There are clusters of compelling books I’ve punctured through, scavenging literary tidbits in the unending libraries of the digital bazaar. Here are some of the standouts of the past month with quotes that act as threads to these bubbles of incredible writing.
I picked up Broken Piano for President at AWP, having no idea what to expect. I was stunned by the chaotic chords blazing in his bizarro sonnet. The piano is wrapped in greasy mounds of fast food and Deschler Dean’s binges of alcohol-induced amnesia propel this beatitude of suffering forward as Wensink’s sharp prose crunches up both corporate buns and corpses. “Our hero is a sliver of gristle and a mushroom cloud of hair. Exhaling smoke, Dean-ever the hungover mathematician-is fifty percent sure he didn’t kill this woman.”
Meg Tuite’s Her Skin is a Costume has some of the best short story titles I’ve ever seen in a collection. “May I Please Be Excused From Reality.” “Abraham Lincoln was Really a Woman.” “How to Disturb the Ecosystem of a Misappropriate Erection.” Her creativity seeps into her prose, posing the complexity of the characters in quirky masks that befit their fractured lives. “A band of muscles that once held his face in place becomes passive, almost stuporous. The wild vanity of his youth has become bored with itself. He no longer needs to act deranged, throw himself at famous people he never met and hug them saying, “You’re the tiger to my zoo-like lunacy of clay figures.” The clay figures of Tuite’s collection from a Terracotta of literary bliss and melancholy. “A lit match should not stand in the way of their bliss.”
I recently finished James Brubaker’s Pilot Season and it’s satirical, sad, laugh-out loud hilarious, insightful, and yet nostalgic as exemplified in this description of a show called “Up In Arms”: “In this irreverent sitcom, a construction worker who has lost both of his arms in a freak accident attempts to sort through his anger, find a new place for himself, and maintain his independence in a world built by and for people with arms.”
Jeff Jackson’s Mira Corpora is a fable, an allegory, and one of the most fascinating takes on the bildungsroman I’ve experienced. Fiction, biography, poetry, and flash melt into one another like messy childhoods remembered in old photos and VHS tapes that get mired in the creative static of our memories. Jackson electrifies and shocks but never stops rolling the film, forcing readers to face the unfaceable. “I’m dreaming upside down. I mean, I’m upside down and dreaming. My feet are propped at the head of the bed and the sheets twist in whorls around my ankles. My naked body twitches ever so slightly. Are my eyelids fluttering? T looks like. If you could crawl behind them, you would find yourself in the middle of a grassy field at night. The moon shines brightly overhead. A lone orange tree stands in the distance… And where am I in this dream? Lying in the grass and contemplating distant constellations. Content to be a bystander, even in my own imagination.”
I still don’t know what to make of Max Booth III’s Toxicity, and I mean that in a good way as the toxic grip of his bizarro plot has left me incapacitated. Whether it’s the violence of prison hierarchies or the social violence of sudden wealth induced by winning the lottery, Booth shocks, entertains, offends, and always leaves readers wanting more. “The Mexican never had a chance to stand up. Maddox was on top of him in an instant. The end of the spoon popped his right eyeball like a large grape. An explosion of ocular fluid erupted down the Mexican’s face as he screamed for the guards. All in all, Maddox Kane’s first day in the joint went pretty well.”