Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dream War.

Review of Stephen Prosapio's genre thriller Dream War up @ Oxyfication.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Transubstantiate, epilogue.

Finished up Richard Thomas' Transubstantiate recently-- my review is up over @ Oxyfication.

The book was a great time. Very fast, very kinetic, very bloody, very noir. It's a testament to his skill that the book is as easy to read as it is, because the structure is actually quite complicated. It's a shadowy journey, and while Richard holds his mysteries quite close to the vest, you're never lost. A dark, devilish tale.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Transubstantiate -- right around the corner.

Transubstantiate, the neo-noir debut from Richard Thomas, is almost here. Two days. My copy's ordered; is yours? Visit his blog, What Does Not Kill Me, or the Transubstantiate home page for all the juicy details. More to come!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Jose Saramago.

Farewell to the great Jose Saramago, who has passed away. "Blindness" is by far one of my favorite books, and a great example of uncompromising style. The same way "A Clockwork Orange" conditions you to learn a new language, "Blindness" conditions you to read in a new way-- your trusted senses are discarded as you encounter blocks of unattributed text, text without punctuation, etc. All signposts have been removed, yet you still find your way. Eventually, you come to trust your instincts. It is an amazing experience.

It's tough to lose someone you admire. These people become like family members in a way. It can be tough to take, but we are lucky enough to have their body of work to treasure, and to pass on to future generations. Incomplete as it always seems to feel.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Road.

About a hundred pages in to Cormac's "The Road." I have been warned there is no light at the end of this drab tunnel. Though I wonder. My idea of redemption is that it is so miniscule, dirt-smeared and fragile that I may well find it where it does not exist, whenever I choose to find it. This is the "buried gun" approach to redemption: when you feel the misery is endless and you can't persist, just find the spot where you buried your salvation, and be saved. (Is salvation, then, a gun? Is salvation suicide? Oh, bleak world. There are already rumblings of suicide in the text. It's out there unseen, like the strange, far-off concussions the man and woman heard in the night. The notion of release from torment.)

It doesn't concern me either way, though, as I find there is something uplifting about misery that dares to be interminable. It allows you to be the author of your own philosophy, as opposed to being fed someone else's. That's what I've always enjoyed about McCarthy-- he doesn't force feed you anything. He gives you not necessarily the world as it is, but a brutal magnification that tests you. The idea of being tested-- being given a task-- is perhaps hinted at in the book's title-- the idea of being unmoored, and set on your way to discover if you're made of anything, or if you're destined to be nothing but a pile ash.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

LOST (spoilers).

So-- LOST is done.

I was a late arrival to the party, watching seasons 1 - 5 on Netflix streaming this past winter, and much of season 6 on Hulu. I watched the finale as it aired on ABC, commandeering my parents' living room for four and a half hours, since I do not get cable at my house. I've found my tolerance for commercial breaks has dropped to nearly zero.

So, by gorging myself all at once I was able to devour the series in ravenous chunks, not having to endure the incubation periods of days and weeks in between mysteries during which a traditional viewer might hatch his hairbrained theories as to what was actually going on on the island. I don't know if this was beneficial or not; I don't have a frame of reference. I do know that I enjoyed seasons 1 - 5 immensely, and was sad to see it all come to an end.

My thoughts on that ending: I was not disappointed. The series was built on mystery, and many of those mysteries remained intact, if a little jumbled. When the writers made attempts to reward the viewers' tenacity and explain certain things, the show tended to suffer from it. It's rarely as fun to know as it is to guess.

Some of the finale felt a bit rushed. Locke's recovery for example, though I suppose you could attribute this to the uncertain physics of Limbo. Emotionally, however, I felt the need to see Locke's faith somehow redeemed in the real world; he was a long-suffering character, broken like the rest, but I felt that despite his talk of being special and having a purpose, Locke's role was simply to be used. As he was murdered a few seasons back, for example, Locke's last thoughts were, "I don't understand."

Overall, a series finale is a bit perfunctory in nature. If it entertains and keeps the spirit of the show alive, I think it has done its job. I was happy to have been given a chance to see these characters on their way.

Jack's end was poetic and heartfelt, if a little lonely. I was satisfied with his having to die alone, in that the character had learned to let go-- much of the show was concerned with inherent flaws; the "clean slate" the characters were given in the first season was an illusion. No one can leave his past behind. In fact, Jack found that out shortly after he'd said it as he found himself chasing his dead father through the jungle. That he eventually learned to accept that whatever happened happened and move on was fitting.

Still, the overall philosophy of the show was often difficult to pin down, but considering the ways that Jack and Locke ultimately left the earthly realm, the show's final message struck me as surprisingly bold in its fatalism. I would be tempted to say that this was kind of an exasperated, nuclear reset of the show's themes-- a result of the writers' inability to wrangle the myriad of philosophies, plot points, and themes they had introduced; tempted, if it weren't for the fact that this was so personally satisfying to me. As a whole, the final vision of the show is of an ultimately unknowable world and a character's subsequent passing from it. Pieces can be discovered, but how often do we understand the full scope of things? How often do you get to rest? There is always one more thing, one more thing, one more thing, until you're dead. I find this to be rather sublime. Rose and Bernard's continued existence in the story is the only clue that this was intentional; they had let go of it all a long, long time ago, and their lives looked pretty good to me. Someone who might find Jack's lonely Zen to be unfitting is probably the type that still identifies with Locke's restless hunger in earlier seasons. I was one; but when I realized what it earned him, I suppose I started to drift. Locke was no more enlightened than Jack.

I am not naive enough to believe that all the show's unanswered questions were left unanswered on purpose. Part of this adventure was sleight of hand. Some of the fun of writing is retrofitting the mess you've made with themes that develop naturally from your interests, your values, and your sensibilities. That certain mysteries of the island were never "solved" is probably more a function of the show's simply reaching its end before the writers were forced to deal with loose ends. Not a problem, as far as I'm concerned. The mysteries of the island-- striking as many of them were-- were often placed as secondary. Earlier, anyway. Later, it became necessary to try and strike a better balance. Things then tipped in the other direction for a while, and the island and its mythology took center stage. I think the back-and-forth is a good representation of what people go through in their lives: too often we're swallowed by the details of our maddening world. Rarely can we escape.

I am sad to see such an ambitious show come to an end. It didn't always hit its mark, but I am glad to have taken the trip.

Friday, April 30, 2010


Read this some time ago, but it's always worth mentioning, since Another Sky Press does good things: Click. It's by Kristopher Young. A total brainfuck, this one. You'll love it. And you can read it online. No, really. You can. But buy the manuscript too. Because anyone can float pixels, but a thing on paper is a thing with weight, both literally and even spiritually. I cannot explain the universe; I only receive mail there. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Grifted.

I can't remember the source-- someone on Facebook posted a link to this story @ The Collagist (I'm thinking it was either Richard Thomas or Christopher Dwyer, though I could be wrong). The story's called The Grifted by Jac Jemc, and it's a cool, cryptic, noir-ish tale. One interpretation is that the narrator is passing into a none-too-cozy afterlife; another interpretation is that there is no interpretation-- only the reality, and whatever you bring to the table. The compelling oddness of the story naturally makes people want to "figure it out." It's likely there is a a "true" interpretation of the story. It also doesn't matter in the slightest. This phenomenon of plasticity reminds me of the films of David Lynch (in general); furthermore, it reminds me of David Lynch the personality-- or, more specifically, facets of his personality in terms of the meta-marketing campaign he launched with the release of his film Inland Empire. That whole bit with the cow.

For those unfamiliar with David Lynch's cow, here's a brief explanation (credited to Joshy Tyler, 2006):

Apparently bovines are [Lynch's] new method of self-distributing his films. The Mullholland Drive director tells The Hollywood Reporter he's sick of studios and will now distribute his movies himself. To do it, he'll embark on a ten city tour to promote [Inland Empire], using only cattle and a folding chair. "I ate a lot of cheese during the film, and it made me happy," he explains. "I'm hoping the Academy members will be sick of 10 million trade ads and appreciate something a bit different." Cows are certainly different. I'll give him that. Accompanying Lynch and his moo-buddy will be Pianist Mark Zebrowski, who will play "Polish night music" from Inland Empire.

Yeah. So. There's David Lynch and his cow. The whole non-sequitur about the cheese might strike you as a kind of a toss-away eccentricity (it sort of is), but to me it speaks of the way that language has a lot of ground to cover in conveying complex thoughts or ideas; to me, he's atttempting to convey several things at once: first, that A) cheese made him happy; B) happiness is a sort of transitory, simple thing, sometimes as simple as a taste-- a kind of butterfly of an emotion, landing here, landing there; C) the nested idea that his conveying of the above sentiments in connection with the promotion of his film is an attempt to convey both the simplicity of such a chance pleasure (the eating of cheese) and the fact that that pleasure is, in all reality, completely unrelated to the film itself, thereby implying that the relationship between the cow and the promotion of Inland Empire is just as valid as Lynch's enjoyment of cheese in concert with the filming of his latest movie. He's an alchemist, trying to conjure depth from disharmony.

Why all this talk of cheese and David Lynch's cow? Someone has to talk about it. But aside from that, I see parallels between Lynch's cunning oddness and Jemc's story. I'm no David Lynch expert. I like the man's films, but I don't know much about him as a person outside the context of his work. I don't know what it says about me that I find his concept of marketing his films with a cow in tow to be somehow completely sensible in terms of the human experience of creating art, but I get a similar sensation in reading Jac Jemc's story The Grifted. Sometimes, people try to apply sense where there is no call for sense: only feeling.

Monday, April 19, 2010


So, finished Ubik-- interesting. Odd book. Always nice to experience a quick read. I hadn't reading anything by Philip K. Dick before, and I guess from having seen a few movies based on his work I expected something more dystopian. I mean, there were certainly elements of it (the largely coin-operated society, the semi-conscious dead having their identities mingled in half-life moratoriums), but those elements seemed to take a back seat to a sort of odd procedural, not unlike the process by which one accepts death-- there is the incident, then the sense of futility, then a blossoming understanding as one comes to terms with a new reality. The nature of half-life in the story proposed an interesting twist-- that we not only have to accept and experience the deaths of loved ones, but we must make similar sense of our own deaths as well. In real time, no less. There is also an element of rebirth. One is forced to wonder if this is a hint at infinity; if death, death again, and rebirth are accepted facts, why fear anything that happens?

The final ten or twenty pages are excellent. Cryptic non-ending that erases all solid ground. In fact, on second thought, there is not a safe place to stand during this whole story. The final suggestion is one of endlessly nested realities; one wonders if these are nothing but the catacombs of the half-dead mind.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Back a couple of months ago I read Don DeLillo's Underworld. Over @ Oxyfication we had a discussion on the book. Sort of. I should say we discussed a few chapters. But as the book chugged onward my stamina for the discussion fell, possibly from carrying Underworld's sheer weight day in and day out. And for a person who suffers from sometimes paralyzing eye strain (my life is all screens, pretty much all the time, interspersed with occasional trips to some far-off beach to confirm that nature does indeed still exist in some primeval form) I soldiered on pretty well. I finished the book and summarized as best I could. It was easy to get lost inside the chapters. While I enjoyed the book immensely, I naively did not anticipate how difficult it would be to actually discuss such a multi-faceted tome. It would be like discussing the universe, in a way. A meaningful dissection would probably be as long as the book itself.

Now I'm re-reading it. Sort of. It truly is a wonder. It transitions so easily across such a long timeline. It moves effortlessly among a host of characters. It teases. It tastes. It's honest and huge. Did I mention it's huge?

I think my favorite sections are those involving Lenny Bruce. How real they feel. How incredibly exactly perfect and riveting and real. The stage-hush, the outrage, the frenetic talk, the daring observations. These sections represent for me the heart of the book, in a way. Lenny Bruce holds sleepless vigil over the endless depths of twentieth century dread. The rest of the characters just live it. They grapple with it largely in private, in the abstract. Lenny Bruce tries to make it tangible, and does so in public, on stage, his claustrophobia on display. He's buried alive inside it. Pounding on the coffin lid, in a way. He craves this as much as he reviles it. Garbage and explosions and loneliness and meaning.

Random. Good book.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Richard Thomas has written a book, entitled Transubstantiate. It will be coming out through Otherworld Publications soon. More info as it comes in. Now is your opportunity to pre-order and get some hawt signed swag.

Also, forgive my absence. I've been here and there, and other places you need not know about. Last night I sat in traffic for two and a half hours because of a highway accident (I was not involved). I took this opportunity not to catch up on my reading, but to instead sing along with "Hybrid Moments" over and over and over again until my throat was raw and my Danzig was impeccable. So. No small victory there.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Random Things To Promote Mental Health.

Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys uses the word simulacrum, and it made me smile because I like the word and didn't even know I liked the word until I read it in the context of Grady Tripp's father disassembling himself. Sometimes it's not stories; sometimes it's just words. Or passages. I can never get enough of that passage, reading it under the sheets like porno. Though Wonder Boys is a great book as a whole.

Bright Lights, Big City is not to be underrated. I read it once and enjoyed it; I read it again and now think it's maybe one of my favorites.

Waves, Tissue, Blood by Ben Spivey is not to be missed @ Abjective. Prose poetry like Jenga bricks. Fathers squirreling away their fortunes in Heaven, where we were always told we could not take our money, and were maybe told correctly. No one seems happy, in other words. Disintegrating and so on. Or maybe that is happiness--a state of love that's kind of meditative and vegetable in nature. Love across a distance that turns out to be infinite, as far as our lifespans are concerned.

Fight Club remains cool.

Soon comes Philip K. Dick's Ubik. A Philip with one L, he. Though I don't know many Philips to begin with, and the ones I do know I don't find myself spelling their names often.

David Foster Wallace's Signifying Nothing is both funny and horrifying in a deep and frightening way. The (still young) narrator doesn't really understand the depths of what he's angry about. He's not a writer, the narrator. It's what makes the story so powerful. It reads like a journal entry that exploded from an immature mind, capable of both pain and joy, but understanding neither.

That's all for now. President's Day was yesterday. I hope you celebrated as hard as I did.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Story Junk Binder

This is a guest post from Caleb J Ross, author of the chapbook Charactered Pieces: stories, as part of his ridiculously named Blog Orgy Tour. Visit his website for a full list of blog stops. Charactered Pieces: stories is currently available from OW Press (or Amazon.com). Visit Caleb at http://www.calebjross.com/.

Because Mr. Kane aims for this blog to be a literary junk drawer of sorts, let me help establish the heap with comments about my own writing miscellany, which quite literally, is how much of my writing begins: as accumulated leftovers and aborted remnants of completed pieces.

I keep a binder, scrapbooked with napkins, receipts, notebook pages, and various other cut-and-tapeable oddments, each containing scribbles that may or may not someday amount to a worthy story. The key in this accumulation is to be as uncritical about the collection as possible. Any apparently random idea that elicits even a slight pause during my otherwise monotonous life warrants a place within the binder. Anything, truly:

(head a story with a dedication to a person or thing or group that has relevance to the story – not to my own life)

(a person, after having a documentary made about his accomplishments, he refuses to be anything else for fear of not maintaining the legacy of permanence. Turns out his seclusion creates a cult of fame he never knows about)

When embarking on a new story (or am stuck with a current one), I open the binder and search for a few dissimilar snippets that may be mashed together to form a coherent story. Storytelling is about contrast and conflict. Forcing together two or more seemingly incompatible ideas allowsfor new angles and perceptions that would otherwise never happen. Physical deformity and jewelry becomes “Charactered Pieces” (the title story of my chapbook). An infatuation with documentaries and a dead brother becomes “The Camp.” Architecture and drinking camel blood becomes “The Camel of Morocco.”

My advice: keep a pen in your pocket. You can, and should, write on anything. Even all over the margins of Charactered Pieces.