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I am eight times as old as this child, he thought. Do I know eight times as much? No. Not nearly.

From Peter Rock’s Carnival Wolves

Think of Carnival Wolves as a reverse picaresque novel divided into short stories. Where a traditional picaresque novel might follow a single character as he/she is affected by various

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other characters, Carnival Wolves examines how a single character affects those various other characters. Simple, right?

 

Each section describes a unique setting, one in which the protagonist is suspiciously absent. But as the action evolves into a complete story, the protagonists shows up in some , natural way, if even for a single sentence. It is merely his presence that strings this novel together. At times I thought that maybe the publisher tacked on the “A Novel” tag just to sell more copies – as the novel reads more like a short story collection. Oh, well.… Read the rest

Acres of grass were blow to italics

From “Repeater” as included in Toxicology

I’ve never been a fan of the futuristic, cyber-puck, apocalyptic, neo-noir—and however many other tags you want to tack on there—genre. My reason: I just plain had more important things I wanted to read. Simple. But those damn Amazon.com recommendations…

 

Aylett can twist a sentence like nobody I’ve ever read. Mark my words: he will be famous one day for the phrases he can craft. In fact, he recently self-published a book made up entirely of quotes from his thirteen novels (though Toxicology is a short story collection,Toxicology cover he’s got a few from it in there as well). So maybe I’m jumping on the wagon a bit late.

 

You’ll love Aylett for his language, his conceptual brilliance and his satisfying structure (predictable, though, once you get to know his style). Throughout nearly every story in this collection the reader follows this mental pattern:

1.… Read the rest

Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. I got a telegram from the home…

From Albert Camus’s The Stranger (translation)

Short novel. Simple premise. A man gets arrested and persecuted for essentially not grieving his mother’s death the “proper” way. Sure there is more it, but this is the main idea.

 

This novel taught me so much about seeing the world through multiple perspectives. It’s one thing to know the centric tendencies of people. It is quite another to realize that you are most likely participating in those tendencies. Think about how many people out there would, in the event of a mother’s death, shift blame to the son when he shows no real emotion or concern for the death. The narrator in The Stranger actually goes on a dateThe Stranger cover with a woman he met the day following the death.

But Camus handles the subject beautifully. Aside from the murder of an Arab (which would have been no more than a misdemeanor during the setting’s time in France) the narrator is an all around good, innocent man.… Read the rest

…the world is just as concrete, ornery, vile and sublimely wonderful as before, only now I better understand my relation to it and it to me.

From Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man

My undergrad professor, Amy Sage Webb, mentioned this book in class one day and seemed genuinely appalled to discover that no one had read the book, and very few of us had ever heard of it. Her words exactly: “This is one of the great dystopian novels. You guys are turds.” Okay, the last part she didn’t say, but if you were there you would have seen that she really wanted to Invisible Man cover say it.

But the part about Invisible Man being one of the great dystopian novels; not only did she say that, but she was absolutely correct. At times it reads like a picaresque journey from the south to the north shortly after the abolishment of slavery. At times it reads like semi-satire on early American hiring ethics.… Read the rest

Strange then how something so uncanny and outside of the self, even ghostly as some have suggested, can at the same time also contain a resilient comfort: the assurance that even if it is imaginary and at best the product of a wall, there is still something else out there, something to stake out in the face of nothingness.

From Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves

House of Leaves affected me in the same ways it affected everyone else. The story captivated me, and the structure blew my mind (give the book a quick thumb-through next time you are at the bookstore), and the characters were abnormally well-developed for what horror fiction has traditionally produced. But House of Leaves affected me on a separate, more personal level as well. I love Jorge Luis Borges. He is the king of metafictional narratives (RE: fiction that consistently reminds the reader that he/she is reading fiction).… Read the rest

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