Tuesday, February 8, 2011

a variety of services

It occurred to me, as I was writing up my review of Kafka on the Shore, that I'd forgotten to mention another book on here that I'd finished earlier, and that I have a special relationship with - Mike Young's We Are All Good If They Try Hard Enough. I proofread this book, to the extent one can proofread experimental poetry, and snatched up a copy at the Indie Lit Roadshow back in December. It has enjoyed a place of honor in my toilet-side book basket since then, which is meant to reflect positively on its quality.

Young's work can best be described as "goofball poetic rants," composed as if he had so many awesome sentences pouring out of his brain that he couldn't arrange them into any kind of logical order. What I'm saying is that his poems don't often make sense, at least not to me, but I'm also saying that he's good enough at shotgunning ideas to get away with it. As a fiction writer, I try to keep a certain amount of weird abstract poetry around for inspiration, and We Are All Good If They Try Hard Enough is exactly the kind of book that does the trick. Since I met Young at AWP, I figured I'd better say something about his book here since I got such a kick out of it.

I also recently finished Ben Tanzer's You Can Make Him Like You, a novel that shares its name with a song by the Hold Steady (I think). I can't say much about the Hold Steady, but I did really enjoy this book, and it reminded me that you don't have to beat people over the head with purposely difficult language to get them invested in/challenged by your work. I do take issue with the reviews mentioning how saturated with pop culture the book is, because it's much more genuine than that. "Pop Culture" books are usually insufferable, brand name-dropping turds that laugh at their own jokes too much, and You Can Make Him Like You is miles above that classification in terms of delivery and content - in fact, it makes the incredibly difficult process of developing and maintaining a character arc look easy and graceful, in the same way that Timothy Willis Sanders does when he's on point.

With those done, I've started Ishmael Reed's Yellow Back Radio Broke Down, which is like a Western told by Cab Calloway, and I'm sure I'll start another book before too long. But before I get carried away, I should go move my car before it gets ticketed.

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