As Yet Untitled

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Resonance - Book Reviews

These will appear in Resonance 48:
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Dear New Girl
Or Whatever Your Name Is

Edited by Lisa Wagner, Trinie Dalton, and Eli Horowitz.
McSweeney's

Over the course of three years, L.A. teacher Trinie Dalton confiscated hundreds of notes from her students. Then, in a fit of inspiration, she sent them to McSweeney's who in turn passed them on to 24 of its favorite artists to illustrate. The results are hallucinatory -- some pieces as childish as their origins, others tinged with violence, sex, and a resigned, wistful beauty. But while the art is without fault, the text is not. The reason? There nearly isn't any. Instead of letting you in on the words behind the art, the editors have almost completely divorced the notes from the pages, leaving you to guess at every artist's inspiration, and subsequently robbing the collection of the power it could have had.

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2 Comments:

At 12:58 PM, Blogger Tyson said...

Surfing Armageddon
A Memoir

By George Tabb
Soft Skull Press

Billed as a memoir, but reading like a coke binge in pen, George Tabb's second memoir picks up where his last (Playing Right Field: A Jew Grows in Greenwich) left off. Chronicling his life from pubescence to college (which, here, is nearly the same thing), Tabb moves quickly from episode to episode, combining quick comic jabs with heavier dramatic blows, describing his new found freedom in the Rocky Horror Picture Show in one sentence, his father's reproach in the next. Tackling issues of alienation, abuse, the mentally retarded, punk rock, share-cropping, the white slave trade, the KKK, masturbation, and the fairer sex with an outsider's sardonic flair and grounded realism, Tabb cements his reputation as the best humorist writing tragedy today.

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These will appear in Resonance 49:

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Oedipus Wrecked
by Kevin Keck
Clintas Press

Possibly one of the most nakedly honest books about addiction extant, Keck's collection of themed essays disturbs as much as it amuses. Mining his teenage (and one sadly assumes, far older) sexual exploits for material, Keck chronicles his incessant experiments with masturbation, including the many types of lubricants, stimulants, and ejaculatory targets with a relish reminiscent of a junkie describing his needle. Although Keck frequently finds moments of humor in the most awkward of situations (his grandfather inadvertently watching a video of the author masturbating, for instance), his larger self-awareness is frightenly low. A prediliction for whacking off into other people's underwear is creepy; that Keck only barely acknowledges its offensiveness is repulsive. Read in small doses and keep out of the reach of children.

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The Riddle of the Traveling Skull
by Harry Stephen Keeler
McSweeney's

Harry Stephen Keeler's books haven't seen print since the early '50s and with good reason. Filled with plots that shrug the very notion of coherence, characters that act as talking McGuffins, and writing that makes Bulwer Lytton sound poetic, Keeler's 70+ novels never reached paperback in their initial printing and rarely, if ever, received positive reviews. Even McSweeney's, the publisher responsible for this reprint, calls Keeler "either the best or the worst pulp-fiction writer of all time." Here's the deal: Keeler's writing is inarguably bad and his novels read like literary train-wrecks. Viewed as an exercise in the art of making every conceivable wrong choice, Traveling Skull is satisfying, but it's more rewarding avoided altogether.

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Six Hundred and Seventy-Six Apparitions of Killoffer
Killoffer
Typocrat

Inked in violent black and white, Six Hundred and Seventy Six Apparitions of Killoffer is a collection of Dionysian excesses, rendered in sharp lines of self-loathing, and wrapped in a blanket of humor so black Bret Easton Ellis and Chuck Palahniuk would look at it askance. Ostensibly recounting his trip from Paris to Montreal, Killoffer manages a linear journey for exactly ten pages. But in the remaining 38, reality is abandoned as drunken Killoffer homunculi (id-obsessed clones that delight in rape, murder, and smoking) start to fill every inch of the page, eventually forcing the original to kill all 675 duplicates with knife and fork. Rarely is one man both the perpetrator and the victim, offender and offended witness. But rarely has an artist with this much talent given it a try.

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Rocky Vol. 1: The Big Payback
Martin Kellerman
Fantagraphics

There isn't a newspaper in the States today that would dare print a comic that featured debauchery, drunks, and naked girls, but thankfully Sweden isn't quite so prudish. Collecting the first year of Martin Kellerman's largely autobiographical comic strip, Rocky Vol. 1: The Big Payback details the daily grind of a young cartoonist, his circle of slacker chums, and a seemingly endless supply of neurotic girlfriends. Working the intersection between Petter Bagge and Larry David, Kellerman finds humor in the microscopic, the socially germane, and the universal. His Rocky is tossed from an apartment, generally shot down in his attempts at getting laid, and haplessly commits the same drunken faux pas we snicker at with others, but try desperately to forget ourselves doing. Go on, it's OK to laugh.

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Portable Altamont
Brian Joseph Davis
Coach House

In this Oulipo piss take on pop culture, Brian Joseph Davis cuts various cults of personality into vaunted English literature with results as riotously left-field as they are intentionally slanderous. Although Davis makes sure the boilerplate declaration "This is a book of fiction" is front and center, the text depends entirely on your tabloid subscription being up to date. Stealing liberally from the pages of People, Derrida, and many others, Davis' celebrities occupy a caustic space: mocking, self-referrential, and arrogant. Consider Jessica Simpson submitting a grant calling her first album a "new language of material skills...to delineate loss and love" or James Spader believing himself a cat and "meowing for his cat brothers to save him." So what if it has a fruit-fly shelf-life? Read it now.

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Available in all reputable bookstores soon.
Resonance

 
At 7:07 PM, Blogger Keck said...

Tyson, you don't have a link to your email that I can find-- distressing. One correction: the publisher of my book is Cleis Press. Also, sorry you found the book so disturbing. I thought there was plenty of self-awareness in stories, but of course I would as I wrote them. However, if the self-awareness seems low, it's simply because the market doesn't want self-awareness baby, it wants fucked up. Believe me: introspection gets cut by the editors pretty quickly. That being said, thanks for the review though. Take care. - Kevin Keck thekeck@thekeck.com

 

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