I'm back, just in time for New Year's!
I'd like to issue a quick few kind words regarding books I've read in 2012 and enjoyed (above all others, though I've enjoyed nearly everything I've read this past year).
The Map of the System of Human Knowledge, James Tadd Adcox
Mr. Adcox, or "Tadd" as I affectionately refer to him, is not just a good person but a hell of a writer. This book fully lived up to (and maybe surpassed) my expectations. While the stories didn't have titles as such (and so are harder to single out for that reason) the whole assemblage really works. The layout and aesthetic is pulled off nicely, and the little fictions/poems throughout are equal parts hilarious and heartrending. (Also, if I draw any criticism for featuring writers here with whom I'm friends, let me just say I don't care this is my blog I do what I want here, so-called integrity be damned.)
I am a Very Productive Entrepreneur, Mathias Svalina
I haven't had the privilege of meeting Mr. Svalina in real life yet. I hope that changes. This collection is amazing, mesmerizing, enchanting. He really hits on something, and that thing that he hits on I can't rightly name. It's just something he hits. Certainly aspects of that something lie in certain kinds of criticism of our consumptive culture, but I'll be careful not to reduce it too much in that way. Besides, it's beautifully written, and even if you read into what Svalina is saying very deeply, and you find yourself disagreeing and perhaps incensed -- which would be more than a little nutty, but regardless -- I'm sure you'll concede dude knows how to construct a sentence or two, absolutely. I also thank Svalina for finally getting me to pin down the spelling of "entrepreneur." Psyched for his collection forthcoming from Love Symbol Press in 2013-14.
May We Shed These Human Bodies, Amber Sparks
Ok, full disclosure, I haven't technically completed reading this collection yet. I'm more than a third of the way through it, however. With that in mind, I think it's safe to say unless something drastic changes I'm going to continue to adore these stories. Sparks is just the right amount of ribald and surreal. She mixes them nicely. She mixes them earnestly. I know she's a fan of George Saunders, whom I have to believe would think this collection a very worthwhile literary effort indeed, though certainly all Sparks' own. I can't wait for more from Sparks. I hear she's working on a novel these days.
#KanyeWestSavedFromDrowning, Salvatore Pane
Sure, Sal Pane and I might have our differences about who, exactly, was evil, basketball wise -- Michael Jordan or John Starks respectively. (The answer: it was always John Starks, which is why Bulls' fans had to boo him during his brief tenure with the team.) However, this is a hell of a collection. And maybe I'm biased because I was on the team that selected this collection for publication by NAP (and one of its most adamant supporters, full disclosure), but that's because Pane's writing is fantastic, great, the perfect blend of pop culture reference, '90s nostalgia, and just really brilliant writing. I'm excited for Last Call in the City of Bridges, which likewise, will surely be an enjoyable read.
Revelation, Colin Winnette
Winnette has had quite a run of awesomeness over the past two years. Lots of deserved awards and accolades, and two story collections, Revelation and Animal Collection, and a third on the way from Atticus Books in 2013. Revelation is quite a feat in itself, a surreal semi-modern day depiction of the end of days referred to in the biblical book of the same name (or at least that's my understanding of the book of revelation). The three friends of this novel suffer as many breaks and divides as the earth itself seems to be subject to. My personal favorite was the swarm of locust that had all but consumed a retirement home.
My Only Wife, Jac Jemc
Ghostly, otherworldly. A narrator who seems so detached it's hard to tell where reality begins and delusion ends. Beautifully rendered, which I'd never expect anything less from Jac Jemc. She's a poet, I feel, first and foremost, despite her knack for telling stories. You'll know this is no ordinary story from the very first chapter onward. You'll be pleased with what you find throughout.
Hot Pink, Adam Levin
God, I love this book. I don't care about the comparisons to David Foster Wallace. Adam Levin writes like Adam Levin. He's not the next anything. He's the inimitable writer he is. His work is complex and inviting of your own puzzlement. Puzzle over, for example, the nuances of a term like "hot pink." How might that appear through another point of view? What about a house that refuses to be mended? Why?
Us, Michael Kimball
I've raved about this book already, richly deserving of being raved about. It's dark, it's emotionally challenging. It's also insightful and incredibly evocative. Michael Kimball is among that great tradition of writers who don't need to dance around you prosaically (not that there's anything wrong with that or especially right with that, either). He gives you what is there and lets you assemble your own meaning. You might also check his latest, Big Ray, an intense journey through the complicated relationship between an abused son and his abusive father.
Light Boxes, Shane Jones
If you're in the mood for one fantastical, surreal fable-esque jaunt, Light Boxes should do it. Like Us, I raved about this book earlier this year on the blog. Because it's good, so good, I want to remind everyone that I enjoyed it so much. I could list the reasons, most of which are gone over in the earlier year's post. Still, February as a villain? Winter as never ending? Fiction as fun? Read Light Boxes. Do it.
Beauty Was the Case that They Gave Me, Mark Leidner
Unlike the more pithy titles above (Svalina and Adcox excluded) this poetry collection is a mouthful. But it's a mouthful in so many ways, so many good words to read and maybe speak aloud. So much fun and funny, too. You'll love how Leidner twists and turns both language and the tender threads of narrative he either does or does not include in his poetry. If you like to have fun you should like Mark Leidner. That's all I'm saying.
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