The First One You Expect by Adam Cesare

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Pages:
Genre: Horror, Novella, Noir

Format: E-book

Published by Broken River Books

Towards the end of Halloween, I wanted to read something that would fit the mood. I have a bunch of unread Anderson Prunty novels and there was a new C.V. Hunt novel out. I sighed to myself and instead tapped on this novella. I was somehow burned out on Anderson Prunty after reading Creep House and I just didn’t want to add a brand new book to my ever growing TBR, despite that I love Hunt’s work. And the truest thing that J. David Osborne, who runs Broken River Books, has ever said in a blog post or some other social media post I don’t remember where I read it, was that when people obtain or download a book for free, most likely they’re not going to read it right away or they might not read it at all. But I managed to get into this one though and for its length and content, in the spirit of Halloween, it’s totally worth $2.99.

Cesare is known for his horror genre novels, well, I think that’s what he mainly writes. I looked through his repertoire on Goodreads and found a exploitation genre novel much in the spirit of those cannibal exploitation films from the Italians to the recent Eli Roth. And well this one, is kind of sort of the same thing, but on a low budget scale. It’s more like a snuff film actually.

The narrator, who’s name escapes me, is an indie film maker who makes smutty and gore filled internet films that the weirdos out there enjoy. Then he meets a girl who verges onto a sort of manic pixie dream girl. she’s the girl he’s always dreamed of, beautiful, fame hungry and she’s got the sadistic streak he does. So what happens is that together they make a film with a longtime friend named Burt and his horror dream girl gets a little bit too into character. So no more Burt and the narrator is slowly getting famous off his snuff video.

It’s about ambition and being careful for what you wish for. Ever since the main dude’s manic pixie girl committed her atrocity, they begin to feel on edge and their relationships dwindles, but most people didn’t seem to separate the real blood from the watery ketchup at first. And then you question, who’s the real actual sadistic killer in this novella?

The First One You Expect is interesting because you get to read about the underlings of horror films. The ones who can’t afford the high tech supplies but yet still have the brains to make a decent horror out of home made scratch. It’s a tribute to the underground peasants of art. But it’s also a satire in a way, the novella’s got a cheap, campy feel to it. Much like what the main dude directs. It’s got the noir elements, but there isn’t much suspense since you know just from the title and the first chapter. But this would make a great indie film for the festivals. I kind of also got a “failed artist” feel from this novella. The novella is a crime novel, a noir, and a self-deprecating literary novel about a loser artist. It’s kind of like a cut-throat drama and a satirical prod to the underground artists who are just frothing at the corners of their lips to be recognized.

Rating: 4/5

Baby Babe by Ana Carrete and pls advise by Josh Spilker

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Pages: 183

Genre: Poetry

Format: E-book

Published by Civil Coping Mechanisms

Borrowed on Kindle

I’m back, sort of. Any blog posts that come later are on books I’ve read last month. I’ve been in a book funk, but I’m slowly coming back to reading. This is going to be brief, because I didn’t really like this much because it was just too, I don’t know, shallow for me? I liked it but didn’t like it at the same time? It was so-so.

Ana Carrete is a poet and an artist. You will find some collage art that contains themes from the poems written in this collection. And well, there’s not much to say, because literally this whole book is just a girl writing her quirky sexy thoughts and I guess that’s what makes it brilliant.

Like a lot of internet poetry, her poems are much in the spirit of Tao Lin, except with a feminist tinge to it, with confessionals of sexuality and desires, which are revolutionary in the fact that there is no holding back or self-censoring and of men that disrespect and tear down womanhood. And then some of the poems are literally those weird thoughts you’ve had while being bored during lecture. Overall though, Baby Babe is amusing but also deeply personal as she reveals all of the little streams of her never ending erotic consciousness.

Rating: 3/5

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Pages: 20

Genre: Twitter

Format: E-book

Self-published with the help of Gumroad

It’s a bk of tweets. Wth cute drawings, musings abt writing ad existing in tweets. It flows lk poetry but feels like ur diary of questions

And the random shiz you think abt while showering or tryin to sleep. He constantly asks for advice that no one will hear. And honestly that feels too real.

Internet lone. Alone.

(I tried to keep this in Tweet form, but it just couldn’t happen. So this feels so superficial lol.)

Rating: 4/5

A Slow Archive by Josh Honn

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Pages: 38

Genres: Poetry, Micro poetry, chapbook

Format: Paperback

Self-published

This was received for an honest review.

A Slow Archive is a chapbook of micro poems. I had just read this after reading some Sonia Sanchez and I think Josh may have read some too.

With a backdrop of sterile minimalist prose and haiku, with sparse drawings that remind me of the brief blips of life and the music of an album called flumina by Christian Fennesz and Ryuichi Sakamoto, A Slow Archive is exactly what the title is, a self examination and meditation of life’s brevity. With the smallest words comes the largest loads of melancholy unveiled, losing someone or almost losing someone, is like losing a limb or having one get weakened and you never forget them or lose them entirely as they become the phantoms limbs that hang on to you.

With nature, which is one of the most common use of imagery in here, you see a repetitive cycle of life and death, wilting and sometimes recovering and becoming green. It’s a lot like our lives, we grow as a sprout and then we continue on growing with the right nutrients, but one misstep can bend our stems permanently and slowly, bit by bit, we degenerate. Our love and our care can be the cure, but it only soothes. And there’s nothing worse than realizing how temporary we are.

Rating: 4.5/5

Shakin’ Up Race and Gender: Intercultural Connections in Puerto Rican, African American, and Chicano Narratives and Culture by Marta E. Sanchez

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Pages: 202

Genre: Non-fiction

Format: E-book

Published by University of Texas Press

Borrowed

I really should be studying for my Anthropology test, but yet I’m here writing this. (I decided to hit publish like a week or two after I wrote this.)

This is a literary criticism book. I didn’t expect this to be a literary criticism book, but that’s what it is. Sanchez uses a variety of novels that come from various cultural backgrounds, which are Chicano, Puerto Rican, and African American, and uses intercultural connections to compare and understand the three cultures. The books and texts she uses are:

Down These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas (My mom has this book, so don’t be surprised to find this book on this blog sometime soon. Although, this non-fiction book kind of ruined it for me, since I already know what happens.)

Manchild in the Promised Land by Claude Brown

The Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo by Oscar Zeta Acosta

The Labyrinth of Solitude by Octavio Paz

The Negro Family: The Case for National Action by Daniel Patrick Moynihan

La Vida: A Puerto Rican Family in the Culture of Poverty—San Juan and New York by Oscar Lewis

If I missed any, it doesn’t really matter, because I got down the main gist of what texts she used. I read non-fiction to learn about and understand myself and others, recently I’ve been doing this. But because I am African American and Puerto Rican already, a lot of this wasn’t new to me at all. The only thing that really stuck out to me and was fresh and new was the La Malinche concept. But at the same time, I’m not surprised. Our men blame all of their miseries on us women, instead of White supremacy. That’s what I learned in this book and I know that already anyway.

What was new to me was the Chicano part and learning about La Malinche. La Malinche was Doña Marina, who was a Nahua woman that was the lover and interpreter of Hernán Cortés, the Spanish conquistador that invaded and destroyed the Aztec Empire. Nahua is an indigenous people that lives in Mexico and El Salvador. The concept of La Malinche is basically the female traitor who kissed up to the racist White man and aided in the destruction of her own people. Although, I’m reading this up on Wikipedia, which gets it’s info from various Spanish sources. so I can’t read those. There are different stories and meanings for La Malinche. Some consider her the founder of Mexico and some consider her a disgusting traitor. In a sense, she’s both.

But here’s the thing that bothered me and I guess this explains the concept of this book. Despite that Puerto Ricans and Mexicans share the same oppression of Spaniard conquest, they are still vastly different. Puerto Rican and Mexican culture and experiences are also different from African Americans.

Puerto Rico experienced Spaniard colonialism and American imperialism. Most Puerto Ricans are Afro-Latinx, so the story that Piri Thomas tells resonates with a lot of us. While there are Afro-Mexican people in Mexico, Most Mexicans are Mestizos. Some are Brown and some are super White like Guillermo del Toro. A Mestizo is someone of Indigenous and European descent by the way. The Mestizo experience is talked about in Oscar Zeta Acosta’s autobiography, you learn that Chicanos constantly feel this identity rift since their Indigenous cultures were torn from them and are assimilated with both American and Spaniard culture. (You can also Afro-Mestizo, but I guess that’s already part of Afro-Latino.)

This was one of those books I read, finished, set it down, and was like “Okay, cool. So what’s the point?”

What also made me uncomfortable was how she titled some sections of the book. “The Brown Buffalo Puts on Blackface,” is one of them, where she talks about Oscar Zeta Acosta’s autobiography, she has several titles like this in the book. When Sanchez compares non-Black perspectives with Black perspectives, she writes that they’re “putting Blackface” on. Which is a totally weird way to word things and I believe she should’ve titled that in a different way. She also constantly used the N-word  when she started analyzing certain scenes in Claude Brown’s novel to the point where it was absolutely ridiculous, as if she forgot she was Chicana.

Another problem with this book is that it’s too repetitive, which I guess is something that can’t be avoided. However, despite that, this book was very accessible, since it was written in a language that wasn’t jargon heavy and was plain and simple. But most of the time, I guess this book just flew over my head and I didn’t like how she handled African American perspectives.

Rating: 3/5

Two Sonia Sanchez: Does Your House Have Lions? and Like the Singing Coming Off the Drums: Love Poems

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Pages: 70

Genre: Poetry, Haiku

Format: Paperback

Published by Beacon Press

Borrowed from the Library

Does Your House Have Lions? is a small collection of micro poetry and haiku. The collection is centered on the theme if family and loss. The little snippets are built as minimal as possible. Sonia Sanchez is known for writing in traditional Japanese poetry forms.  I don’t really have much to say about this collection other than the fact that it’s about the self-discovery and loss of an African American family. A father who isn’t always present, a son discovering that he’s gay and exploring that in the AIDS epidemic, and a sister and mother who are caught in between all of the heaviest conflicts of that time, the racism and the fluctuating changes of a generation. And then there’s death and the loss, at the end there’s this really poignant scene where the son connects with his ancestors after death. So there’s a sort magical realist influence going on here and I honestly wished it was a little longer.

Rating: 4/5

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Pages: 144

Genre: Poetry, Haiku

Format: Paperback

Published by Beacon Press

Borrowed from the Library

When I discovered Sonia Sanchez in the library I was really excited and this was the first one I wanted to read. But my break between classes is only an hour and a half long, so I decided to choose Does Your House Have Lions? because it’s shorter. But then after getting familiar with her style, I picked this one up. I enjoyed this one more than Does Your House Have Lions?, it’s less abstract and more lighthearted. It’s a self-healing type of a book, an ode to Black women and our culture. They are love songs, obviously. And because haiku and tanka are written with a certain amount of syllables, there is a very subtle rhythm and beat to it. And to be honest, I don’t really know how to read haiku or tanka, so maybe I should find a video of her readings. And I have to say, that I really like Sonia Sanchez, I can’t explain it, but I’m not a huge fan of a East Asian poetry forms, but she does it right. Every single person that writes haiku or tanka these days are pretentious White hipsters who write shallow love songs seasoned with cigarette smoke, coffee, and The Smiths. Of course, I’m not generalizing every one of them, this is just what I’ve seen so far in my life span. Sanchez isn’t like that, instead she has the soul. And it sure does come off strong with a powerful rhythm in this 144 page song.

P.S. I’m not bashing The Smiths, I actually kind of like them, despite Morrissey being a racist tea bag.

Rating: 5/5

Hatred of Women by Cassandra Troyan and Tocqueville by Khaled Mattawa

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Pages: 36

Genre: Poetry, Experimental

Format: E-book

Published by Solar Luxuriance

Some more Troyan and this one has a heavier feel to it than Throne of Blood, despite the length. This one seems to be a bit more autobiographical and contains, just like the previous collection, the nasty parts of what it means to be a woman, being seen as disposable, hollow, and but to also expected to take the role of caretaker as we are expected to carry the universe while simultaneously wiping men’s feet.

Troyan’s poetry is hopeless, self deprecating and there is a very slight smile of hope.

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Pages: 74

Genre: Poetry, Experimental, Power Points

Format: Paperback

Published by New Issues Poetry Press

Tocqueville was a pretty fun poetry collection because it was poetry but at the same time it wasn’t. This collection was avant-garde at it’s best. Meandering and sure of itself, satirical but stern with some low political whispers about being Brown and Muslim. Sometimes it was documentation, journal entries of rantlings about scenery, war, and people and oppression, but also the daily rhythms of life. And then sometimes it will take a turn and somehow become a noir film. It’s metafiction in poetry, a novella in the guise of verse. It felt like a dream of a James Bond movie on a staticky beat up TV, where Bond isn’t White with blue eyes and he’s super awkward and has a thing for computer science and fun facts.

Rating: 5/5

Talking about Tom at the Farm

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Directed by Xavier Dolan

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Country of Origin: France

Language: French (Watched with English Subtitles)

I’d hate to call this a quirky indie film, but this film was definitely way out of my usual movie viewing. I’m not saying I don’t watch indie films but  I’m not even sure if this guy is indie or ‘mainstream’.  Tom at the Farm left me dumbfounded. When a movie stays in my head and I think about it a lot, dissecting it’s meaning and it’s settings and it’s various scenes, I know a movie is good. The last time I remember this happening to me was when I saw the movie, Hana-Bi by Takeshi Kitano. I remember how the ending pissed me off real bad and thought: “Was it for the shockers?” or “Is Kitano an unbearably cynical person or am I misunderstanding the mobster genre?”

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(This style of his reminds me of David Sylvian. Very 80s hair.)

So the movie is about a guy named Tom. Duh. He finds out his boyfriend, Guillaume, committed suicide or got into an accident. In the beginning of the movie you see Tom driving to his boyfriend’s home town with this somber French singing that creeped me out a little. And you can see that he’s been drinking because he’s totally distraught as he stops his car and throws a bottle on the floor and angrily starts slamming his foot on it. I will admit that I laughed at that scene. This movie has this really odd atmosphere that sort of reminded me of movies like The Village or Martha Marcy May Marlene. I watched this movie like two or three months ago. So bear with me.

In this little hometown, he finds out nobody knows who he is and apparently his boyfriend didn’t chat or gloat about their relationship to his family members, because at first, they didn’t know who he was either. But the big brother, who knew that his brother was gay wanted to keep Tom shut about their relationship. And then a whole slew of uncomfortable shiz nits happens.

The first reason why I chose to watch this movie was this very specific reason, Évelyne Brochu, I love Orphan Black. And the second reason is the one I stated above, it just seemed really unusual, and it is. It’s a very non-traditional psychological thriller, it was so subtle to me that I honestly had no idea what happened at first. It took me awhile to collect the information that I had just absorbed and witnessed. Usually in these types of movies, there’s a lot of torture and the bad guy is extremely unlikeable and there’s lots of dead bodies in the basement. But, Frank, the emotionally manipulative antagonist,  isn’t that sadistic and is tall and handsome and makes you want to feel sorry for him. He’s lonely and misunderstood.

Tom is gas lighted and manipulated. He is forced to stay at this little country bumpkin town in the middle of nowhere, and Frank is abusive and punches his lightbulbs out in the cornfields when he tries to escape. Actually the scene you see in the posters above is the scene I’m talking about. In some movie posters you can clearly see Frank’s hand trying to snatch Tom’s neck in the fields, which is the second one, in the first one it’s blurred a little. And why is all of this happening? So nobody would know that Guillaume was gay, so nobody would know Tom was his latest lover. The brother tells his mother that the youngest brother was heterosexual and had a girlfriend, and that girlfriend is a small role played by Évelyne Brochu. Frank also wants the land to himself, he wants his aging mother to die and to live alone, except, he starts to like Tom.

And then I was wondering, why couldn’t Tom leave, he had some opportunities. Well, the movie would be too short. There’s a reason why some critics call this movie a psychosexual thriller. Some people called it Gay BDSM, but I swear there’s only one scene and it consists of Frank choking Tom, this movie isn’t very graphic at all. It isn’t very explicit, but it’s obvious that they eventually get attracted to each other. The homophobic Frank, who is freaking humongous compared to Tom and if this was real life Frank would’ve broken his neck long ago, falls in love with Tom. But of course this results in some more agony for Frank and more manipulation for Tom. When Brochu’s character notices how beat up the kid is, she points it out and Tom is in denial and looks a little conflicted. What finally makes the guy leave? Finding out that Frank has actually mutilated the face of a dude who danced with his brother at a bar and wanted to ask him something.

And this is what left me disappointed. I wish the movie was at least twenty minutes longer to answer some more questions. Why or how did Guillaume die? What the hell was that Slender Man face scene when Tom was taking a shower and Frank, the creep, opened up the curtains to ask him something? The mutilated face man was shown at the end, but you don’t get to learn anything more about him. I guess that’s what this movie is about, rumors are latent and are eventually true, and questions aren’t always answered, because the one who holds them isn’t willing to give it up. This is also what makes this movie even more haunting since it is basically a movie consisting mostly of mental abuse.

When I think about this movie more and more, it makes me really uncomfortable. And obviously that was the point but at the same time I knew that this film was out of Dolan’s comfort space. If you look at his previous works, you find out that he usually does LGBT drama romances. I say LGBT because the main characters are usually gay and he had done a movie with a transgender woman as the love interest. I will admit that I’m in awe at how young he is and he’s pretty close to genius if his work is so well received. But the ending left me unsatisfied and I kind of regretted reading reviews before watching the movie, because someone pointed out how the camera focuses on his face too much, and it started to annoy me too. Although, it’s unique because it forms a visual ‘I’ narrative. And well, Tom at the Farm is a brilliant work despite it’s flaws, in my opinion, and I wish to watch more of this guy’s stuff.

Rating: 4/5

(I gotta watch that Pablo D’stair movie.)