Life Cycle Poems by Dena Rash Guzman. A juicy review.

SO

I mentioned that I have a copy of my friend Dena Rash Guzman’s book  Life Cycle Poems. 

The short review is fuck this is gorgeous.

First let’s look at the book. I really like the design.

lifecycleSo pretty right?

Now the poems.

Dena’s poetry has a pulse, it has flesh and is salty and sweaty and human.  Occasionally I read poetry that is fine and nice to read but there can be a lack of physicality to it. I like my poems fleshy and grabby handed.  I love reading poems that insist I feel things in my body.

What’s that phrase I love?

I can’t recall but Dena writes poems that even when quite brief have tactile awareness.  I love that, especially from women writers. Often women are not encouraged to write in our bodies, not about motherhood or periods or anything beyond what titillates the male gaze.  There is no consciousness of the male gaze in her work in that way and I love that.

Dena’s body is present in her work in a very beautiful way.

One of the pleasures of reading poetry for me are the moments when I have to put the book down and think about something I’ve just read. The moment in this book came for me at these two lines:

dare not to die, not today

consider the audacity

That fucking floored me. It’s very in line with how I have survived myself and life in general. It is quietly rebellious and resonated with me so much I spent a good while thinking about those two lines before I started reading again.

As is my habit with small elegant books I read it twice in a row and stopped in different places each time. That is one of the beautiful things about poetry that moves me. Each reading I have something different happen and that is a beautiful thing.

Overall I highly suggest buying your copy. To get a copy head here and get it.

This has been your review. Next week I will review Billion-Dollar Kiss: The Kiss That Saved Dawson’s Creek, and Other Adventures in TV Writing by Jeffrey Stepakoff. With my review I’ll talk about some of my suspicions about TV being confirmed and why I tend to not support TV in general.

 

 

The Talisman. A hell of a review.

Recently I read The Talisman by Peter Straub and Stephen King.

We know I’m a King fan. I am not as big a fan of Straub just because I haven’t read enough of his work.

Short version: not bad. I enjoyed the Mythos, loved the wee hero. I loved a lot of the details of the worlds and the way King and Straub’s work mixed together.

Long version.

Oh I had issues.

The one Black character spoke in this shuck and jive patois through the whole book that just grated on me. We find Speedy quickly and he is the Magical Negro of Magical Negroes.

Folks, I can stand a little shuck and jive but not to the point of distraction. It was distracting and detracted from the rest. Even characters from the other world in this book The Territories, didn’t rely so heavily on approximations of AAVE.

The breaks for Speedy to burst into song along with the butchered AAVE was exhausting.

I love characters with their own flavor, just not that one.

Now some good things.

I loved the Wolfboy/man Wolf and the explanation of those people. One of the things I really enjoyed about this book (contrasted with Game of Thrones) is that the other (as in not average White folks) are written as lovingly and carefully as everyone else.

I was also very into the explanations/reasons for why a lot of things like distance and Twinners exist in the Territories. This is also why I loved the Dark Tower series (magical Negro Susannah included mostly, we’ll talk about that another day) is the way this world and that world overlap, intersect and differentiate. Some of the differences are subtle, some not so much and I dig it.

I read the second book in this series years ago but plan on going back to reread now that I understand the origin of it.

Also I have to mention how much I love the way King writes kids. These aren’t super kids, they are scared shitless and sometimes do selfish child things and I love that. If you’re going to put a child character in a horrifying situation, I’d prefer to see them be a kid rather than be tiny Superman.

Being that this was written in 1984 I think I can cut both authors some slack about the Magical Negro thing. Fact is, of all the horror novels I read as a kid, King books at least tried. So daps for that.

As a consequence of me reading more genre fiction than I have in the last few years, I find myself frequently at a loss and just kind of shaking my head.

Here’s the thing. If you have written a novel in the last decade and you come from America, you have probably seen various sorts of Black folks. You can put them in your stories and the world won’t end. Yes it can be hard work and yes you will come across readers like me who might raise an eyebrow at your gun toting, pants sagging Yo MTV raps caricature if that’s what you’re doing. but you might do it well.

Give it a shot it’s not that hard.

What else did I like?

I like how King and Straub built a vernacular for The Territories. I am a huge fan of authors who can do this and not have it come across as silly or otherwise unbelievable. The reader learns as the hero Jack learns and I appreciate it. Some things go unexplained but it’s not hard to figure out.

I will say that most of the women in this book are not that interesting by themselves. The part they play in the plot is interesting but as standalone characters they aren’t great. You have your Mommies, your sad bar slut type and a few others none very interesting.

Other good things.

The pacing is fantastic. Yes it goes on a lot, if you’re a fan of getting to the point you will probably not like it. If you don’t mind detours into other places that don’t necessary need to be there to move the plot along, you’ll dig it. I dig it. I love that.

Also, as with most King books I do love how there are bits and pieces that call to his other work. Let me say AGAIN how much I would love to look back in 30 years and see some of that in my own work. It’s like an Easter Egg for hardcore long time fans.

So at the bottom of it, it’s a good book. It’s a nice yarn with some surprises and excellent world building. Some of it is really annoying if you have my sensibilities but, I’m not mad.

That’s all.

Bodies Made of Smoke. A review.

So not long ago I bought some books from Mr. J. Bradley.

Out of the tasty parcel of pretty little books I picked ‘Bodies Made of Smoke‘ to read first.

Go here to see where you can buy it.

First because I’m a nerd about these things let me talk about how pretty this little book actually is.

book1

Terrible picture but look at it. That lovely starry design wraps around the whole book and it has a matte finish and I find it all terribly aesthetically appealing

Yes, I am kind of a fool for a beautiful design and this one just tickles me.

Now on to the content.

If you are a lover of linear stories that will make perfect sense immediately, this is probably not going to be your jam.

This novella is dreamy, strange and beautiful. The way J. Bradley uses language and the formatting of the language slows down the eye so the reader can linger over the prose. I love that. Slow me down, I read very fast (with an excellent retention rate..yes I am bragging) and when I feel my eye drag on really beautiful prose I am very pleased.

Look at this here.

words

 

Look at that typography.

Also can we talk about the top paragraph?

Mr. Bradley does this thing with this simple clean style that is still, the whole thing is just done beautifully.

So in my entirely not professional opinion this is a very beautifully done novella. From the time you have it in your hot little hand until you read it it will all be fucking great.

I actually read it twice because because I loved it. Also if you haven’t read more of Mr. Bradley’s work this will make you want to read it. I have some more of his work chapbooks and stuff I will be reading/savoring them and talking about them later on.

So go buy this book. Read it. Feel dreamy and I have to mention that some of it (I am trying not to be spoilery) hit this special delighted nerd part of my soul in a way that speaks to me on a deep level and gives me abject joy.

JOY people.

This is a beautiful thing. This is what I’m greedy for. I love it.

Thank you J. Bradley for bringing me some joy. I dig it.

Roxane Gay’s Ayti. A review and talk.

I held on to my copy of Ayti for quite a while after buying it because I was really looking forward to reading it.

I have been a lover of Roxane’s work for quite a while. You should go check out her work.

In Ayti the reader is presented at first look   with a piece called Motherfuckers. For me as a reader, I felt comforted. Even if I hadn’t read a lot of Roxane’s work previously, that opening story would put me in an at ease place. As I read I felt very comfortable in saying this writer is my people.

I say my people but not because I am Haitian which I’m not, but because her stories are not just pretty to be pretty. They are beautiful and some of them hurt. I am as I have mentioned, a bit of a masochist when it comes to reading. All my favorite writers hit a very particular sequence of emotional buttons with me.

Roxane was standing on those buttons.

When it comes to women writers, I have a special love for women who write in and on the body. A lot of Roxane’s work is very rooted in the body. Bitter flavors on the tongue, emotional pain that the reader can feel on their skin.  There is texture and weight to how she describes warm sand or a hot night.

If I had my way this book would be required reading for those who only ever read Fucked up White Dude/Manic Saveable White Lady fiction.

This is an antidote.

I honestly wish I’d had books like this when I was a teenager and writing away trying so hard to emulate the stories I loved but that did not resonate with me beyond their beauty. So yes, I highly recommend reading this book.

Beyond how much I love this book aesthetically, there are some very crafty things in this book.

This (you get no context buy the book) sentence hit me hard.

I cried to wash us all clean.

By itself, the thing I love about this line is the repetition of the C sound, cried and clean respectively.  The cadence of that and the way I read made for a major moment of impact. I slowed down as a reader and lingered at this, I read this section of this story a few times just because of this sentence and that in my eyes is a masterful moment.

As I read this book being that it is a collection of stories, I felt the care that went into them.  I like that.

I truly admire Roxane and her work. Even if I didn’t know she’s a pretty cool person, I would still really feel her work down deep.

And I have a cold so I’m going to wrap it up some.

Seriously go check her out and then report back.  The next review will be Daniel Fights a Hurricane by Shane Jones. I won a copy of this book over at HTMLGIANT without ever having read any of his work and I really enjoyed it. Now go forth and read some stuff.

The Escapists. Review and talk.

My good friend Anthony put out this fantastic erotic novel The Escapists. Even if I didn’t know Anthony I’d need to talk about this book.

First let’s talk about Mr. Beal.

One thing I love about knowing and reading him for a long time is that I’ve watched his writing evolve and change over the years. I will say that Anthony is a writers writer. His writing is literary and sexy in the kind of way that gets to me as a reader and writer.

Let’s get to the good stuff.

Anthony’s writing is gorgeous. It’s luscious, his prose style itself has an eroticism to it that undulates on the page. That is something I’ve loved and admired about his work for years. Where I go with more stark hard language, he goes beautifully expansive.

It’s a fine thing to read.

I have very particular tastes in what turns me on when I read. Beyond specific acts or images, I need beautiful language. If the writing doesn’t hold up the smut the smut doesn’t do anything for me. This novel is what happens when the author has literary skills and a dirty mind in hand.

This book is filthy. Make no mistake. This is not a situation where a lot of gorgeous words don’t deliver the dirty. It’s fantastically filthy.

We know I love filthy, I love raw and rough and along with the beauty of the language, the sex is nasty and gorgeous. That’s how erotica is supposed to be for me. I am greedy I want everything. I want my literary sensibilities caressed, I want it to be coddled and made love to. I also want my erotica to make me need to take a time out and jam my hand in my pants.

My bar for erotica is that if at some point I’m not reading it with my mouth open and my crotch tingling it is not worth my time.

This book is worth my time. Matter of fact I read it first for pure pleasure because nothing makes me happier than my friends turning me on. My second read was more for this review.

Let’s talk about things that have haunted me.

I am a sucker for a beautiful line. My memory isn’t always great but individual lines will stick in my head. This one in particular flicks all my buttons.

“Fuck me,” she gasped, “Oh, god, fuck me to ashes.”

This isn’t one of the fancier lines. It’s simple and beautiful. The image of this woman, so ready to be fucked to nothing appeals to me. This is one of the moments in this very fantastical story that was concrete and anchored me crotch first. I know that woman in that moment, I have been that woman in that moment.

The timing of this line in this fantastical story makes it for me. I like even the fantastical to get me like that, hook me to a real cunt centric feeling. I lingered on that line for quite a while.

If what you want is beautiful quality literary erotica go buy this book.

Another thing I love is that the male characters in this book are not just dick swinging stand ins. They are complex. They feel and that is important to me as a reader. Too often, erotica tends to focus on how the women feel and the men are cardboard dashing dudes and don’t have enough meat as characters.

Also there is more than the gorgeous fucking.

I like that there is heft to the plot. It doesn’t fall apart around the sex.

For as long as I’ve known Anthony I feel like he let his words reel out beautifully in this novel. There is a longevity here, he has built a world that is vital and arousing. It’s upsetting at a few moments and holds you in it as a reader and that is a fine thing.

I would like more.

Yes we know I’m greedy. This is the kind of world I want more stories from. I want more. I always want more but I want more of this.

Now I urge you to go check out his facebook page here. Also read his other work. If you’re in the mood for something darker buy his first collection, Funereal Diseases of the Mind: fifteen tales of dark erotica. I am a big lover of well done erotic horror and he does very well.

Matter of fact I am not ashamed to admit that Anthony had a big influence on my own erotic horror. He’s a lovely person and a damn fine author. I am thankful to call him a friend and influence.

If you go pick up his work come back and let me know how you like it. He’s very prolific and puts out delicious smut.

My next two reviews will be for Ayti by Roxane Gay and The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac by Kris D’Agostino. Then later some Tristan Taormino.

I’ll also review Love Without by Jerry Stahl and some other short fiction I’ve been reading lately.

A note about these reviews. I’m not doing super reviews of books I don’t care for at all unless I feel like I have something more to say beyond I didn’t like it. Authors if you would like me to review your work drop me a line and we’ll chat about it.

Now my homies go forth and read. I have serious work to do.