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.