Thursday, December 21, 2017

Grace Krilanovich, The Orange Eats Creeps (2010)

This is a novel I'd considered for my year of reading women, but for whatever reason I never got around to it until now. So let's get right into it. The protagonist and her compatriots are what she repeatedly characterizes as "Slutty Teenage Hobo Vampire Junkies," capital letters in original, though it's not really clear if they're actual vampires or not. They run amok in the Pacific Northwest (which has to be hinting that the novel is in part a profane response to Twilight, doesn't it? I mean, there's no other particular reason it couldn't be set in Ohio), having sex and doing drugs and robbing convenience stores and generally just kind of dicking around. The narrator pines for her lost sister. The narrative becomes less and less coherent. And...that's it, really. Being plotless isn't any sort of crime.

No, it's not. But I'm afraid I really didn't care for this. It feels very college-writing-workshop-y; a bit more polished, I suppose, but still. This is going to sound bitchy, but I think it's a reasonable thing to say: I was utterly unsurprised when I glanced at Krilanovich's wikipedia page and saw that she has an MFA. Not that that necessarily makes for a bad writer, and I'm not even saying that this book is bad, exactly. But in spite of its efforts to break away from narrative conventions, it still has that bloodless, overly-mannered style that you associate with MFAs. Paradoxically, even though it's not actually especially transgressive (I've read a lot more extreme than this), it still somehow feels like it's trying too hard. Steve Erickson's enthusiastic introduction is not enough to make me think I'm wrong about this (although I still need to read him, sooner rather than later). I suppose she's not a terrible stylist, but it's not good enough to overcome the fact that, to my mind, she's not really saying or doing anything all that interesting. And that's really all I feel the need to say.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Christine Brooke-Rose, Such (1966)

...and so, I narrowly avoid getting through the year having read only books by dudes. To be clear, it's not that I specifically read this with an eye towards getting a token woman on the list; it was quite random. I just thought reading more Brooke-Rose would be a good thing. I dunno, man. I don't feel sexist. But here we are. Well, I think I've probably already hashed this out as much as needs must.
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Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Paul West, Caliban's Filibuster (1971)

God, that title! Whatever else you may say about this book, it doesn't get much better than this, titlewise. Damn.

West (1930-2015) was a prolific novelist. His books are inconsistently in-print; some have been reprinted in recent years, and others remain resolutely out-of. This particular title was published by this great small press I discovered called Verbivoracious, that's devoted to publishing mainly reprints of avant-garde and experimental fiction that lacks the commercial wherewithal to remain available on economic grounds. So a (much) smaller Dalkey Archive with a more limited focus. They've reprinted all kinds of cool stuff that I'd like to explore. Earlier this year, they reprinted The Exagggerations of Peter Prince, which--when I read it, I expressed surprise hadn't happened already. Though I note that their version appears to be in a normal rectangular format, which makes one wonder--given how much that book relied on its square shape for so much of its typographical devilment, it's hard to see how this works. Anyway. I should probably shut up. It's not very disciplined of me to have inserted this barely-relevant tangent in this review. But I did!  I think in a review of this--of all books--a lack of discipline can be forgiven and is in fact thematically relevant.
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