I’ve been blog-slacking. Hey, I’ve been busy, all right. Your reward. A slew of one or two-line book reviews! In order of what was read first.
Treasure Island!!! by Sarah Levine: One of the smartest and funniest books I’ve read in a long time. 25 year-old slacker reads Treasure Island and is inspired to live her using the book as her moral compass. I hereby retroactively add it to my favs of 2011 list.
Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi: A dark, dream-like, and twisted love story between a writer, his muse, and his wife. Helen’s work is, as always, fiercely original and compelling.
Shoebox Trainwreck by John Mantooth: This was a reread for me as I blurbed this fine debut collection. John writes these melancholy but twisted Southern Gothics about down-and-outers that would be at home in a bookcase that includes books from Daniel Woodrell, Tom Piccirilli, and Rob Roberge.
Taft 2012 by Jason Heller: High concept fun. President Taft is re-animated after a century long sleep to run for president again. I was most impressed by Heller’s odd but welcomed sense of optimism amidst the wacky fun and political satire.
The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus: Children’s speech becomes toxic to adults. Soon all communication is potentially lethal in this strange, challenging, dark novel with a big brain.
The Odds by Stewart O’Nan: Another quiet masterpiece from one of the best writers working today. His middle-aged couple betting their relationship and future on a doomed-to-fail getaway weekend to Niagara Falls and its casinos is spellbinding.
The San Veneficio Canon (The Divinity Student/The Golem) by Michael Cisco: What else is there to say about Cisco’s madly brilliant, hallucinatory prose? Well, I tried by writing an introduction for THE GOLEM in Centipede Press’s forthcoming 5 volume edition of Cisco’s early works.
So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman: Another book to retroactively put on my best of 2011 list. In rural upstate New York, where a conglom farm economically dominates the area while it decimates it environmentally, a local woman Wendy White goes missing for months, before her brutalized body turns up on the side of the road. An angry screed against our cultural misogyny. A gut punch of a book.
The Croning by Laird Barron: I got me an early peek of Laird’s first novel, which is due out in May. Geologists/anthropologists, cults, and Old Leech, oh my! It’s dark, creepy, paranoid, and fantastic. Fans of his short fiction will be delighted. I hope the novel brings him hordes of new fans, too.
Dark Matter by Michelle Paver: I’m a sucker for stories set in the arctic. This is a ghost story set in the arctic, one ultimately about our cosmic aloneness. And it’s a very good one with some genuinely creepy scenes.
Available Dark by Elizabeth Hand: Punk photographer Cass Neary of the brilliant Generation Loss is back. Neary dives headlong into the violent underground world of Norwegian black metal when she’s hired to authenticate macabre photos that a famous fashion photographer is selling to a mysterious bidder. Hand’s prose is impeccable, as always. The story is tight and fast. And for you horror types, with all the talk of gruesome murders, old gods, and the near-apocalyptic landscape of Iceland, you can all but forget the cover calls it a “crime” novel.
Mother, Stranger by Cris Beam: Another quality non-fic piece published by The Atavist. It’s a sad, honest, and difficult look at the cycle of abuse and the damage and pain lasting generations. Generations that include the descendants of William Faulkner.