Tag Archives: Rain Taxi Review of Books
Check out my review of Barry Hannah’s Long, Last, Happy: New and Selected Stories at Rain Taxi: Review of Books, Online Edition: Summer 2011. Here’s an excerpt:
Reading through Long, Last, Happy, you can’t help but be struck by Hannah’s attentiveness to life as it’s lived by largely unlikeable characters, lively and unlovely—or perhaps lovely because of their liveliness. His fictional world offers readers a panoply of the grotesque, picturesque, and burlesque, a true variety show of shysters, wastrels, ne’er-do-wells, hacks, and failures; hideous schemers and beautiful dreamers; also musicians, soldiers, writers, and academics, not to mention racists and homophobes, each of whose fabulous foibles are incisively rendered in sentences which, without mincing words, make mincemeat of our hypocrisy, dishonesty, malice, violence, and other assorted failings, what Hannah, in “Dragged Fighting from His Tomb,” describes as that “bog and labyrinth” where we are all “overbrained and overemotioned.” It’s the kind of language, rendered as much with and for the eye as with and for the ear, that struck Hannah “as a miracle, a thing the deepest mind adores,” a musical language: an “orchestra of the living” accompanying “memory, the whole lying opera of it.”
Check out my review of Robert Steiner’s Negative Space, a poignant portrait of one man’s emotional disintegration, at Rain Taxi: Review of Books, Online Edition: Winter 2010/2011. Here’s an excerpt:
Negative Space is a portrait of paralysis, a study of stasis, an analysis of the anguish felt by the abandoned. Though the prose is, like the narrator’s postmortem, interminable, it’s still pleasurable, forcing us to follow its twists and turns toward some kind of understanding about what may ultimately be incomprehensible and irresolvable. Taking its title from a term in the artist’s lexicon, which defines the space around and between an image’s subject, the novella explores the space surrounding betrayal, that space moving in and out of focus, often becoming the primary focus, as if it were a version of Rubin’s vase, that famous optical illusion where the vase is supplanted by two faces staring at each other. In fact, this book might have been subtitled “Toward a Syntax of Figure-Ground Reversal,” to be placed on the shelf alongside Steiner’s critical work, Toward a Grammar of Abstraction.
Check out my interview with the incredible Lance Olsen at Rain Taxi: Review of Books. Here’s an excerpt:
JM: When I think of collage in the visual arts or in music, I think more of overlap and mixture, where the edges of the disparate elements are blurred. In Head in Flames, as well as in some of the print novels you mention above, the disparate elements are usually placed, as you’ve described, in juxtaposition, rather than overlap and mixture. In other words, unless the typography itself is dealt with visually—that is, overlapped, inserted, interwoven—then the collage element isn’t necessarily experienced in a visual way. So then, what are the “different strata” you see of literary collage? What are the particular ways that Head in Flames uses collage? And how does the reader of your novel (and works like it) put it all together?
LO: My sense is the notion of collage can be used literally or it can be used metaphorically in fiction composition. That is, collage fiction can be deeply, actively appropriative in nature, cutting up previous texts to create new ones at the level of phrase, or even word, as in, say, the work of Eliot (think of The Waste Land) and William Burroughs (think of his cut-up technique). This impulse stays very close to the original French root of the word: coller, i.e., to paste, to glue. But it can also be used simply as a structuring principle—not only as a juxtapositional combination of ready-mades, then, but of just-mades, as in, say, the work of Milorad Pavic or Julio Cortázar.
I’m happy that Powell’s Books has decided to pick up my review (originally published in Rain Taxi: Review of Books, Spring 2010) for their “Review-a-Day” feature, especially because Zornoza’s book resonates emotionally and is marked by a unique voice, and thus deserves more attention.
My review of Andrew Zornoza’s Where I Stay appears in the Spring 2010 issue of Rain Taxi Review of Books. Check out the table of contents and buy an issue HERE. Here’s an excerpt:
Zornoza’s stories sprawl across landscapes, sift through details with a syntactical sieve, and revel in minutiae; superfluous exposition is replaced by evocative gestures, bland dialogue surrenders to resonant internal monologue. Consider Where I Stay a road map that carefully marks its scorched landscapes and anonymous small towns while also pointing out the desultory crew of squatters, border guards, prostitutes, drug dealers—transitory figures all—who live hardscrabble lives within them. As such, Zornoza is as much a novelist as he is a cartographer of loneliness, doubt, and fear, one that fearlessly delineates the stark realms of disappointment, unrequited love, and unfulfilled dreams.