Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Long Books Month 2

                   Hi, guys. 

                   Since the spring started, I've been having trouble. Part of this is because I've been sick, and busy, and at cons, and running around trying to find a job so I can make money and continue to make this blog. Part of this is simply because I've been trying to fit meaty, dense, long books in on a deadline of one per week. 

                    So since I'm having difficulty, rather than continue to punish myself and you, I've decided that perhaps I'm going to do what I did back in November and have another Month of Long Books. During this month, I'm going to just read. Some of what I review will make it here. Some of it won't. Some of it is just stuff I've wanted to devote my full attention to and haven't had the chance.

                     Starting on Saturday and going for a month, I'm gonna be reading. And when the subjects come to me, I may write up a bunch of stuff. So I'll see you all in July when I get back, and I'm looking forward to seeing you all then


Minifiction Reviews: The Night Whiskey


           I've had a lot of trouble with Jeffrey Ford in the past. I think part of it was his writing style. The best way I can describe his writing is "doom-laden, melancholic magical-realism" which is just using a lot of stupid labels to say this: The man writes dark. In fact, because of the strange surrealist-painting quality of his work, it's actually easy to mistake his work for a lighter work, only to suddenly realize you've made a terrible mistake. But, for whatever reason, I've never been able to get into Jeffrey Ford. And, given that every time I talk about him people go "...who?" and finding a copy of his fiction debut The Physiognomy is like trying to find a sewing needle in a haystack used as a stash by heroin junkies, not many other people have, either. I get the impression Ford is a "writer's writer", someone who writes their books and is lauded by all the 'heads in the know, but doesn't see nearly as much mainstream recognition. Similar to Ford in this aspect is another fantastic short story writer, Kelly Link, whom I cannot recommend enough, but who does not seem to get read half as much as she should.

                   Getting back to the subject of Jeffrey Ford, though, I recently picked up a collection of his, The Drowned Life. I didn't quite know what to expect from the collection, I'd just picked it up because I'd gotten the itch for Ford's work lately, having forgotten my previous attempts to read The Shadow Year (six of those), and The Physiognomy (two, maybe three). And, as luck would have it, my library had The Drowned Life and The Girl in the Glass right there on the shelf. So I picked them both up and took them home. Because I didn't feel like reading any of the things I'd taken out of the library right away, I sat down and started looking through The Drowned Life. Three stories later, I was hooked.

                     But while all the stories in The Drowned Life are good, one stands out above all the rest, and that one is "The Night Whiskey". Seriously, I recommend the book as a buy just for this story and "Ariadne's Mother" alone. Why? Well, read on...

Monday, June 2, 2014

Insane City

"And then everybody got arrested."  

        I've been struggling a little with this review, and I couldn't figure out why. Insane City is a book that's a lot of fun, the dialogue is great, though it's beyond loose, and the characters are colorful and exist in more than one dimension, which is rare in certain genres these days. And it's by Dave Barry, one of my favorite authors and one of the few people in the Florida crime genre not to have fallen into the rut of formulaic writing. But trying to quantify the book got harder and harder, and every time I looked at what I'd written, I just got more and more pissed off. And finally, something clicked and locked into place earlier this morning, something that finally made everything make perfect sense:

       I couldn't review the book the way I did every other book for one fundamental reason: There's not actually much there to review. Which isn't to say that there isn't a book there, there's definitely a book, but there isn't actually too much to it. It's a series of vignettes and character sketches that eventually coalesce into a beautiful chase sequence at the end of the novel, but I just can't dissect this one the way I usually do. How do you pick apart a book that works well as a whole, but falls apart under closer scrutiny? 

        Well, you don't, obviously, because the whole thing falls apart that way. The entire insane mess whirls around these characters and scenes, never slowing down.  When it finally reaches its ending and collapses, exhausted, on the ground for the epilogue, then you're left with the feeling that you've read something enjoyable. Lacking in substance, full of snarky asides to issues with Florida, and with the usual complaints about twenty-first century air travel, but definitely enjoyable.

But if I just ended the review there, you guys would feel cheated. Well-- since this is two days behind deadline, more cheated than you already are*. 

So, as I attempt to make some sense of this...

More, as always, below.