Saturday, April 30, 2011

just how the fragments work

Books! I have finished some while procrastinating on editing my own.

The Disinformation Phase, Chris Toll.
Great stuff here. Chris' poetry is full of addictive word games (lots of "who put the [word] in the [larger word]") and odd/charming images. I kept picturing the scenic artwork from Machinarium while I read this book, which is a pairing I don't fully understand yet. Maybe it's because Chris' poems hint at a communicative dystopia without losing the twinkle in their eye. Or something. I could just be weird.

alt.punk, by Lavinia Ludlow
Be warned, there is a lot of barf and semen in this book. Not physically in the book itself, but in the story of a germ-phobic suburbanite whose journey towards independence (for good or ill) means unshackling herself from the various controls over her life - her mother, her job, her fears. Naturally, this process has to involve numerous bodily fluids. Like any punk band worth remembering, alt.punk plays too fast and too hard and exhausts itself at points throughout, but the book's charm lies in all that effort, that sheer cussedness. And the parallel stories of the main character's developing self-reliance and her budding rock star boyfriend's plummet into complete dependence don't get lost in the telling - rather, they shine because of it. I really enjoyed this, and I'm proud of my friend for writing it.

Hush Up and Listen Stinky Poo Butt, Ken Sparling
Bought this at AWP and had a couple of false starts before diving in - I think the micro-episodic scene structure intimidated me or something. I also know jack all squat about parenting, which is the focus of this book. But Sparling knows how to build tension in small, subtle movements, and the main character's mounting frustration with having to be "on" all the time, his distant relationship with his wife, and his ranting private arguments with the author/himself assemble themselves as a surprisingly riveting narrative. The ending is a little sudden and flags in comparison to the middle and near-end of the rest of the novel, but this is still one of the most interesting books I've read in a long time, both for style and content.

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