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Note: This review originally appeared in the now defunct DepravedPress.com

Jason M. Heim. Remember to Blink. Lulu.com, 2003-04. $15.99, paper, ISBN: 1-4116-1121-7.

The narrator of Jason M. Heim’s debut novel, Remember to Blink, suffers from what might best be described as a chronic case of boredom. Taking a cue from his mundane job in computer software maintenance at one of the world’s largest computer manufacturers, the unnamed narrator creates for himself an autopilot personality which he uses to handle tedious tasks while a separate, conscious part of his brain can ponder deeper ideas: “[…] whatever high concept my mind thinks is the flavor of the month. Things like evolution” (19). And evolution is one of the many trains this mind rides throughout the novel’s stream-of-consciousness styled rant, presented successfully, as a well crafted novel about a struggle for control and the resulting infinite burden this struggle carries.

What might initially seem like a cheap gimmick, the narrator claims early on in a faux forward that he is not an author, and later (but still very early in the novel) that he has done no research, outlining, or preparation, ultimately proves to be a necessary admission.… Read the rest

Midnight finds us rolling through the waves of the old Double Drive In, the gravel crunching under our tires, the Monte Carlo’s trunk bottoming out like it used to, and all the broken glass, beer caps, and bullet casings now sparkle like stars.

From “Trauma Plate” as included in Emporium

Emporium taught me more about short story craft than most textbooks dedicated entirely to the topic. Adam Johnson has what some may call a natural story-telling ability, and I’d agree for the most part, but nature, I suspect, takes a person only so far, and Emporium exists as such a perfect specimen of contemporary fiction that I would hesitate to believe we as human beings have this innate level of ability.

Yes, he has a flair for language. Yes, he can craft a compelling storyline. But what truly makes Adam Johnson endearing is his obvious knowledge of the craft. He has – and I would say this about very few people – a Richard Russo-ian ability for story.… Read the rest

…”How old were you the first time?”

“The first time I shot someone? Nineteen.”

Leksi nodded and opened his mouth, but forgot what he had meant to say. Finally, he asked, “Who were we fighting back then?”

Nikolai laughed. “How old do you think I am, Aleksandr?”

“Thirty-Five?”

Nikolai smiled broadly, flashing his crooked teeth. “Twenty-four.” He pressed the poker’s tip against the base of Leksi’s skull. “Here’s where the bullet goes.”

From “The Devil Comes to Orekhovo” as included in When the Nines Roll Over

I can be a literary snob when I have to be. I’ll admit that critically praised contemporary fiction is never something I go out of my way to jump on. You’d sooner catch me reading a forgotten receipt than something sitting on a grocery store book shelf. Why? I just feel that a lot of great writing goes unnoticed, and it’s my job as an active member of the literary community to give the lesser-knowns a run when I can.… Read the rest

Were you ever drinking one night and thought, “I would like to kill myself, but I just don’t have a good reason. I wish my daughter would get hit by a car or I was a ground troop in The Iraqi War so people would say after I did it, ‘He had his reasons.”

From “Civilization” as included in The Condemned

Keep Going. When you land in a passage about a pregnant woman snorting cocaine and eating pussy, keep going. When you get halfway through a scene involving load blowing and load swallowing, keep going. Beauty exists at the end. And it is the rare beauty that informs everything prior.

Noah Cicero has a way of bringing the most seemingly asinine and gratuitous scenes in toThe Condemned cover sharp focus with just a single paragraph or sentence. Take for instance the story “Gratuitous Kink The Immaculate Cherry Popping,” in which a long list of the protagonist’s sexual exploits is capped with the passage: “In most meaningless sex acts only one of the people has the motivation for a good time.… Read the rest

He came close enough to her to see the webbed stresses on the surface of her eye spreading out from the minute white pocks of crushed glass. He wondered how it felt for her to have the roughness of the glass scratching against the insides of her eyelid, damaging it.

From “Eye” as included in Altmann’s Tongue

If you haven’t read anything by Brian Evenson then you haven’t seen the true capabilities of modern literature. Every line in Altmann’s Tongue simultaneously provokes, disgusts, and intrigues. And though much of the story collection might seem hard to comprehend at first a reader feels assured that Evenson leads a worthy journey. Do I know what the words “atumescence” or “transubstantiation” mean? I could venture a guess, but complete understanding is not what one seeks when reading Evenson. It’s about the journey, the path, and also about sucking a false eyeball out of a girl’s head (read “Eye”).… Read the rest

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

Carnival Wolves cover

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

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