightning... it's there in the text. We feel the transformative power of lightning in a way that nobody since Ben Franklin (and, honestly, maybe not since people stopped believing in Zeus) has felt. It feels primal and utterly otherworldly, which of course befits the impossible vistas surrounding Rugendas during this moment.
Aira then digs into what it means to be an artist, what it means to shape the world around you even as that world shapes you. We have, on the surface, the literal shaping of the man by the world - but we also have the more subtle things, the way that Rugendas is using these strange expanses to disrupt the traditional forms of painting that were then in vogue. And it seems somehow fitting that he, the scion of a line of war painters, would find a version of war to paint even as he'd become famous for landscapes: the battles with Indians out on the frontier.
A word about Indians: I had to remind myself more than a few times that this novel took place in Argentina and not the American West. Partially because of the use of the term Indian to represent a native tribesperson... but also because the novel feels largely, as it expands outward, like it is addressing and copping to the tropes of Westerns. As the Indian raid that consumes the final movement of the novel takes place and Rugendas rides out to paint these scenes, it'd be easy enough to pick up the novel and put it in Texas instead of Argentina - and that got me thinking about the various ways in which "the real world" is being interpreted in this novel. Because, you see, Aira is a native-born Argentinian. He is not Rugendas - and so we have an Argentinian writer writing the life of a German explorer. We have a modern writer delivering a work of history. We have Aira adapting the reality of history to fit his storytelling, leaving questions about what is "real" and what is not. We even have, within the novel, the ways in which Rugendas experiences and captures on the page the world he sees - and these ways change after the storm. 
And yet, at the end of this slim volume, we also have a very simple smash-cut ending - one that captures a literal moment in the most literary of ways. The book's ever-widening gaze seems to be about to widen out even further and then, instead, it snaps off like a light switch, leaving the reader in mid-thought even as the novel itself concludes quite cleanly. And now I feel as though it is I who have been struck by lightning. I can't say, exactly, how I've been changed - but Aira's writing shook something loose inside of me. I'm excited to find out what that means.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5. Something feels like it keeps it from being what you might classically consider "perfect" or "great" - but that something feels like a failure of my reading, not of the novel. It feels like there are still secrets to explore and discover here. I'm not sure what they are or if it's actually that I just need to read more Aira (something I'm already making strides towards doing, having picked up two more of his beautiful, slim novellas) - but I feel changed in a way I can't quite articulate yet. This was a fascinating and completely unexpected reading experience, one that continued to expand outward even after I closed the book.

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.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Page 69: Single Stroke Seven

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 contributor Lavinia Ludlow's Single Stroke Seven to the test!

Set up Page 69 for us.

Our tougher-than-nails, stronger-than-steel protagonist, Lilith, is invited for a beer with a local musician. Since her priorities have always been anchored to pursuing a life in music--that has yet to pay out--she seeks asylum in a conventional pursuit in which she lacks all interest: dating. Her lukewarm albeit honest attempt fails, paralleling other aspects in her life such as a soul-sucking job, codependent relationships, and her attempts to break into the indie music scene.

What is Single Stroke Seven about?

A band of musicians chasing an elusive pipe dream of breaking into the music scene. They cling to bad habits, routines, and dysfunctional relationships, subconsciously giving themselves excuses to avoid taking responsibility for their current situations or future.

This book is also about struggling to survive in an uncertain era where our country's health care system is broken, the economy erratic, and the ever increasing cost of living in the Bay Area makes it impossible to for even those gainfully employed to keep up with the bills.

Do you think this page gives our readers an accurate sense of what Single Stroke Seven is about? Does it align itself the collection’s overall theme?

Absolutely. In this book, we see a cluster of artists, musicians, continuously falling short in life because of inconvenient, ironic, or comical situations. This page exhibits multiple reasons why Lilith falls short of such a simple task such as landing a date. She desires to improve her situation, but ends up intimidating this hipster pansy, and falls back on what's always been safe and consistent: music and her life-long obsession with her best friend, Duncan.

Page 69 also reconnects with Lilith's overall struggle as a starving drummer who's fixated on the notion of making it big in the music scene. There's that universal quote about how we should never be focused on the destination, only the journey, but this book is all about being obsessed with the destination because the everyday perils of trying to survive in an uncertain time and an unstable economy prevents anyone from having energy, self-worth, and time at the end of the day to pursue any journey at all.

I hate to say I enjoyed seeing Lilith fail on Page 69, but I wrote her as someone who is certain of who she is, what she wants, and doesn't only run with the boys, but runs smarter and faster. Sure, there are ridiculous aspects about her, the way she bandages wounds with electrical tape, eats off the ground, and wears flannel shirts, but she sure as hell can defend herself when a grown-ass meth-head charges at her with a butterfly knife.

Ultimately, Lilith is, as I am proud to have written her in Single Stroke Seven, unapologetically herself.



Lavinia Ludlow is a musician and writer dividing time between San Francisco and London. Her debut novel, alt.punk (2011), explored the ragged edge of art, society, and sanity, viciously skewering the politics of rebellion. Her sophomore novel, Single Stroke Seven (2016), explores the lives of independent artists coming of age in perilous economic conditions. Both titles can be purchased through Casperian Books. Her short works have been published in Pear Noir!, Curbside Splendor Semi-Annual Journal, and Nailed Magazine, and her indie lit reviews have appeared in Small Press Reviews, The Rumpus, The Collagist, The Nervous Breakdown, Entropy Magazine, and American Book Review.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

John McCarthy on "Being Indie"

On "Being Indie" is a blog series that introduces us to a wide variety of small press authors and publishers as they discuss what being indie means to them. 

John McCarthy is the author of Ghost County (MG Press, 2016). His poetry has appeared in Best New Poets 2015, December, Fifth Wednesday, Jabberwock Review, The Minnesota Review, Oyez Review, The Pinch, Redivider, RHINO, and Salamander. He edited the anthology [Ex]tinguished and [Ex]tinct (Twelve Winters Press, 2014). John is the managing editor of Quiddity International Literary Journal and Public-Radio Program and is currently an MFA candidate at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Independent First Books

I think a large part of why I chose to publish my first book with a small press is due to my Midwestern heritage—some idea of flyover country—some kind of persistent Americana-type ideal of doing things independently when no one else is watching. These roots branched out in a rather synchronistic way when Midwestern Gothic Press asked to look at my manuscript, which of course, is very much influenced by affective happenings within the Midwest.

Since readership is valued more than royalties and paychecks when you choose to publish with an independent press, I figured the niche of readers that MG press had cultivated as a following would be the perfect audience for the book. Marketing would take care of itself. On social media, I have, in a way, marketed myself as a Midwestern writer, someone who is strongly influenced by the characteristics of the landscape. Between the presses’ following and my own, I felt strongly about the people who would purchase the book and look for a connection within it.

Connection is one human desire present in all of us, the desire to connect with others or, at least, in some way, with ourselves. Ghost County is, in some ways, about wanting to connect, the failure of connecting, but the perennial, possible hope of finding connection. It was this desire that led to the easy choice of publishing my first book with an independent press. There was a more intimate chance at connection with my publisher and with my potential readers.

When you choose to publish with an independent press, the responsibility is on you, the writer, to take up half of the marketing and promotion, which means you, the writer, are on the ground creating a shared, mutual energy with a reader. I once drove six hours, spending over $100.00 of my own money to give an unpaid reading to ten people, but I was able to connect personally with them. I was able to share my work with them, and they, too, felt comfortable showing me or telling me about their own work. It was a personal connection that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

Building community on this level, within this microcosm of the literary world is one of the premier parts about publishing with an independent press. The connection seems more intimate, more real. To me, it expounds the characteristics of what it means to be from, and of, the Midwest.

When I find myself in discussions about independent presses, I think of an essay by Seth Abramson, originally published in Spoon River Poetry Review, in which he said something along the lines of “the problem with the current literary world and MFA world isn’t that there is too much bad writing, it’s that there is too much good writing.” I like to think of this quote in terms of all art. Think of movies, music, and visual art, some of the best works from the past twenty years have come from small, independent film companies or recording studios, and I see the same thing happening with writing. Most of my favorite writers either first published with independent presses or are still publishing with them. The desire for connection was present within these artists and writers, and the particular resources provided by independent presses allowed them the freedom and individual setup to connect with their audience. It allowed them the malleability to create the life and aesthetic they, as the artist and writer, wanted.

To think that the quality of art depends upon the revenue generated or the marketing package of a big publishing house, suggests, to me, a limited understanding of what it means to be a creative. This way of thinking is detrimental to our roles within the literary community. This way of thinking suggests the kind of privilege that calls itself prestige. Most, not all, prestige is just that—privilege that is afforded the elite comfort of separating itself from a wider community and not having to work or adapt to change.

This way of thinking is why I chose to publish my first book with MG Press. They are allowing me the freedom to build my own aesthetic. They are allowing me the opportunity to build community and camaraderie with an audience that will appreciate the Midwestern sentiments within Ghost County. Independent presses are indispensible to all of the good writing that exists. Independent presses are necessary and are irreplaceable when it comes to giving voices to those outside of the mainstream, without disavowing the mainstream but rather complimenting it.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Audio Giveaway: Smashed, Squashed, Splattered, Chewed, Chunked and Spewed

Hey everyone.. Do I have a super cool treat for you!

Author Lance Carbuncle has given us 
10 audible download codes 
of his first novel

The jacket copy:

Idjit Galoot has a problem. He escaped from his master's house for a brief romp around town, seeking out easy targets such as bitches in heat, fresh roadkill and unguarded garbage cans. When he returns to his house, the aged basset hound discovers that his master has packed up their belongings and moved to Florida without him. "Smashed, Squashed, Splattered, Chewed, Chunked and Spewed" is the story of Idjit Galoot's ne'er do well owner and his efforts to work his way back to the dog that he loves. Along the way, Idjit's owner encounters Christian terrorists, swamp-dwelling taxidermists, carnies, a b-list poopie-groupie, bluesmen on the run from a trickster deity, and the Florida Skunk Ape. 

What I say:

Madness. Mayhem. Hitchhiking Christian Terrorists. Crazy Pedros. An exploding sombrero. Ziplocked frozen poo. A Clubfoot musician who never stops playing his guitar. And his faithful dog Idjit, relaying important information to him through his dreams. Not to mention a reference to Shaun of the all time favorite movie ever!!!

This book is a must read! Carbuncles creative use of footnotes -alone- should be enough for you to want to take a peek. 

Sample the audio here: 

The giveaway will run through March 27th
The 10 winners will be announced here and in the goodreads group on March 28th.

Here's how to enter:

1 - Leave a comment here or in the giveaway thread over at TNBBC on goodreads stating that you will publish a review of the audio book - for better or worse -  on goodreads (and any other place your wonderful heart desires!). Only commenters who promise to review the audio will be entered to win. 


2 - Your comment must have a way to contact you (email is preferred). 


*This giveaway is not part of our Author/Reader Discussion series. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Melanie Reviews: A Decent Ride

A Decent Ride by Irvine Welsh
Pages: 496
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Released April 2015

Reviewed by Melanie Page

           I have had a somewhat quiet literary love affair with Scotsman Irvine Welsh since 2004, when I first read his debut novel, Trainspotting, set in Edinburgh. If you’ve seen the movie of the same name, bravo; if you haven’t read the book, though, you are missing out of some of the most gawd-awful and disgusting moments you would think possible. But with Irvine Welsh, things can always get worse, more depraved, more disgusting. If the movies were absolutely true to the books, they couldn’t be released in theater. Welsh’s most recent novel, A Decent Ride, which takes readers back to Edinburgh, stars “Juice” Terry Lawson, cabbie, occasional drug delivery guy, occasional porn actor, and always-all-the-time sex maniac with a huge penis. Terry is told by doctors that his heart is under too much strain and that he cannot stress it, or he will die. This includes no sexual activity of any kind!

While the synopsis of the novel suggests this is Terry’s story, Jonty, too, plays a big role. Jonty is a dopey “slow” guy trying to get through life, happy with his McNuggets, painting houses, and girlfriend, Jinty. But then, Jinty takes too much cocaine in a pub bathroom, heads home to their apartment across the street, and promptly dies on the couch. I agonized over which was the case: Jonty is too stupid to know she’s dead, or he knows she’s dead and is pretending it’s not the case. There are many subplots in the novel that are not hard to remember, but keep the novel from getting one-track and predictable.

            No matter where you turn in a Welsh novel, there are no good people. None. You simply look at the principles of the characters and find the ones that do less evil. For instance, Terry has fingers in ever shady part of society, but he doesn’t have sex with minors, he never pays for sex, he never forces women into sexual activity, and he (almost) always wears a condom on account of the AIDs epidemic of the 1980s (a topic Welsh covers in Trainspotting). Granted, he has four kids (at least four the government has pinned on him) from going “bareback” a few times, but if you imagine this guy who has sex with multiple women every day, it’s not so bad, right?! Your brain gets twisted by Welsh into thinking this makes Terry a good person.

Sometimes readers get a kick in the shins to remind them that Terry’s a bad guy, like the time he describes what lengths he would have gone to to abort those fetuses (it’s disgusting). He “tries” to connect to his kids when their moms yell at Terry. He takes the two youngest, Guillaume and the Ginger Bastard (he doesn’t even tell us this kid’s name), to see Up, the Disney film, and Terry is all complaints (and also fricken’ funny):

            “Ya cunt, ah wis nearly fuckin greetin when the auld bastard wis talkin aboot ehs
deid wife n how they wanted bairns n couldnae huv them! Ah felt like telling um, shoutin at the screen: take these two wee fuckers, cause ah’m n wantin thum! Popcorn, hoat dogs, ice cream, Twixes, the fuckin lot, the greedy wee cunts!”

           Did I mention most of the book is written in dialect? No? I’ll get back to that. Basically, Welsh lets readers believe that some of the horrible things his characters do are normal--to a surprising extent even--but then brings us back by making us feel bad occasionally, often in situations involving children.

            Jonty, due to his slow mentality, is a character you feel bad for the whole way through. He has standards, too: no drugs, especially “the devil’s poodir”; no doing bad things; and no making people feel bad. He’s so simple that you want things to go right for him. After Jinty is clearly (to the reader) dead, Jonty goes to the McDonald’s a lot. He thinks his McDonald’s is the best, and even tells a millionaire later on that the McDonalds’ in New York City can’t be nearly as good as his. As if anyone cares about the quality of a McDonald’s! When the fast food chain stops selling the “After Eight” McFlurry (a flavor not found in the U.S.), Jonty is upset. The lady at the counter tells him it was promotional food, to see if there is interest. Jonty wants to know how he can express his interest in having more, and the cashier doesn’t know. He wants to fill out a form or something to get his ice cream back. Meanwhile, I’m rooting for this simpleton, even though I know that interest is show in the number of people who bought the product while it was available. But, no Welsh character is a good person. Here are just a few of Jonty’s other activities:

     Incest (he’s not the only one in the book who does it)
     Grave exhuming (not legally, not the only one)
     Hiding a dead body

I wrote to Welsh on Twitter, who had something to say about Jonty:

Irvine Welsh’s language gives the novel nuance and brings people to life. Fans everywhere wet themselves when Welsh sets his books in Edinburgh, possibly because it means we are guaranteed to read some dialect. But the voices aren’t all the same. Jonty, originally from the countryside, has a much more muddled-looking dialect than Terry, who is from the city. Sick Boy, a main character from Trainspotting who is a minor character in A Decent Ride, is from Scotland, but has lived in London for over a decade, so he speaks in a more standard English. American businessman Ronnie, who we’re basically told is a fictitious Donald Trump, speaks in standard English, but that doesn’t mean he’s the “correct” speaker. When he tells people where he is, it’s spelled “Edinboro,” which is exactly how I say it (and now I’m positive I say it wrong and stupidly).

Now, if you struggle in general with dialects, you’ll definitely feel frustrated with A Decent Ride. I know there are copies of Welsh’s books that come with a Scottish slang dictionary in the back, but my library copy of A Decent Ride does not. Here’s a test of whether or not you need a dictionary: “Ah ken how she feels cause studyin must be awfay hard. Like whin ah wis at the skill. Ah found it hard tae concentrate, n that’s whin a wis thaire!” Did you get that Jonty was thinking, I know how she feels because studying must be awfully hard. Like when I was at school. I found it hard to concentrate, and that’s when I was there!

The last thing, which I’m sure every reviewer will mention, is Welsh’s treatment of women. In A Decent Ride, you’ll find few women (despite all the sex) because they are prostitutes, cab riders with no names, Jinty (a prostitute who almost immediately dies), a couple of horrible mothers in minor roles, “Suicidal Sal” (a girl who’s going to kill herself but is cured by Terry’s giant penis), and fat Karen (also cured with penis). What does this mean? It reassures me that Welsh is a boys’ club sort of writer, making his immersive, hilarious, revolting novels my dirty secret.

Melanie Page has an MFA from the University of Notre Dame and is an adjunct instructor in Indiana. She is the creator of Grab the Lapels, a site that publishes book reviews and interviews of folks who identify as women at

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Lavinia Reviews: Among the Wild Mulattos and Other Tales

4 Stars - Stronly Recommended by Lavinia
Pages: 183
Publisher: Texas Review Press
Released: July 2015

Reviewed by Lavinia Ludlow

Among the Wild Mulattos and Other Tales is a social commentary on a multitude of issues ranging from race, stereotypes, to every other persons (regardless of color, creed, national origin) insecurities. Ultimately, these obscure stories examine the quiet, yet vulnerable and desperate state of mind, and those who capitalize on that vulnerability and desperation. Let us give you a makeover and a new suit, and we guarantee you will enter a party just like a movie star, maybe even like Brad Pitt. Want to impress everyone at your birthday party or office potluck? Hire a celebrity look-a-like, we even have writer look-a-likes. Aspiring writer? Promote your non-fiction account of the best fried chicken youve ever had by selling out to a fast-food chain. In need of personal validation? Become a reality TV character by exposing your troubled marriage, your struggles as an aspiring musician, or endure disgusting challenges like eating your own vomit that you will inevitably re-vomit on camera. 

Scattered in between are stories not often heard but ones we all at one time seek to understand: what came of that guy who worshipped a televangelists end of the world prediction, quit his job and devoted himself to planning for the future of the human race? What is it like being an African American cop on a day-to-day, shift-to-shift basis, especially with all the recent headlines about police brutality? What if you were the last man on earth who hadnt voluntarily humiliated himself on a reality TV show and everyone was pressuring you to pop your on-camera cherry? Williams also presents biracial protagonists, ones struggling with an identity crisis, and feel lost in a no man’s land between two different cultures. However, regardless of ethnicity, the underlying theme of these stories is obvious: each character yearns to satisfy the inherent desire to belong, to contribute and therefore mean something to the world, and to attain self-gratification that runs deeper than the superficial.

In The Story of My Novel, Three Piece Meal and Drink, a writer loiters in fast-food joint mulling over rejections, and before self-medicating with fried chicken, he resolves to write one last fiction piece before giving up and trying to find muted satisfaction as a bowling alley manager. After the fried chicken gives him a mouth orgasm, he is inspired to spread the word about his culinary experience. Yelp, perhaps? No. The fried chicken is a muse for a non-fiction book, which the fast-food joint publishes and forever grease-stains his name with their corporate advertising scheme.

Movie Star Entrances is about an introverted man seeking a makeover from an eccentric couple. They claim they can to transform the most ordinary person into extraordinary for a night on the town, a family reunion, or even an office party. Pony up $450 and they will make sure anyone stands out in a crowd and leaves an unforgettable impression on everybody in the room. Although the protagonist is skeptical, he can’t help but resign to his unyielding need to be accepted.

Yet he overlooked this possible malfunction, as he was very near believing that whatever this wasa charade or masqueradehe would not regret his outlay of four hundred and fifty [dollars]. He backed out of the parking lot and drove home quickly, so he might get in bed and dream.

Most stories have a bizarre element that takes a degree of patience to digest. Subjects like stalking clones, an underground makeover team, and a dystopian society obsessed with reality TV are baffling, but the antics maintain the tension, keep us guessing what’s around the bend, and ultimately, Williams brilliantly leverages the outlandish. He takes humanitys deepest vulnerabilities and societys flaws, blows them up on the jumbo-tron, and examines them in strange premises. In the end, he reminds us that we are superficial, but our focus runs deeper than appearance and skin alone. At the end of each day, we are all seeking to find ourselves, to stand out while still wholly fitting in, to belong somewhere, to mean something to someone--to anyone, but most of all, we want to be noticed.
Among the Wild Mulattos and Other Tales is contemporary literary storytelling at its finest, and makes for one emotionally intelligent, socially aware, and entertaining read.

Check it out over at Texas Review Press.  

Lavinia Ludlow is a musician and writer dividing time between San Francisco and London. Her debut novel, alt.punk (2011), explored the ragged edge of art, society, and sanity, viciously skewering the politics of rebellion. Her sophomore novel, Single Stroke Seven (2016), explores the lives of independent artists coming of age in perilous economic conditions. Both titles can be purchased through Casperian Books. Her short works have been published in Pear Noir!, Curbside Splendor Semi-Annual Journal, and Nailed Magazine, and her indie lit reviews have appeared in Small Press Reviews, The Rumpus, The Collagist, The Nervous Breakdown, Entropy Magazine, and American Book Review.