Witch Piss by Sam Pink

20750872

Pages: 112
Genre: Bizarro Fiction, Literary Fiction
Format: E-book
Published by Lazy Fascist Press
Borrowed from Kindle Library

My second Sam Pink novel, well the previous one was a novella, it’s a lot more enjoyable than the first. Person was funny, quirky, and it just puts a smile on your face. But it’s a lot more dark, a lot less hopeful, compared to this one. I was actually surprised when I read Witch Piss and I haven’t read any Sam Pink before this, except, Person. I was expecting something a lot more sinister, like the narrator would go around and kill people and drink their blood. Some kind of twisted stuff. But instead, this one was a lot more light hearted. I do need that once in awhile. 

Like Person, this novel consists of a narrator wandering around Chicago. Nameless, doesn’t talk much, almost invisible to everyone until he allows them to notice him. He runs into a crowd of homeless people and something about them attracts him to them. He hangs out with them, befriends them, and learns of a life wholly different from his own. 

Witch Piss is probably the most literary bizarro fiction novel I have ever read. Actually, I didn’t even know it was part of that genre. The prose is still Sam Pink, the short repeated phrases, and the almost childlike observations. But his writing has matured out of the Tao Lin-esque writing style and is lot fuller. Maybe not, to me it is. The writing is a lot more concrete, I guess I can say. It sounds less like the narrator is high or something. He’s a bit more conscious of what the hell is happening. A little too observant.

This novel is a lot more of a character study. The narrator is still introverted, not speaking much, a bit hesitant in socializing, not doing much, just hanging out in the background. The novel is less focused on his thoughts and more on the people surrounding him. Which is why I considered it akin to a literary fiction novel. The character study comes around, since you learn every little trait, twitch, and background story of each character. Of course they’re not all nice, but these characters are so funny, not in a Ha ha you’re weird way, but their humor and bluntness, their view of “life can be good and bad, whether you want it to or not,” makes them so charming. It’s all depressing, but at least we’re still living right?

What also surprised me too, was the language. How the hell did Sam Pink do this? He wrote the language so accurately, so perfectly. The AAVE is almost perfect, did he stand around and record people’s voices? I’ve even known people who talked like this, being a New Yorker and mixed race, causing me to be exposed to people of all backgrounds. Along with his writing, a minamalistic, yet so colorful prose, with it’s own unique individual voice and sound to it, almost like a comic book. He managed to also make some musical dialogue.

There isn’t really much of a plot in this novel, just one lonely guy walking the streets of Chicago and discovering the live of others. Instead of being locked in his apartment, he gets drunk with others. But of course, this doesn’t last too long, and it reminds me of the temporariness of life and friendship. 

Rating: 4.5/5 

Dig Deep #1 and #6


Oh look, another zine review. If you missed my last one, here it is . Didn’t think you were going to see another one? I do rate them on Etsy, but why not here? I consider them part of my reading too. If you’re wondering why I chose #1 and #6 was, it was because, I don’t know, I like the way they look. I chose them by the look and what’s in the description, meaning, what are they about? They aren’t stories, sort of like journals of a person’s life story. These are called perzines, meaning things that come from the person themselves, their lives, desires, future goals. Things about their personal lives, honest and intimate, but close and they whisper into your ears, “This happened to me and I want to make sense of it,” or “This happened to me and I just want to tell you and hope that you have interesting things to tell me.” It’s like writing letters, except I haven’t made one yet in return. But I guess I can say this is my letter to her. I love reading these, they were like reading somebody else’s journal, without invading entirely. It was like reading a better version of On the Road. It was a nice thing to read, rolled up in bed, underneath warm covers. I love the quirky little images in here, it was like a scrapbook. Obviously. And there’s not much to say, but the honesty, kindness, and strength was what made this a joy to read. Her writing improved from issue 1 – 6, but of course, that was a span of five zines. She really edits and makes sure those words are really what she wants to say, they hold her truly. 

The Tragedy of Fidel Castro by João Cerqueira (ADVANCED READER’S COPY)

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Pages: 188
Genre: Satire, Magical Realism 
Format: E-book
Published by River Grove Books
This was received from the author for an honest review

I just don’t know what happened, maybe I waited too long, or I just read too many that were similar. I received this about a year ago I think. One of my goals for winter vacation was to at least finish the review books that had been sitting around for too long. So I decided to go with this since I thought that it was something that was going to be a blast. By the time I finally got to this, I already read like four or five magical realist, black humor novels, that also have to do with communism. Except that they took place in China.

However, that doesn’t mean that this was a particularly bad novel. It’s a satire, not as morbid or screwed up as most political satires, especially the ones I read. It’s actually quite vibrant and whimsical compared to most. God, Jesus, JFK, and Fidel Castro lead this novel. The novel is divided into three or four parts (does the prologue count? because then it would be four). It is all centered during, I believe, the Cold War. During the JFK presidency then. God, Jesus, and a girl named Fatima see something is brewing on Earth, a conflict between JFK and Fidel Castro. They go down to fix this problem before the world gets pulled into another destructive world war.


In the beginning I enjoyed it, then set it aside for awhile, which was probably a big mistake. I finally got back to it and there’s just something about this book, despite it’s meaty prose and political and religious soliloquies (more like speeches) coming from the characters, it’s as if this novel sort of like evaporated from my mind the next day. It’s the oddest thing. Maybe I’m just losing it. I think that Cerqueira is a talented writer, his words are great, poetic and sarcastic when it needs to be, able to slip in the humor and sharpness of tongue. The ending, I loved it. But I don’t know, maybe it was because it was written in third person? There are certain books that are written in third person that seem to make me feel like the novel is the densest thing ever. 

Maybe it wasn’t for me? Because then I think about 1Q84, magical realist, third person. Maybe third person isn’t for this genre. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but I still give it my positivity because it did what it was suppose to do, it got a bit of smiles from me with its occasional absurdity. Especially the part where Fidel dressed as a woman and got tossed around. (I forgot how to spell the spy’s name and somehow deleted the book off my kindle. Woops.)

Rating: 3/5


The 2015 Beatles Reading Challenge

Revolver

EDIT: I did the wrong thing, I followed the instructions wrong. So, new list. 

So I’m participating in The Next Best Book Club’s Beatles reading challenge. It’s going to be fun. 

“Taxman” – Read a book about the economy/money
“Eleanor Rigby” – Read a book with a character in the title 
“I’m Only Sleeping” – Read a bedtime story or a story set during the nigh time
“Love You To” – Read a book recommended by an author or a book that is listed as an author’s favorite. (Book must not be written by the author. Book can also be an author recommendation.) 
“Here, There and Everywhere” – Read a book with a punctuation mark in the title
“Yellow Submarine” – Read a book with a color in the title
“She Said She Said” – Read a book recommended by a female celebrity
“Good Day Sunshine” – Read a book with weather in the title (Rain, Sun, Clouds, Thunder, etc.) 
“And Your Bird Can Sing” – Read a book with an animal in the title
“For No One” – Read a book with only one word in the title
“Doctor Robert” – Read a book that has a doctor as a main character/about a doctor or about something medical
“I Want to Tell You” – Read a book recommended by a friend
“Got to Get You into My Life” – Read a book about unrequited love
“Tomorrow Never Knows” – Read a book set in the future (of when it was written – ex. 1984)

After the Flood by Ben Tanzer

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Pages: 128
Genre: Short Stories, Literary, Post-Apocalyptic 
Format: E-book
Published by CCLaP Publishing
This was received from the publisher for an honest review

This is the last of Tanzer’s New York series, this is the end of it all. And oddly enough, as I look a little closer at the picture, it sort of resembles an area I pass by in the car where I live, but it’s not New York, it’s New Jersey. Despite being a New Yorker, I came to New Jersey after Freshman year of high school, I don’t remember much and I have no idea exactly where these stories take place in New York. I haven’t actually been in upstate New York, only pass by it in the car, which is where apparently most of the NY suburban areas reside. So for most of this collection, I literally imagined it in my neighborhood. The image on the cover looks like the area I live in. 

Like the previous story collections in the cycle, this one contains the same themes of suburban depression (well the synopsis says a little town but that’s somewhat close right?).  There’s this constant droning question with an answer that is just too vague to understand or to satisfy, what is the point of it all? What is love really? What is life? In the background, there’s a flash flood that slowly devours the town. Which is why I kind of threw in that post- apocalyptic label, because it happens during and after. These story cycles are kind of like a trilogy of concept albums, but instead of progressive rock songs, there’s mind provoking and nerve twitching literature that seem to predict and expose the future and our human condition all too well. These stories also reminded me of a book I haven’t read, but read about it, and it has been on my wish list for a good while, Satantango by László Krasznahorkai. So before anybody laughs at me, I’m not saying the books are similar, but they both contain the creepy darkness, that doom, that fits well with the night sky and the orange lights in the book cover. The rain drowning away humanity and sanity. The isolation and the whole sense of human existence is erased when the world is ending.

Compared to the previous collections, which I enjoyed, but for some reason only gave 3 or 4 star ratings, so I’m actually confused about my past experiences, I think this is his magnum opus. Which would be a dumb thing to say since I haven’t read anything else of Tanzer’s other than the story collections, but I’m getting there. But this was seriously my most fave CCLaP publication. Here’s a funny thing, yesterday, there was a sudden black out because some doofus broke something somewhere in New Jersey and that caused something to break and knock out the electricity in the late afternoon, so I actually read some of this in the dark and it just fit so well. Luckily, it came back in the evening, so the post-apocalyptic feelings didn’t freeze me to death. This is also his most violent and the darkest, I was actually kind of worried, because the characters felt so familiar. I was actually waiting for it to somehow turn into a horror story, the best horror story ever, because I rarely get scared despite being scared easily. If that makes sense. But I think it’s also because we all dealt with hurricanes and that Super Sandy storm was so scary, this was pretty close to real life.  

Some of the stories, in my mind, even had a sort of surrealist feel to it due to some of the absurdity, the whole disintegration of mankind as it slowly drowned in it’s already shallow and degenerated architecture of mind in a suburban world. I also noticed that in each story after the flood, people finally began to have their own little epiphanies. Much like a person having flashbacks before they die, in every story there is a longing and a regret for what was missed in the past or what was lost at the moment. Much like how a person kills someone out of revenge, to finally relish in a sort of bland achievement that will fill them with regret like before or how a person shoplifts to feel a two minute adrenaline rush because their lives are so miserable and boring. One thing that seems to hold humanity’s depression the most is the fact that there is so little time and emotional space, that it is almost impossible to achieve what is truly desired without breaking your own self, and usually the results are dissatisfactory. 

Favorite stories (not in particular order:

How It Works

The Runner

Longing
(This one sort of reminded me of a story in Miranda July’s No One Belongs Here More Than You


Night Swimming

What We Talk About When We Talk About the Flood

Stabbed in the Back

Barely Breathing

God’s Work

Freddie’s Dead

A Different Story

Something Like This

Sorry for some pretentious sentences, I got really into writing about this one. 

Rating: 5/5





Alt. Punk by Lavinia Ludlow

Pages: 204
Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary, Music (Punk Rock)
Format: Paperback
Published by Casperian Books LLC

When it comes to music and certain forms of art, you can either lift an eyebrow or cheer and grab it off the shelf hoping for some feel good, rock and roll fun. Because there are plenty of books and movies that shout out that same old clichéd “rock and roll and drugs and sex,” theme. I’m talking about stuff like Wayne’s World or That Thing You Do!. As of yet, I have never read a music related novel that was close to the corniness of those movies. I’ve actually never seen Wayne’s World, but judging by the little snippets of it I’ve seen on Youtube, it is definitely one of those. Not that they’re necessarily bad and should be thrown in a pitch of fire, but sometimes it can get stale for awhile. Watching or reading something in the same branch of themes can get very predictable. So when I came across Alt. Punk, I was kind of expecting the same thing. It has the punk rock, the dysfunctional characters, the edgy humor. But of course, I was wrong, it’s so good that I wish I could recommend it to all of my friends and I don’t even care if they get grossed out and never want to talk me again for reading such a filthy book.

 It’s bad to laugh at a person’s misery, especially when you can sort of see the same things in yourself. I’m not a germaphobe, but I am indeed a self loather, and I didn’t even graduate from college yet. The identity crisis victims are getting younger and younger. I also, unfortunately, produce a lot of saliva in my mouth but not as extreme as Otis, but I did have a few incidents of showering people. The cynicism, the awkwardness, what isn’t there to love about the germaphobic main character, Hazel? 

In a really weird way, Alt. Punkis a coming of age. But unlike most coming of ages, it doesn’t end with a happy note and the main character really doesn’t get what she wants, except for one thing, which was her book getting published, but that doesn’t even count because someone actually helped her achieve that. Instead she gets a tad bit worse than before. But she does get some revenge in the end. When she gets with Otis and tours with his band, she starts to lose some of her germaphobe tendencies as she falls in love and gives herself away for Otis (As Good As It Gets?) and then soon out of love. When she falls out of love, she actually reverts back to a version of her that is a hundred times worse, but for some odd reason, it seems like she finally accepted that. This is why I thought Alt. Punk was freaking wonderful, it was the least sappiest of coming of ages. It was actually a bit more realistic compared to most, it was a bit too honest, honest enough to feel the burn of the oh so cleansing feeling when you clean a wound with hydrogen peroxide.


Then there’s the punk rock music scene. By the time Otis came around, she still loved the punk rock, but didn’t really do anything particularly punk, except maybe drink a lot and wallow in her own misery over her job and life in general. So of course this brings in the theme of punk elitism and identity, where you have to really decide on what you want as your identity and what you truly feel like and can’t help but feel like. This whole disparity of lifestyle, feelings, and basically the whole self of Hazel rips her away from the unforgiving band of Otis and his brother Landon. They are beyond healing and Hazel seems to recognize that she is indeed broken, much like Otis, but there is nobody out there except herself to fix that.
One thing that I noticed that seems to be uncommon in novels written by female authors, especially in the YA genre, is this belief that a relationship will somehow fix everything, especially if it’s with someone whose broken, so two broken people will somehow screw in the loose screws for each other, which is totally unrealistic, but in this case with Alt. Punk, everything got worse. You can also add in the main character’s emotionally abusive mother and the family members that support that support the abuse, drugs, her germphobia, an enabler friend with an emotional imbalance, her clueless husband, Kree,that somehow came back more well off than her like a sort of revenge for the break up. Alt. Punk is just really torn up. And despite all of this dirt and grit, Ludlow writes some really some really nice sentences that deserved my dog eared pages and this book was so enjoyable for me that every time I sat down to read it, it was such a fun experience. The characters were so enjoyable and real, quirky and cute, and disgusting all at the same time. It’s one of those books to hug, but you might get all the fictional germs of the universe leaked out from the pages onto you.

Rating: 5/5



Mind the Gap Vol. 1: Intimate Strangers by Jim McCann, Rodin Esquejo, Sonia Oback (ADVANCED READER’S COPY)

16098198

Pages: 168
Genre: Graphic Novel, Mystery, Supernatural
Format: E-book
Published by Image Comics
This was received from Netgalley for an honest review

Image comics is probably the only graphic novel publisher I know by name other than Gen Manga. So far, everything I’ve read from them was pretty good, but of course I will run into one or two volumes that will give me mixed or completely negative feelings. This is one of them and hopefully I’m not the only one.

So the premise is pretty well done, especially with all the phone calls, it reminded me of one of those horror movies I can’t remember the name of. It was creepy and I was silently saying to myself, “what happened?” But unfortunately, “what happened?” sort of felt like the theme of this comic itself.

Elle gets beaten up and almost dies in a subway, she’s in a coma, and she watches her family mourn for her. She ends up in this sort of purgatory in her mind where she must figure out how to get back into her body. But apparently she’s “unique” and she can possess other people if she tries hard enough. She can’t figure out why she can’t get back and people try to help her, but the people who try to help her seem to be sort of suspicious, and she fights them off. So she needs help to figure this out, but then she doesn’t want it at the same time? Then there are the other characters, her family members, some nurses or doctors, and her boyfriend. All of these characters are somehow connected to her and whoever caused this whole ruckus in the first place. The nurses are trying to figure out why is Elle’s case of a coma being handled by such suspicious fingers that seem to be avoiding it and doing other little secret stuff and the little brother and mother seem like they’re in it too. Then apparently the boyfriend is framed for her coma incident, everywhere you turn there’s a freaking twist. I don’t even remember exactly what happened. 

I’m pretty sure you can do a mystery thriller without five different twists. My biggest problem with this comic was the plot. It was tiresome, forgettable, and the dialogue was just so odd to me. It felt forced and superficial, a bit jumbled up. This comic would probably make a good pulpy novel or the next Pretty Little Liars, just add in a few more girls. 

What really saved this was the breathtaking artwork and coloring. The best I’ve seen so far. Expressive faces and colors that just make your eyes want to melt in admiration. The illustrations deserve five golden trophies. Which is why this got a whole star more than it should.

Rating: 3/5