Edie and the Low-Hung Hands
by Brian Allen Carr
THIS MACABRE TALE comes from Texas writer Brian Allen Carr, by way of Portland-based Small Doggies Press. Marlet, a man born with arms a foot longer than a normal man's, lives in a small, decrepit town in a dying, post-apocalyptic America. He passes his time killing strangers who wander by and pining after his brother's wife, Edie. Convinced she wants him, Marlet murders his brother for her love, only to find himself shunned. Haunted by his brother and a bastard son who shares his deformity, Marlet departs on a violent journey across the twisted South.
Written in a detached, poetic style, the novella traces Marlet's trials of conflict and revenge. He endures enslavement and persecution. He takes on strange companions and brutalizes those who wrong him. He attempts to connect with his son. The book's allure is in its atmosphere and character: Marlet is a strange, sympathetic protagonist, and there are some hypnotically beautiful passages about killing and a genuinely thrilling climax. For fans of Blood Meridian or the Brothers Grimm. JACOB SCHRAER
Bart V Univers
by Joel Statz
LOCAL PUBLISHERS Poor Claudia just launched their new Noetry series with a book of drawings, comic strips, and visual one-liners by Joel Statz called Bart V Univers. The series will feature "books that do not directly pertain to poetry... [showcasing] different forms of the inventiveness of language; comics, essays, pastiche, mimesis, photography, design." So we're talking visual stuff for word people.
The inaugural title, Bart V Univers, is ironic layer upon ironic layer. The book re-casts classic characters from comic strips, television, and other forms of popular media—characters like Bart Simpson, Garfield, and Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes—but rather than maintain the accessibility and mood expected of these iconic characters, Statz prefers the tragic and the anticlimactic, the decidedly unfunny and the dry.
A quote from author Gary Lutz comes at the beginning, setting the tone for intellectual blips of text that float beside my-kid-could-do-that, outsider-styled line drawings. The images read like doodles found in the homework margins of a 12-year-old kid raised on Sol LeWitt and Donald Judd essays. Calvin pees on the words "linguistic determinism," Charlie Brown wonders if an unspecified "it" exists, the Tasmanian Devil does this I'm-holding-an-invisible-apple pose that suggests philosophical revelation.
Bart V Univers imagines our most beloved characters saying what they never could in their native funnies-page wilds. RIYL: David Berman's The Portable February, or anything David Shrigley. MATT STANGEL
by Robert Duncan Gray
CABBAGE LANGUAGE, published by author Robert Duncan Gray's own Housefire Books, contains two works. The first is a surreal novella titled The Son of the Sun. To say it's about something would be misleading, but it's ostensibly about a group of disturbed men living in a closed, post-apocalyptic society run by an insane tyrant called the General. The story is conveyed through impressions and vignettes. There is an entire chapter told in verse. There are meditations on writing and memory. There are hilarious scenes, conversations, and events. There is not much cohesion.
The second half is a collection of Gray's recent poetry, Amateur Pornography. Gray is one of the most interesting and talented poets in town; his command of language is such that jokes and emphases that normally come through only in recitation can be felt on the page. The 40 or so poems here are delicate, disturbing, funny, and sad. A single work can capture many moods, a complex set of feelings distinct to his work.
When I told Gray I was going to review his book and had to sum it up in 200 words he said, "Good luck." JS
by Ross E. Lockhart
(Lazy Fascist Press)
CHICK BASSIST follows the stories of three musicians and the disparate paths they take after their band breaks up. A short novel, it packs a lot into its slim frame. The novel is uncomfortably well observed. While it trades in a few clichés about the rock 'n' roll life, it doesn't pull any punches, either. Author Ross E. Lockhart gets narcissistic loser musicians. Like, he really understands them. The three protagonists embody different archetypes perfectly. There's Christian: pathetic, passive, heading for a nervous breakdown. Then Robbie: stupid and reckless, an absolute disaster, but still remorseful. Finally there's Erin: "the queen of rock," a detached, egotistical songwriter, out for herself. They blame each other for problems they all share.
Lockhart's characters are frustrating, but they find moments of goodness. Their complicated psychologies come to life with very simple observations and details. One of the most problematic aspects of writing about musicians is creating fake lyrics and songs, but Lockhart invents vivid and interesting ones. Most impressive is how much thoughtful material shows up without being forced on the reader. The simplicity of the story is deceptive, leaving the reader with a lot to chew on. JS