Four new books I’m happy to recommend to you:
Unwanted Hopeless Romantic Morons by Geoffrey Alexander Parsons
I love it when a member of the LitKicks writing community makes good. Geoff Alexander Parsons has posted his original work often on this site, and his first book arrives with a gorgeous cover painting that depicts the author exactly as I always imagined him — drunken, sour and poetically inspired. Unwanted Hopeless Romantic Morons is like Tao Lin crossed with Charles Bukowski (with a little bit of Irvine Welsh thrown in). The story is about a young man and his friends wandering through modern Canada in search of thrills and meaning. The prose flows, liquid with passion:
We broke out a bottle of whisky and started drinking and were tanked by the time the sun came up. I decided around noon that it would be a good idea to buy a camcorder from Radio Shack. We drove along the highway drunk until we found a park area we could go out on and fuck around. I took the camcorder and we recorded each other doing stupid shit.
Jack beating a beer can yelling “What you gonna do? Huh? What you gonna do?” Then starfade to Jack beating a beer can saying, “What you gonna do huh? What? Ya shit heel …” and starfade to grass starfade to a tree. There really wasn’t much out there in that field in the way of props.
Then Jack got that great idea to make interviews. He had a whole premise for a show worked out. It would be called “The Asshole Show”. It would be a variety show where he’d have on famous guests and bring them out to a field in the middle of nowhere and ask them to beat a can and say “What you gonna do …” The day was fun because we were drunk.
Wherever I Lie Is Your Bed edited by Margaret Jull Costa and Marilyn Hacker
As in their previous annual collection of international stories and poems Strange Harbors (which I mentioned here), the latest book from the Center for the Art of Translation’s Two Lines program’s does one obvious thing right: they print both English and native-language versions of each included work. Even if you are a monolinguist like me, you can gaze at the mysterious foreign characters that accompany each translated work and appreciate the depth of cultural difference represented here. This volume includes the charming first chapter of Gunter Grass’s The Tin Drum in Breon Mitchell’s much-publicized new translation, Kurdish poet Sherko Bekos’s riveting Butterfly Valley, Andrej Glusgold’s sarcastic I Love Berlin, Basque poet Kirmen Uribe’s The Words That Died in the War, Tarek Eltayeb’s Cities Without Palms and Mahmoud Darwish’s Rita’s Winter. The variety may make you dizzy with literary possibility, and I think that might be this book’s goal.
Poppin’ Johnny by George Wallace
I’ve enjoyed participating in many of New York poet George Wallace’s poetry readings. He writes dynamic Beat/surrealist poetry himself, rich with imaginative leaps and ethical dilemmas. You can usually understand his poems, even though they go to pretty strange places. Poppin’ Johnny, his newest poetry book, includes “Some Men Rub Me The Wrong Way”:
some men rub me the wrong way i mean knew a man
who was so small if you blinked too fast you might miss
him entirely. i knew another guy awkwarder than a
tadpole in a tea cup and another guy who kept saying
how smart he was and how he was in the war, another
guy told me he used to play the saxophone on television
Wallace’s images can be alarming but his message is always affirmative, life-grabbing, as in the title poem:
i have got no schoolbooks
no home by seven
and no particular woman
who calls herself mine
heaven is not my enemy
stars do not undo my eyes
as for this blasted earth of yours
it will never drag me down
Damned Good: A Poker Novel by J. J. Deceglie
I was attracted to J. J. Deceglie’s earlier novel The Sea Is Not Yet Full though I wanted a more clearly visible plotline. Damned Good is billed as a poker novel, and two cards in the pocket plus five on the table gives the author all the drama he needs. The hero of this book specializes in reading his opponents, and DeCeglie keeps me gripped whenever he describes a hand. The details sometimes get hazy, though, and I’m pretty sure I counted five eights in the deck on page 18. No matter — DeCeglie’s maintains a sharp, intense pitch and skillfully depicts the dark, tense moods of the poker lifestyle. Nietzsche quotes included.