Thursday, December 15, 2011

As a Machine and Parts by Caleb J. Ross.

Author and internet cool dude Caleb J. Ross has a new book.
As a Machine and Parts, available from Aqueous Books, can be purchased now. Click the link and do so.

From Caleb: [The] book incorporates subtle illustrations, formatting plays, and typography twists to create a story that is both bizarre and human. Though, how else could a book about a man turning into a machine--and not really caring about it--be written?

Sounds like fun to me. Visit Caleb's site to learn more: As a Machine and Parts.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Christmas-- it's here. Basically. What's on my list? I'll share it with you:

Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid box set: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions) – Homer (translated by Robert Fagles)
Dracula (Barnes & Noble Leather Classic) – Bram Stoker
H.P. Lovecraft: The Complete Fiction (Barnes & Noble Leather Classic) – H.P. Lovecraft
Picture of Dorian Gray (Barnes & Noble Leather Classic) – Oscar Wilde
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Barnes & Noble Leather Classic) – Mark Twain
Fog Gorgeous Stag – Sean Lovelace
Four For A Quarter: Fictions – Michael Martone
Scorch Atlas – Blake Butler
Dear Everybody – Michael Kimball
Stranger Will – Caleb J. Ross
Valis – Philip K. Dick
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Philip K. Dick
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch – Philip K. Dick
The Stranger – Albert Camus
Dune, 40th Anniversary Edition – Frank Herbert
The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
Naked Lunch: The Restored Text – William S. Burroughs
Kicking Horse Cliffhanger Espresso (Whole Bean)
Fancy-Shmancy Mustard of All Varieties
Ziggy Stardust – David Bowie
Space Oddity – David Bowie
Scary Monsters – David Bowie
It’s Complicated Being a Wizard – Portugal. The Man
Pink Moon – Nick Drake

Now, let's make some observations. This list betrays a terrible secret-- I do not yet own "Stranger Will" by Caleb Ross. My only explanation is that I am a prick and care for no one but myself, though I will nonetheless go on to defend myself by saying that A) it's on my list, and B) this endless Nabokov book has ground all literary purchases to a halt for me. I have not bought a book in months. MONTHS. Okay? Even when Borders was going out of business, all I came away with was Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger because it was like, a dollar. It's nothing personal. I fully expect Caleb's book to be excellent, which is why it's on my list. Notice it's in good company. Notice who's NOT on the list-- Nabokov. Therefore it is scientific fact: Caleb is better than Nabokov.

Also, what's with all the David Bowie? I don't know. It occurred to me that I don't own any David Bowie albums, and that seems wrong, so I picked a few at random.

"It's Complicated Being A Wizard" was a title that made me laugh. And I've heard Portugal. The Man is good, but I don't own any of their stuff, mostly because I despise the period in the name of the band. It ruins any sentence in which you mention them (like the previous one), so I've resisted up until now. But the name of this blog has an exclamation point in it, you say? Well for one thing, no one ever mentions this blog, so that's not a problem. Furthermore, stylistic use of an exclamation point is less subliminal and does not look quite so misplaced in the middle of a thought. If they were looking for some alternative characters in their name, why not Portugal & The Man? That really adds a 1987-CBS-primetime-Wednesday-lineup feel to their name that's pretty killer.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Caleb J. Ross Wants to Write with the Intellectual Charm of a Mid-90s Family Sitcom.

This is a guest post by Caleb J Ross (also known as Caleb Ross, to people who hate Js) as part of his Stranger Will Tour for Strange blog tour. He will be guest-posting beginning with the release of his novel Stranger Will in March 2011 to the release of his second novel, I Didn’t Mean to Be Kevin and novella, As a Machine and Parts, in November 2011. If you have connections to a lit blog of any type, professional journal or personal site, please contact him. To be a groupie and follow this tour, subscribe to the Caleb J Ross blog RSS feed. Follow him on Twitter: Friend him on Facebook:

Does anyone else remember Steve Urkel’s personality changing machine? For those who don’t, here’s the ridiculously brilliant premise:

TV nerd poster child, Steve Urkel, is madly in love with neighbor girl named Laura. Despite, or perhaps because of, the strange absence of his own family (strange only to the audience; I don’t believe the show ever addressed the missing family directly) the neighbor family treated Steve as a pariah, often going out of their way to express hatred for the poor kid. Quite often, episode story-lines hinged on the family’s eventual, yet always temporary, acceptance of the outcasted child. But, when Steve steps into his personality changing machine, shifting from hunched geek to smooth chic (with an equally sexified name: Stefan Urquelle) the world suddenly makes time for him. Laura loves him. The family loves him. The simple lesson: looks are everything.

Does anyone else wonder why the government didn’t seize that machine immediately? No, you don’t. The machine integrated into the Family Matters world as a perfect figurative and literal storytelling device.

That’s the fiction I strive to write. Conceptually heavy, yet contextually believable. The entire show’s premise during those episodes depended on how this single awkward element transformed the entire Family Matters world. There is a magical realism feel to this situation, in that the weird element is weird only to the audience; the characters don’t consider anything strange at all (or they are willfully ignorant to the strangeness).

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Unrelated True Thoughts.

1) Salmon is a great food. If kittens were food, they would be salmon.

2) One of my favorite books of poetry is "Rose" by Li-Young Lee:

Out of the grave
my father's hair
bursts. A strand
pierces my left sole, shoots
up bone, past ribs,
to the broken heart it stiches,
then down,
swirling in the stomach, in the groin, and down,
through the right foot.

--Dreaming of Hair

3) Back to salmon-- this salmon is like falling apart on my fork.

4) I was riding my bike at the park. I was wearing a hood against the cold and thus my vision was restricted. A girl was walking too close to a goose that had its beak buried into its feathers, and it snapped at her. She danced away screaming. I witnessed this, and as I rode past, I was forced to turn my entire head to continue to monitor the amusing scene. Having turned my head so obviously in her direction, I felt compelled to speak. Laughing, I said, "Be careful." I said it in a way that I meant to sound fatherly but, in my own head, sounded somehow creepy and unwelcome. Though I could not see my own eyes I perceived them as being teary and slit. Possibly reddened. Was it creepy? No, No. I rode away. I don't speak to strangers often. I don't know why I did today. Perhaps I felt safe inside my hood.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Short Stories of Vladimir Nabokov and Other Cheerful Topics.

So, I am thigh deep in this monstrous collection of Nabokov's stories. I had read "Despair" somewhere in a previous life, and had enjoyed it well enough to never read Nabokov again. This is not mean as a criticism-- I used to be something of a masochist when it came to reading, in that, if I found something I liked, I generally read nothing else from that author. The exceptions were Douglas Adams and Chuck Palahniuk; the former because Adams's work was a childhood friend to me (and a grown-up friend as well, which is a rare treat-- I was disappointed to find that He-Man did not age as well as "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"); the latter, because I went to college during the Age of Palahniuk, and if you weren't reading Palahniuk you weren't cool. And let me tell you: I was cool with a capital "K." (As a side note, I bet you're wondering if Nabokov relates to He-Man in any meaningful way; you will be pleased to know he does, and the matter will be addressed with bracing insight in my completely fictional doctoral thesis, "Nabokov, He-Man, and Yevtushenko's So-Called Clatter of Surgical Tools: Manhood and the Aesthetic Structure in Modern Media.")

But anyway again. These short stories are brutally weighty and depressing. Weighty in an existential way; depressing in a good way. "Terra Incognita" is my favorite so far-- the story of a doomed jungle expedition and the associated abandonments, violence, and illness. There are some fun games here with perception and ontology, if one knew what that word meant, and had subsequently used it properly. Nabokov only needs about five pages to destroy you. It's a subdued, lyrical destruction though-- a lovely autopsy of reality. The knife in this story does not rip or tear or any of that. It is a rusty blade that enters unseen and by the time you register it, it's done with.

What happens in the story? Everyone dies. I hope I'm not ruining it for you. Let me, in fact, ruin all of Nabokov's short fiction for you: everyone dies. That's not literally true of course-- some people improbably survive-- but it might as well be. Death is the overarching detail that seems to float to the surface in the 30 or so stories I've read so far. Oh, a more critical and worthy eye would find a myriad of more fascinating themes and parallels, but I am not reading this to dissect it so much as enjoy it (Nabokov himself would've been a fan of this approach). I haven't read enough (read: any other) Russian literature so as to be able to say "It's very Russian" without being supercilious, but what the hell-- life's short and you probably know what I mean anyway. This is very Russian. Blammo. Checkmate.

I've been reading the stories here and there over a period of months, and have just about hit the halfway mark. I've been reading as the opportunities arise-- in the bathroom, while waiting to have my teeth cleaned, sitting at the local Subway on my lunch hour-- and am further convinced that the short story is my favorite form. Novels are great; but this is a 65-course meal.

EDIT: "Perfection" is now possibly my favorite story so far. If you happen to read the story, and want to gallop farther along the Reading Rainbow, here's a nice critical breakdown:

Behind the Glass Pane: Vladimir Nabokov’s “Perfection” and Transcendence

DOUBLE EDIT: Only read this comment if you've read the story so I don't ruin it for you. Waiting...waiting for you to finish the story...still waiting...still waiting...still waiting...still waiting...still waiting...still waiting...still waiting...still waiting...still waiting...still waiting...still waiting...still waiting...done? Okay, so what did I tell you before? The guy dies. Everyone dies.

Friday, August 5, 2011

So Long, Abjective.

Since the kiddies may be reading, I'll keep this clean: shitballs. Abjective is done publishing. I am very sad to see it go, though I hope the circumstances were benign-- i.e. there was no massive fire, or website foreclosure, or abduction, etc. Lots of amazing fiction came and went over in those parts.

Went-- no, that's the wrong word. It implies that the fiction is gone-- it remains! Explore the archive:


Thanks for the memories.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


What do you think of when you think of independent men's fiction? Dockers(r) brand pants, of course.

There's this thing where, if you have a Facebook account, you can vote for indie publisher BULL (fiction for thinking men). If they win, they get some bank. $100K of bank. That's a lot of bank.

Anyway, in order to do this, you have to first "Like" Dockers(r) brand pants. Don't worry, it's all there in the below link. I know, it's a total pain in the ass, but this is what we've done to our planet and so now we have to make do by indirectly selling one another pants. It may leave a nasty taste in your mouth to tangentially become a marketing pawn, but, since I assume BULL will not be devoted (solely) to pants-adoring literature, I think it's a worthy bit of pride swallowing.

Anyway, give BULL a hell of a nice start and vote for their plan here:

Vote once a day, every day. If you love pants like I do you'll do it.

Closed Garage Door.

I love this: Closed Garage Door by Allison Carter. It's at 5_Trope.

Am I supposed to use the underscore? I'd hate to look the fool.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Inherent Vice.

I've read some Pynchon in the past-- some, meaning:

1) I have opened "Gravity's Rainbow" approximately three times while sitting on the toilet, read three sentences per visit, and decided that this was obscenely optimistic bathroom reading
2) "Slow Learner."
3) "V." Though to be honest I don't think I finished it. In college I was terrible about abandoning books halfway through

This book is less Pynchon-y than any of those, though it's still crammed with characters who sometimes seem to exist chiefly to be branded with a kooky name (Jason Velveeta) and then disappear. I haven't finished the book yet-- about 60 pages left-- but, if all these characters intend to return, the final pages are going to be like watching an extravagance of weirdos and paranoiacs endlessly disembarking a clown car.

I'm not a huge fan of noir, and a first-timer to hippie noir, if that's even a recognizable genre, but this book-- for all its weirdness and whimsy-- has actually been quite a bit of fun so far. If you can tolerate an eccentric dentist/suspected ne'er-do-well operating from inside a building shaped like a giant golden tooth and later suffering a serious accident on a trampoline, last seen in the presence of a car full of potheads driven by a-- okay, so that's what we're dealing with.

Anyway, I thought it would grate on me. The 60s are not being defined by the writing; little is being made in the way of sinister, braided social commentary, which is possibly what I was expecting. It's more like a costume party. Breezy. Drug-addled. But I'm glad I carried on. The plot is coming together, against all odds. Probably my favorite Pynchon so far, so far.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"Victimized" by Richard Thomas.

Writer and all-around cool guy Richard Thomas has self-published a story entitled Victimized. It's aimed at the neo-noir crowd-- those who enjoyed his novel "Transubtantiate" will certainly dig the vibe. Get "Victimized" on the cheap:

For the Amazon Kindle store version, go here.
For Nook and every other eReader, get it at Smashwords here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Stranger Will.

Caleb Ross's "Stranger Will" shall now be purchased by you:

A few months ago Caleb ran a contest where people could vote on the cover of the book-- this is the one I voted for. I hope that's not breaking internet-book-cover-voting-contest etiquette by revealing my vote. Anyway, I dig the cover, and I got a solid introduction to this book in a workshop setting a few years ago. It was a blast back then. I can't wait to jump back in and see the final product.

Here's a link to Caleb's website.

Monday, January 24, 2011

"They've built their nests..." the chimneys of my heart, those swallows that you lost."

Reading "Another Roadside Attraction." I've read Tom Robbins before, but I never considered him one to risk a passage so nakedly romantic. Or am I misunderstanding it? Maybe the all his shenanigans are simply covering that vulnerability. There was, you know, the whole Bernard Mickey Wrangle/Princess Leigh-Cheri lovefest. If "Love" is the appropriate word. Infatuation. Maybe the shenanigans are in service of it. Maybe I'm clinging to the wrong piece of driftwood.

Anyway, it's been a long time since I've read "Still Life With Woodpecker," and I was in a different frame of mind then. So I might be misinterpreting things. But anyhoo. This moved me.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Out of Touch.

I review Brandon Tietz's forthcoming novel Out of Touch here. Click, and enjoy.

When you're done clicking and enjoying, purchase it from the intersphere, perhaps here. Here as well.

This post is abbreviated because my hands are cold and I've been typing for a while now and my thermostat is set @ 59 degrees because I am cheap and I am afraid the world will run out of fossil fuels and I'm not having that on my head, no sir.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

How Some People Like Their Eggs.

Received a copy of How Some People Like Their Eggs by Sean Lovelace for Christmas. A truly thoughtful gift! I can't recommend it highly enough. Especially the title story, which, appropriately, and amusingly, and beautifully, details how some people like their eggs. General Patton, in particular, delighted me.

It's not an easy thing, being able to transplant yourself so readily into another's skin, even for a paragraph. I had no doubt I was inside Patton's mind. Or at least the caricature of Patton's mind. I read this passage aloud to people who will sit still long enough to be enraptured. If they fail to be enraptured, they are clods and I have no use for them. It is cruel, but life is cruel. Buy this book.

By the way, Happy New Year. And Merry Christmas. And Happy Thanksgiving. And Happy Halloween. And Happy Birthday to: Monica Bellucci; Mark Hamill; Xzibit; Evan Rachel Wood; myself.