Friday, April 2, 2010
Look out, people...
by Greg Ippolito
Ostensibly, this is a coming-of-age story about a Jersey kid growing up in 1991. John Saylor is sixteen, pissed-off, from a disaster of a family, and feels generally let down by the post-hippy adult world (whose “once-revolutionary spirit limped forward to settle on voluntary recycling, Volvo driving, and flaccid support for Walter Mondale”). He lethargically plods along — listening to loads of indie rock, smoking tons of pot — trying to avoid anything of meaning or consequence...until his modus operandi results in the drugging of his two-year-old brother, Billy.
Heartbroken, John goes on the lam — fleeing from his enraged stepfather as well as the cops — for three days and nights that coincide with the end of the Persian Gulf War. As we follow John from point to point, the many layers of his inner turmoil are subtly revealed. All the while, John’s internal war is punctuated by a kind of newsroom/typewriter backbeat that comes in the form of Desert Storm updates that come over radios and TVs. There are some wonderful characters here (especially Derrick, the older brother of John’s best friend, who may be the most hilarious and fascinating character I’ve read in years). And the ending just floored me; it lingered in my mind for days after.
Ippolito’s style harkens to Camus (spare and existential), with a hint of Hornby (the music references, mostly), and a healthy dose of Richard Yates (gut-wrenching honesty). Do NOT miss this one.
THE SKINNY: THE BEST NEW NOVEL OF 2010 (SO FAR)
P.S. Zero Station won’t be available until late this year, but you can request a free sample download by clicking here.
Friday, February 19, 2010
My first short-story-collection review this year...
THE NAME OF THE NEAREST RIVER
by Alex Taylor
Alex Taylor’s debut comprises a series of heart-wrenching stories set in rural Kentucky. And what a cast of characters he employs. Cattle killers, coal thieves, angst-ridden teens, demolition derby enthusiasts, and the like. In both the way his characters are drawn — with an almost impossible empathy for the often hopeless, desperate, and/or cruel — and the way he describes the dreary Kentucky environs in which the stories are set, Taylor evokes a sense of despair that lingers with you.
Shades of Raymond Carver, William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy here; but make no mistake, Taylor’s voice is his own. These stories will hang on you, disturb you. And yes, you’ll be much better off for reading them.
(Highlights: “Winter in the Blood,” “The Evening Part of Daylight.”)
THE SKINNY: BLEAK, BEAUTIFUL, RESONANT.
Monday, January 25, 2010
My latest find...
BROKEN GLASS PARK
by Alina Bronsky
Sascha Naimann is a 17-year-old Russian girl living in Germany. Vadim, her brutal stepfather, kills Sascha’s mother and is sent to prison. While she and her younger siblings are being smothered by distant relatives and social workers, all Sascha can think about is exacting vengeance on Vadim.
When a story runs in the local paper about Vadim’s lauded in-prison reformation, Sascha goes ape-shit — storming to the newspaper office to confront the writer. There, she meets Volker Trebur, an editor who had known her mother and offers to make things right. Sascha holds him to it, and winds up moving in to Volker’s guestroom where she becomes uneasily involved with the Trebur family.
At the story’s conclusion, Sascha ends up in “broken glass park” — the most seedy and dangerous area in her neighborhood — where the varied, complicated layers of her struggle are laid bare.
THE SKINNY: A WONDERFUL, MOVING READ...WITH A “WOW” ENDING.
Friday, January 8, 2010
I’m back, kids! Alas, my first Friday pick of 2010...
LOVE IN MID AIR
by Kim Wright
I can’t possibly do this spectacular debut novel justice.
On the surface, it appears like a story you’ve heard tens of times before: woman in an unhappy marriage (Elyse) silently decides to leave her husband...before making any official move, she meets another man and becomes embroiled in an affair...all the while, she vicariously enjoys the second marriage of her gorgeous best friend (Kelly), who is hitched to a suave, older, wealthy man. Boring, right?
But this is a wistful, insightful take on a modern woman at an existential crossroads. And the dialogue between Elyse and Kelly is rich and genuine, pulling you in and drawing your empathy.
THE SKINNY: A FRESH, AUTHENTIC TAKE ON A COMMON TALE.