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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Best (and Worst) Books of 2013

Best Book of 2013
Eight months without a post and I'm back with the Best (and Worst) Books of 2013. Usually I start compiling this list by checking how many books I read in 2013 according to Goodreads, but evidently their stats feature is broken, because it claims I've read only twenty-two books, which is, of course, inaccurate. Normally I divide this list into Best Novel, Best Short Story Collection, Best Literary Magazine, and Worst Book, but I thought I'd do it differently this year by dividing the books in all genres into groups based on how many stars I gave them on Goodreads. As for the Best Book of 2013, that is Jamie Iredell's I Was a Fat Drunk Catholic School Insomniac. Suck it, thin sober secular narcoleptics. Though you aren't curious about my previous write-ups, there are lists for 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008. During your reading of this post, I recommend listening to Deathspell Omega's Kenose and drinking Diet Mountain Dew.

5 of 5 Stars

Yeah, right. If we're being honest, that is.

4 of 5 Stars

Spencer Dew - Here Is How It Happens
Todd Dills - Triumph of the Ape
Aubrey Hirsch - Why We Never Talk About Sugar
Jamie Iredell - I Was a Fat Drunk Catholic School Insomniac
Scott McClanahan - Crapalachia
Jen Michalski - Could You Be with Her Now

3 of 5 Stars

Peter Anderson - Wheatyard
Matt Bell - In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods
Laura van den Berg - The Isle of Youth
Frank Bill - Donnybrook
Ron Currie, Jr. - Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles
Dave Eggers - The Circle
B. J. Hollars - Sightings
Lindsay Hunter - Don't Kiss Me
Samantha Irby - Meaty
Scott McClanahan - Hill William
Jen Michalski - The Tide King
Alissa Nutting - Tampa
Michelle Orange - This Is Running for Your Life
Benjamin Percy - Red Moon
Kevin Sampsell - This Is Between Us
Shya Scanlon - Border Run

2 of 5 Stars

Sean Ferrell - Man in the Empty Suit
Patrick Flanery - Fallen Land
George Saunders - Tenth of December
Bennett Sims - A Questionable Shape
Susan Steinberg - Spectacle

1 of 5 Stars

None

Agree with my ratings? Really agree with my ratings? Let me know!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

New Chapbook: Pestilence

I curse you with Pestilence, my forthcoming chapbook from Keyhole Press, available for pre-order for only $8, which includes shipping.
A boy whose skin is multiple colors. A home that freezes in the middle of summer. A pair of brothers who witness the apocalypse and attempt to fight it. A boy with four arms. A rogue wave that destroys a landlocked city. A house whose occupants experience different plagues each day. The six stories that populate this chapbook slough off the notion of reality, replacing it with an unsettling irreality that may be, upon closer inspection, the work of something sinister. What cannot be explained must still be endured. And so, let there be pestilence. 
Try before you buy:

The Pollution Machine
Rogue Wave

Together, let's spread this disease. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

"Let that hate out!"

A while ago, I posted about receiving hate mail from one J. Brooke. After sending out the e-mail about the latest issue of d, I soon got a reply from Michael Sullivan, who wrote the following without any alteration from me:
I never fucking subscribed to your stupid magazine. You should just give up, nobody wants to read or cares about what you have to say. Which is why you collect emails to send this crap to, really, if you were legitimate you wouldn't  be desperate for anyone to look at what you shit all over a piece of paper, then call it literary gold. Now I know where all the telemarketers went when that industry went bust..,.. Why don't you print that. If at least you printed your articles on paper then sent it to me, It would have some value when our dogs need to relieve themselves, so please if your gong to send me anymore anything...I am going see you in a courtroom. Do not contact me again, for any reason.
I haven't responded, but I have a feeling that if we do end up in court, I'll prevail because I know the judge

Monday, December 17, 2012

Best (and Worst) Books of 2012

According to Goodreads, I read fifty-three books this year. That's somewhat low considering that Goodreads doesn't list all books--especially literary magazines--so I know I read several more. Also, my eighteenth-century fiction class monopolized much of my reading time these past few months as we had to read a couple very lengthy novels in addition to a couple average-sized ones. The point being that, besides offering excuses for why I didn't read more books this year, there's never enough time. Common knowledge, of course. Also, I didn't include a chapbook category this year, because evidently I didn't read any. For previous best-of lists, see 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008

Best Novel



Preceded by MLKNG SCKLS (PGP, 2009), which is great in its own right, Justin Sirois's Falcons on the Floor, written with Haneen Alshujairy, focuses on Salim and Khalil, who, during the siege of Fallujah, escape up the Euphrates to avoid the battle. On foot, they must contend with the elements, lack of supplies, and the fact that everyone they encounter could be their undoing. During the journey, Salim writes to a girl on his dying laptop, which adds another dimension to the narrative. There's a lot to like here: the characterization of Salim and Khalil, the compelling plot, and, in the end, the masterful rendering of what it's like to see someone through someone else's eyes. Yes, Falcons on the Floor does have its share of flaws, like any novel, but I highly recommend this engaging, engrossing read. 

Honorable Mentions: Paula Bomer's Nine Months (Soho Press), Mickey Hess's The Nostalgia Echo (C&R Press)


Best Short Story Collection



I named Tim Horvath's Circulation as the Best Chapbook of 2009, so when I first heard about his forthcoming collection, Understories, I couldn't help but eagerly anticipate it, knowing full well that such a level of anticipation often results in disappointment. Thankfully this wasn't the case with Horvath's book, because it's phenomenal. I especially like "The Understory," involving Heidegger, and "The Conversations." Every other story, including each of the "Urban Planning: Case Study" series, has a host of merits, and unlike many collections, Understories doesn't contain a loser among the bunch. Still, I must recommend checking out the chapbook version of "Circulation" as the format--book as object, as artifact--really complements the story, but it was nice to read it again here. Plus, including it in this collection ensures that more people will see it. Overall, a great book. 

Honorable Mention: Elizabeth Ellen's Fast Machine (Short Flight / Long Drive Books)


Best Literary Magazine

Sadly, after twenty issues, > kill author ceased publication this year. It's been one of my favorite mags since it launched in June 2009, and I've mentioned it in the Best Lit Mag category several times. What I will miss most, naturally, is the innovative work they published on a consistent basis. But, another aspect of the mag that continually impressed me is the site itself--the color scheme, design, and navigability. And, until recently, it was fun to think about who the editors were. Now we know the editor was Vaughan Simons, and we have him to thank for over three years of literary excellence. I hope the site lives on. 



Worst Book



I really wanted to like this book. I truly did. I enjoyed Boudinot's short story debut, The Littlest Hitler, and it still sits on my shelf today. I didn't like his first novel, Misconception, but thought that maybe it was a misstep in what would prove an otherwise solid catalog. So, when I read the title and saw the cover art of Blueprints of the Afterlife, I was immediately in. The description, which I'll let you read for yourself, only cemented this. As a matter of fact, a couple of times I posted about ordering it on this blog. Unfortunately, I hated it. As soon as I finished it, I got rid of it--what I do with all books I dislike--so I can't tell you much about why I hated it. I don't know if I simply prefer Boudinot's short work, or if TLH is an anomaly that he won't be able to live up to again. In any case, I'd avoid this one. 


Agree? Disagree? What were your favorites of 2012?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Requiem in C minor

Classes are going well. This semester I'm taking a fiction workshop and an eighteenth century lit course. I'm also teaching two sections of English 1510: Writing and Rhetoric I. Sometimes the students are receptive, and sometimes they are not. Ha.

So, because I'm getting paid again, I ordered a few books:

Junot Diaz - This Is How You Lose Her

Scott McClanahan - Crapalachia: A Biography of a Place

Dinty W. Moore - The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction: Advice and Essential Exercises from Respected Writers, Editors, and Teachers

The Oatmeal - How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You

George Saunders - Tenth of December

Chad Simpson - Tell Everyone I Said Hi

Additionally, I Kickstarted this:

Nick Ostdick - Hair Lit, Vol. 1

While browsing Facebook tonight I stumbled on a link to Frequencies, a new biannual nonfiction journal from Two Dollar Radio:





Volume 1, September 2012, features essays from Blake Butler, Joshua Cohen, Tracy Rose Keaton, and Scott McClanahan, and an interview with Anne Carson. 












Volume 2, April 2013, features essays from Roxane Gay, Alex Jung, Kate Zambreno, and TBA. 





What's cool is that they're offering subscriptions for only $13. And yes, I picked one up for myself.

Something I ran across on the TDR site: "If you care at all about supporting literary culture then you won't order Frequencies, or any other books for that matter, through amazon." They elaborate on that here. But man, I like Amazon. As one who buys a lot of books, I get some from Amazon, some from small presses, and some from literary magazines. Any number of small presses and literary magazines could attest to this. 

Over the summer, Amazon held a job fair in my hometown because they're building a fulfillment center in a neighboring town, and the center will reportedly create "1,000 new jobs by 2015." And yeah, they could afford to pay better wages, among other complaints, but a boost to the local economy is good. So I guess I don't have as many qualms with Amazon as many others do, but then again, I'm not a bookseller either.   



I'm now a Keyhole author, which is kool.