Dark Water by Ariana D. Den Bleyker

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Pages: 82

Genre: Noir, Novella

Format: E-book

Published by Number Thirteen Press

Another novella, for the past month or so, novellas and short story collections have been part of my main reading habit. I’m currently reading a novella and a short story collection now and I think I will continue to do so. Not because giant tomes aren’t my thing anymore, I just got so used to reading on the kindle that books with tiny font and heavy weight are just not for me now.

So I got this for free when Number Thirteen Press started giving e-books out. When I find a small press, the first books I check out are the books written by non-White authors or women. Basically, I pay attention to the marginalized voices first, because those are the books that get the least recognition. So I decided to read this novella by an author who has written several poetry chapbooks. I’ve never heard of her, but have heard of her literary journals.

Although, I kind of have to say that this wasn’t the best noir I’ve read, I found it quite confusing, but beautiful in it’s prose and sadistic main characters. What threw me off the most was the dialogue being written in italics. So I couldn’t tell if the characters were thinking or whispering until the author said so. I found it odd and it added to the confusion. But then I read the synopsis for the plot and things were clear, but the italicized dialogue, I will just assume it was a stylistic reason, a formatting issue, or maybe all of the characters really were speaking in low hoarse tones like Christian Bale playing Batman.

What happens it that Henry is a painter, an artist, one day he loses it and kills his wife. He makes art out of corpses, carving in symbology into the flesh of his victims and pulling out their eyes, the silver coins are the last embellishments. When the police find the bodies, they are surprised to see that the victim has two shining silver coins for eyeballs. Then there’s Lorelei, John, and Elizabeth who are all tied with him somehow. They are all caught in some sort of web, where they are aware of what Henry is doing. there’s some sort of steam filled love triangle between the three (apparently John is good with the ladies) and they all want to kill Henry because Henry is losing it and is getting more vicious by the years.

I gotta say, this will make a terrifying movie, a new Silence of the Lambs. Except. Henry isn’t a cannibal. The ending ties up  like most insanity filled noir like this. It’s kind of obvious. I won’t reveal it.

For a novella, things go by pretty fast and time isn’t wasted, it’s at a good pace. What makes a good noir, from what I’ve read so far, is quick writing, but writing that has substance and very little filler unless you’re trying to write a novel, and you want to add in some more backstory with multiple plot strands. Every word to matter, but every word has to contain some sort of feel whether it’s gloomy, funny, or angry, it needs to mean something.

Henry doesn’t improve and I guess I can say he doesn’t get better either. He is the same old Henry throughout the novella, but Elizabeth loses her empathy and accepts that her brother is a murderer. She also has to accept that her lover is no different. And I guess I can say, that sort of leaves a strong woman tone to it, where I guess women can’t really trust dudes.

Rating: 4/5

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It Never Happened Again: Two Stories by Sam Alden

Pages: 164

Genre: Graphic Novel, Short Stories, YA,

Format: Paperback

Published by Uncivilized Books

Borrowed from the library

I was looking through the library at school like usual and I found this, a small paperback. It was pink and brand spanking new. And to me, it looked like a novel, which was why I was weirded out by it. Most graphic novels that come in this size are usually manga, but this wasn’t manga.

I never knew who this guy was and apparently his popularity came from Tumblr, I must’ve not had one during that time, because I’ve literally never heard of him or seen his artwork. Even the publisher is unfamiliar to me. And so I decided to read this during a Monday hour break in between my classes. It took me two days to read since I didn’t want to take it out of the library.

The artwork made my eyes go inwards or something, I was completely shocked at it. Not because the artwork was complex andhad beautiful lines, but because it was this sort of scrape in type of artwork, It was cute but it took awhile to get used to. it reminded me of how I use to just take a pencil and just scrape the graphite point against the loose leaf paper and then make drawings by using the eraser. Maybe I can put a picture here? My biggest problem with this volume is that it was honestly hard to see stuff, words and backgrounds, but thankfully it was only the first part.

Hawaii18

Yep it looks like that, at least for that scene and this part is from the first short story in this duo, “Hawaii 1997”. The first short story is a little vague to me, mostly because of the artwork and because I couldn’t read the author’s writing well. I feel like he did it on purpose and this is a short story so it will wrap up pretty fast and sweet whether you like it or not. Basically what happens is this kid lives in Hawaii and he visits a beach and is looking at the scenery. Then this girls comes around, attracts his attention and then he follows her. They play hide and seek or tag and she disappears, not in a spooky way, but in a I’m-all-by-myself way. It kind of resonates with me when I think about it now,when you’re a kid, things are pretty surreal and they sort of disappear before your eyes or something and the world always seems to be out of your control.

The second short story is called “Anime”. The artwork is more detailed in this and there’s more dialogue in this, the first story had almost no dialogue at all. It’s about this anime fangirl who loves anime so much that she wants to visit Japan and she learns basic Japanese. She wants to visits Japan and fantasizes it as a dreamland where she will be accepted for her anime fandom. This story sort of puts a message out there for people who fetishsize cultures. There’s a scene where she asks a girl who is Korean American about something Japanese (I don’t remember) and the girl gives her a dirty look and reminds her that she isn’t Japanese. When the girl goes to Japan, she’s disappointed and lonely, culture shocked and shattered. She meets a Japanese woman in the restaurant who speaks English and feels somewhat comfortable with her lack of Japanese language and is somewhat at ease.

A reoccuring theme in these two short stories is misplacement and loneliness and no one hears or sees you. It’s vague, the story telling is minimal and instead lets you navigate it yourself. There’s not much dialogue or complex imagery in this volume so you can read it one sitting. I’m disappointed I didn’t know about this guy earlier and this is why I love libraries and fondling book spines, I always manage to find something super nice.

Rating: 4/5

All Due Respect Issue 6 Edited by Mike Monson and Chris Rhatigan

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Pages: 90

Genre: Noir, short stories, Anthology, Literary Zine

Format: E-book

Published by All Due Respect Books

So I happened to be reading this literary zine and that’s why I posted about literary zines awhile ago. I highly suggest this zine to genre fiction fans, especially those into noir or crime fiction. This zine is dedicated more to the crime scene or is noir all about crimes? I will admit that I like literary zines, I like finding them, and downloading them, but I do merely a skim over and read what catches my eyes. Which is sad, because then what the hell is the point of killing trees or compiling PDFs of these zines if no one will read them?

Here’s my reason: Some are too long, I’m not always in the mood for short stories, some of them aren’t that good, and sometimes they are hard to read depending on the medium. Physical is fine, Kindle is fine, but WordPress or Blogger or any other website  is difficult if it’s not on mobile. Most of the time, I discover them when I’m browsing. Poetry literary zines are the only literary zines I have ever read from start to finish. And so why am I rambling so much about literary zines? Because this is the last copy of All Due Respect Zine. I’m not mourning, because there’s tons of other noir literary zines out there that have some gems to read.  It’s just that it’s the first time I have ever enjoyed a literary zine that consists of only fiction.

If you’re familiar with noir at all, you will already know what most of this zine is about. Guns, drugs, drama, revenge, conniving personalities, bad cops, thieves, and detectives. What makes a good noir story for me is not only the entertainment factor, but also giving me the feeling of empathy or maybe even hatred for the vile main character, a fear for the main character, or an apprehension of what’s to come for that them. It’s a weird thing I have, I like to feel for the character but at the same time I want to get that rush of adrenaline. There’s very few novels like that, where it touches you emotionally, but also scares the shiz out of you or haunts you, sticking to your memories.

This zine is pretty short for a literary zine. There are only six short stories, which is good enough for me. But I can say I only enjoyed four of the six short stories. Lang, Chen, Queally, and Sanders. The one I liked the most, the one that stuck with me most was Sarah M. Chen. She stood out because the main character of her story was young and he was the least deviant noir character I have read, I know he’s not the main character, but he is the lead of the story (it’s in third person, but it’s main focus is him.) Instead he is the victim of noir, he is the “What the hell did I just see?” of noir. Does that make sense? The only bad boy thing he does is sell drugs and he does it to support his mother and her business. He doesn’t kill anybody, he’s not a triad, he’s just a young Asian American dude trying to get by, who lives with his grandmother that doesn’t appear to be your typical harmless old lady. Oh the ending is pretty cool. And so of course, I’m anticipating her full length that’s also coming out from All Due Respect. I will also probably read their previous issues too, in case I get the craving for short stories and noir.

Rating: 4/5

The Epic of Gilgamesh Translated by Benjamin R. Foster

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I read The Epic of Gilgamesh. It’s for school. Not even going to comment on this because everyone reads this for school.

  • Death.
  • Friendship.
  • Oh noooo.
  • Why you die!
  • Some lady seduced me and I became a grown man.
  • Gods and Goddesses aren’t good friends.
  • The font is too small.
  • I have to read The Iliad. I’m already hating this class.

Something Good, Something Bad, Something Dirty: Stories by Brian Alan Ellis

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Pages: 148

Genres: Short Stories, Bizarro Fiction

Format: E-book

Published by House of Vlad Productions

Months ago, I read Ellis’ novella, King Shit, not long after that, I got this and  sort of let it sit in my kindle untouched. I didn’t touch it until my current short story addiction prompted me to pick this up. I consider this collection ‘Bizarro slice-of-life.’ I don’t know about the official names for these genres, but this collection was a light bizarro, since it was more on the absurd slice-of-life side than the the usual magical realist, horror, or surrealist type I usually find myself reading when it comes to bizarro.

Much like King Shit every single character in every story  is absurd, dysfunctional, and air headed, so this makes for a quick light read. The stories aren’t too long and fill in the spaces long enough to make a satisfying short story, they’re always complete. Believe it or not there are some short stories that aren’t complete, it’s actually quite common and it’s one of the reasons why some people don’t like reading them. There’s some dark humor and some gross out moments. Something Good, Something Bad, Something Dirty: Stories is pretty close to noir with the loser characters committing some depraved and humiliating deeds. Then there’s some stories that are lighthearted and goofy much like the cartoons you watch when you were a kid, but an adult version of it. Sometimes Ellis’ writing kind of reminds me of Sam Pink with the existential crisis and depressive mind set, but I feel like his work is bit more matured, like Pink’s latest novel Witch Piss, which contained the same subject matter, but the writing style was way more voluptuous, less minimalist and Lin-esque.

The best one was when I was eating breakfast, a piece of plain bread and coffee, and there was a short story about a drunk guy and a prostitute and instead of doing anything sexual, the main character pulls out her bloody tampon and flings it against a wall. I actually gagged while eating. It was that bad. But it was fun reading, something I need once in awhile.

Rating: 5/5

Literary Magazines I Really Really Like #1

  • Rasasvada/Ataraxia (poetry, occasional fiction)
  • Vagabond City (Poetry, occasional fiction)
  • Zoomoozophone Review (poetry)
  • Rising Phoenix Review (poetry)
  • Cheap Pop Lit (flash fiction)
  • All Due Respect (noir fiction/crime fiction)
  • Alien Mouth (poetry, occasional fiction)
  • i can’t stop thinking about diet coke (poetry)
  • Sula Collective (poetry, essays, and fiction)

There might be more but I can’t think of more at the moment.

Cassiopeia at Midnight and Spectre Specter Blue Ravine by N.L. Shompole

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Pages: 40

Genre: Poetry

Format: e-book

Published by Chupu Chupu

This is N.L. Shompole’s debut, I believe. And since it is the beginning, her little fledgling, it feels a lot like the thin bone structure of what she writes today. Cassiopeia at Midnight has a heavier focus on romance compared to Heaven Water Blood. It’s more on the sweet side and is about the small details of romantic love. Every little step in a relationship and every drop of it that evaporates as they lose touch.

Rating: 3.5/5

26154339

Pages: 110

Genre: Poetry

Format: E-book

Advanced Reader’s Copy

This was received for an honest review

Spectre Specter Blue Ravine is her latest collection. It’s more on the personal side, more of a self-discovery or coming of age type of collection. Where themes such as diaspora, death, loss, and the question of home and what is home are the main structure of the collection.
This one is a lot more developed compared to her previous ones. The surrealism and the fantastical kind of evaporate in the background and now it’s more about the self, but it is still present, but used more as a device for self-discovery. There are some poems that feel sort of like prose or narrative poetry, where broken relationships and loved ones who have passed are curtains and houses burning as the ‘The End’ and coming back as phantoms for forgiveness or reminders. Icarus is also a constant visitor in this collection. Unfortunately, I’m not up to date with my mythology so I can’t comment on that.

It’s about pain when realizing home is too distant, when you’re a foreigner in your own home, but yet you feel more comfortable with it because you would rather not be somewhere where colonialism or imperialism affects your every foot step. Shompole is Kenyan born but lives in the U.S. so she experiences the  loss of her mother tongue from her memory and a lack of belonging between two worlds. This is an occurring theme since it ties with the loneliness of general human existence where similarities and differences are so vast and detailed that everyone is connected but yet so far out of reach and comfort. Isolated, frustrated with it, but there’s still a little something, and that is enough at times.

This is Shompole’s magnum opus, it’s my favorite one out of them all, because it just feels so much heavier on the heart.

Rating: 5/5