Saturday, April 13, 2013

Frank Bill takes us on a crime spree into the heart of Southern Indiana

Crimes in Southern Indiana: Stories
Frank Bill
FSG Originals, 2011
Available Now

Reviewer: Trudi
Rating: 4 out of 5 blood-soaked stars

Iris kept driving....He reached over and rubbed Spade between his black ears, not knowing where he was headed, but knowing he wouldn't stop until he was several states shy of the crimes in southern Indiana.
This book ::flails helplessly:: How do I begin to review these raw and ruthless stories and do them justice? I probably can't ladies and gents, but I want to try goddammit. Frank Bill's collection of crazies and crimes in southern Indiana deserves that much at least.

This is prose that sings -- not with the sweetness and harmony of a Mama Cass, but rather a whiskey-soaked growl and feverish screech of a Janis Joplin. It's jagged, fragmented, and toothsome; ready at any point to tear a chunk out of the reader and leave him or her panting and bleeding like the sordid cast of cutthroat characters that populate the pages of these 17 inter-connected stories.

The stories piece together a harsh portrait of poor, scrabbling, backwoods people -- where victims become victimizers, and the brutalized do their fair share of brutalizing in return. As Frank Bill weaves together his tales of madness and mayhem, he is not interested in telling mere exploitative snapshots of gratuitous violence; his carefully crafted stories resonate with gritty themes of PTSD, poverty, domestic violence, addiction, greed and corruption. Each story flashes bright and fierce, a powerhouse on its own, but when melded with its brethren featured in the collection, the sum definitely becomes more awesome than the parts.

Frank Bill is writing Southern Noir and making it his bitch. This is Quentin Tarantino meets Cormac McCarthy. For make no mistake Frank Bill convinces his readers that his Indiana landscape is also no country for old men.
Jagged marrow lined his gums like he'd tried to huff a stick of dynamite. But when he stuttered into Medford's ear he sounded like a drunk who had Frenched a running chainsaw.
This isn't a collection to love per se; it certainly won't leave you with the warm and fuzzies. It will shake you up and smack you around a bit though, and you definitely won't forget it easily. It also made me green with envy over how easy Frank Bill makes it all seem. What he accomplishes isn't easy; if it were we'd see the likes of this kind of writing more often. Bill's prose is rough; there isn't the same kind of lyricism to be found in these stories as is in the work of Daniel Woodrell, Tom Franklin, or even his closest kin Donald Ray Pollock. However, if you have a penchant for the raw and brutal side of life, this collection is required reading in my books.

If that doesn't whet your appetite, look for Bill's new novel hot off the presses called Donnybrook. Word on the street is that it's even more an orgy of violence than the short stories that appear in Crimes. I've got a copy in my hands as I type this and you can bet I cannot wait to crack it open and see what carnage awaits me inside. Stay tuned!

A version of this review also appears on Goodreads

Kasher In The Rye

Kasher in the Rye

Moshe Kasher
Reviewed by: Brandon
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

I only really know Moshe Kasher from the two times I've heard him as a guest on Stop Podcasting Yourself, an excellent podcast from Vancouver based comedians Graham Clark and Dave Shumka. His appearances were pretty funny, the guy has a quick wit and an interesting sense of humor.

On his most recent two appearances, he talked about writing a book that detailed his pretty sordid past involving drugs and mental health. Having gone through so much before his sixteenth birthday, there was no way this book could be anything but enthralling.

I certainly wasn't wrong.

It can be jarring listening (snagged a copy of the audio book) to Moshe explain how one drug led to another and how serious his addictions became. The combination of drugs that he had been taking at one point was mind boggling, it’s unbelievable just how much memory he retained. When you add a vicious and unforgiving attitude toward any authority figure as well as his mother, it’s a wonder he came out the other end with such a positive attitude and achieved this level of success and comfort.

Oh, and this book is really funny. Kasher is now a stand-up comedian and part time actor so he knows how to entertain. While he’s regaling you with stories of his troubled youth, he keeps certain topics light by infusing his unique sense of humor  It takes a special kind of person to make you laugh while trying to justify being too lazy to walk the ten feet to the bathroom, electing rather to piss in empty soft drink cups and cast iron heaters.

Also posted on Every Read Thing

Racine, Translated by Ted Hughes
Reviewed by: Arbie Roo

Greek families! Histrionics, rash reaction instead of considered response, inability to control emotion. Tragedy.

I don't know much about this play: what was Racine's source? It feels very Classical Greek and very Ted Hughes and not really French at all in this version. The language is not as extreme, stylistically, as in Hughes' version of Seneca's Oedipus put the trademark bluntness, abruptness and anachronisms are all present and correct. If Hughes achieved anything with his translations of Classics and material with Classical sources, it was making gripping reading of them. He really did rescue these plays from lecture theatres and put them in real theatres.

I like this less than Hughes' other Greek-based works but I think it's to do with the source material - it's not as nutty as Oedipus or as philosophically interesting as The Oresteia - but that's not to say I disliked it at all: it got devoured in two short sessions.