I’ve been absolutely flooded with review copies lately (and some people worry that the internet is making books go away? HAH.) I can’t fit all of this month’s new book notices into one article, so I’ll cover some today and will return with more tomorrow.
Wolf Boy by Evan Kulhman is a new kind of hybrid vehicle for fiction: a straightforward story that morphs into a comic book for certain key scenes, then returns to peaceful prose. Most of the time, Wolf Boy is a touching story about an ordinary kid in an ordinary family whose beloved older brother dies in a car accident. For these parts of the novel, the narrative voice is childlike and almost too sincere. But the comix sections provide the complexity and ambiguity missing in the straighter sections, as the young hero invents a superhero character to help him deal with his repressed feelings. We meet Wolf Boy in illustrated panels, but he’s just as earthbound as the flesh-and-blood character who created him, and like his creator is mired in a troubling family drama (his mother is a malfunctioning robot, alternately manic or stalled, with all the symbolism this entails). Evan Kuhlman’s experiment is worth checking out; I had trouble with the treacly simplicity of the family drama at times, but the comix sections pulled the work back together.
Where Kuhlman’s novel displays sweet sentiments up front for all to see, Richard Grayson’s And To Think That He Kissed Him On Lorimer Street allows the touching moments to sneak up on the reader. This is a surprising collection of assorted writings by a veteran Brooklyn author who once published a diary of a New York City congressional campaign and has produced numerous other books with intriguing titles like The Boy Who Fell To Brooklyn and I Brake For Delmore Schwartz (a long list of the author’s books can be found here). I really like the first story in this collection, in which a good-humored narrator chaperones his teenage son to a loud punk concert at the Northsix club in Brooklyn. His son is openly gay, and the title of the book is explained when the trio amass at the L Train subway entrance on Lorimer Street and the father averts his eyes, wondering at his own amazing tolerance, while the two boys kiss goodnight. Elsewhere, Grayson’s book gives us a tour of Brooklyn neighborhoods, a list of bad sitcoms nobody else remembers, and many other scattered ideas. The book has more sprawl than focus, but then so does the borough it proudly represents.
In Our Own Words: Volume Six is the latest entry in a series that reminds me of our own Action Poetry in that it finds its energy in the diversity of an almost excessive number of voices, preferring the joyful cacophony of a crowded room of writers to the more focused tone of a typical themed anthology. Well over a hundred writers are represented here, their writings packed together with barely a double line-break between, but the effect is a happy and generous one, especially because the editor’s international range is unparalleled. Radico Draghincescu of Romania and France, Nora Nadjarian of Cyprus, Daniel Montoly of the Dominican Republic, Andres Bohoslavsky of Argentina, Cenk Koyuncu of Turkey, Mimoza Ahmeti of Albania, Gerour Kristny of Iceland, Gaston Ng of Singapore, Triin Soomets of Estonia co-exist with countless Americans and Brits. How does editor Marlow Peerce Weaver reach into so many countries, so many languages? I really can’t imagine. A few of the names are familiar, like Kenji Siratori of Japan and Shlomo Sher of the USA. The writers are unified by generation, all being born between 1960 and 1982, but I find the general diversity more interesting than this one attempt at unity. I wish the book had a better looking cover (and I especially wish all six volumes in the series didn’t all feature variations on this same uninspired design), but this project is clearly about the words, and that’s good enough. Here’s a PopMatters article about an earlier volume in this admirable series.
Index.html by Cold Bacon is one of the most amusingly formatted books I have recently seen. The front cover is an attractive abstract photograph of an old wooden wall, and when you turn to the table of contents you are faced with the directory listing of a website, like so:
/virus.html ……………………. 1
/diary.html ……………………. 3
/bigsmall.html …………………. 7
/movies/bowlingforcolumbine.html … 69
/movies/happiness.html …………. 74
/movies/napoleondynamite.html …… 75
Let’s face it: the table of contents (or, should I say, the /tableofcontents.html) is my favorite thing in this book, and I’m really not sure what the whole thing is about. Nor can I figure out what the corresponding website is about, or why the author’s name is “Cold Bacon”. But, the packaging really made me smile.
I’m only half done with this month’s set of reviews — please check back tomorrow to read about five other new titles I’ve recently checked out.