Novels are rarely about the things reviewers say they’re about. If a writer’s done a good-enough job on his novel, he’s created such a vivid impression of life that we’re compelled to search for a higher meaning in it, just as we relentlessly pick over life in our endless search for meaning. I’m going to seek to entertain you by comparing George Williams’ Degenerate to John Ford’s The Searchers. Continue reading George Williams’ Degenerate – A Man Will Search His Heart & Soul
Harold Jaffe’s “docufiction” Jesus Coyote is (as pointed out by Maya Yin in an Amazon review) a Rashomon-like presentation of the August 1969 Manson murders. It uses fictional newspaper clips, police memos, and interviews with the Manson character (“Jesus Coyote”), members of his Family (“the Tribe”), and the Family’s victims (dead and alive) to explore the myth-making process at both the personal and societal levels. Continue reading Harold Jaffe’s JESUS COYOTE and the Purposes of the Manson Myth
My novel, Risk of Ruin, is now available at Amazon. It’s the story of a blackjack player/biker/tattoo artist who becomes obsessed with a stripper who thinks she’s God.
If you live in Las Vegas, you can also pick up a copy at the Gambler’s Book Club at 5473 S. Eastern or at the offices of Huntington Press/Las Vegas Advisor at 3665 Procyon Street.
I’ll be talking about the book with Bob Dancer and Mike Shackleford today (Thursday, Nov. 8) at 7 p.m. in Las Vegas on their “Gambling With An Edge” radio show. Last time I was on they had to bleep me. Details:
Live Air-Time is: 7 PM Thursday nights on KLAV Talk-Radio 1230am in Las Vegas. You can listen live at http://www.klav1230am.com/. They take callers and give away weekly prizes, but if you can’t listen to the live show they archive all shows.
To CALL in LIVE during the show the Numbers are: (702) 731-1230 & 1-(866) 820-5528
The key to Paul Bowles’ 1949 novel is found in the epigraph by Franz Kafka that introduces “Book Three: The Sky”:
From a certain point onward there is no longer any turning back. That is the point that must be reached.
The Sheltering Sky, Paul Bowles’ first novel and his most well-known work of fiction, is about getting to that point beyond which there is no turning back; it’s about ripping away the illusion of the “sheltering sky” and staring straight into the void. Continue reading Paul Bowles’ The Sheltering Sky: The Void Meets the Deg
Dave Newman’s Raymond Carver Will Not Raise Our Children is about getting over the life you thought you were supposed to live, so that you can get on with living the life you have. On the surface, the story is much the same as the story in Bukowski ‘s Post Office: A guy gets a job. He doesn’t like the job. Sometimes he shows up drunk and sometimes he doesn’t show up. Then he gets fired. The End. What’s different is that Newman’s Dan Charles has something Bukowski’s Henry Chinaski never had—a family he’s determined to stick it out with. Continue reading Dave Newman’s Raymond Carver Will Not Raise Our Children
Once a writer has written a book that enough people like, he or she is expected to go on writing that book over and over forever. If the writer is a hack and starts cranking out more of the same, his audience and acclaim will grow. If the writer is good, and continues to grow in his work, he inevitably alienates a good portion of his audience, which sees their dissatisfaction with the writer’s new direction as a failing of the writer. Continue reading The Ends of Our Tethers and Alasdair Gray’s Great Theme
Most reviews of J.F. Powers’ 1962 comic masterpiece Morte d’Urban (especially most reviews in elite venues) see the central story as that of a wheeler-dealer priest who dies to earthly life to achieve a greater sanctity. And that assessment is pretty hard to argue with—since the hero of the novel is a priest, and the writer himself was Catholic, the novel has to be about the importance of the spiritual life over worldly success, right?
Wrong. As always, it’s convenient for the elite to assure the poor and frustrated that they will find their reward in heaven, so they don’t have to be given a cut here on earth. But the problem with this take on the story of Father Urban is that this is not how it will feel to any non-elite reading it. The way it feels to me as I read most of it is hilarious and exhilarating; the way it felt as I finished it was heartbreaking. What makes it sad is that it’s the story of a great man who’s destroyed by the yahoos. Continue reading JF Powers’ Morte d’Urban: On the Priesthood of American Literary Writers
George Williams’ short story “Miss September,” in his collection titled Gardens of Earthly Delight, is the story of a Big Con. A rich eccentric, Kip, heir to a family fortune derived from patents for smelting and manufacturing alloys, becomes the prisoner of a neighborhood “witch” (Esther) and her “coven,” who proceed to drive him crazy with the kinds of psy ops used by the ATF against David Koresh in Waco, or against Noriega at the Holy See’s embassy in Panama, or against prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. (Most of the horror in these stories is inflicted with weapons and methods we now routinely have our governments use on other people.) Continue reading George Williams’ Gardens of Earthly Delight: Hieronymus Bosch vs. American Dream
The first line of Welcome to Oakland, Eric Miles Williamson’s sequel to East Bay Grease (see review here) sets the theme: “I’m always happiest when I live in a dump, and I’ve lived in some serious shitholes.” And Williamson’s narrator, T-Bird Murphy (who was also the narrator of Williamson’s East Bay Grease), is not being metaphoric when he refers to living in a dump. Throughout much of this book, T-Bird, now a twice-divorced man, is looking back at the period when he worked as a garbage man, literally living in one of Oakland’s city dumps, sleeping at night in his garbage truck parked at the dump. Continue reading Eric Miles Williamson’s Welcome to Oakland – Back on the Streets Again
The March 1971 issue of National Lampoon contained an article, “How to Write Good,” by my favorite writer at the mag back then, Michael O’Donoghue. In that article, in the section titled “Lesson 2 – The Ending,” O’Donoghue writes:
All too often, the budding author finds that his tale has run its course and yet he sees no way to satisfactorily end it, or, in literary parlance, “wrap it up.” Observe how easily I resolve this problem:
Suddenly, everyone was run over by a truck. -the end- Continue reading How to End a Novel