Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Literary Matters

Time again for "Literary Matters"! And I am so sorry to tell you this, but there are lots and lots of them. I'm not even going to tell you how many, because you'll certainly stop reading. As well you should! Cursed literary matters! 1) TODAY ONLY! Roy Blount Jr. will be at Off Square Books (5 PM, the usual time) to read from his new book ALPHABETTER JUICE, some of the mighty pleasures of which have already been outlined here. Don't miss a chance to see Roy Blount Jr.! Note to the government: I bought my own copy of ALPHABETTER JUICE, so shut up! I am no publisher's shill! In fact, as far as I can tell, publishers hate me! 2) After Mr. Blount's reading, why not head over to the Kitty Snacks party conveniently located at Southside Gallery? The decent fellows at Kitty Snacks have a brand new issue out, featuring work by John Brandon and many other notables. And the gray cover screams, "Buy me! I'm entirely gray!" But I think that's one of those tricks that only the hippest of the hip can pull off, you know, like that billboard for bail bondsmen I saw once, or a club with no sign on the door. But when you get in, it's lots of wholesome fun! Kitty Snacks! 3) You know who is also reading at Off Square soon (June 9)? That's right, Ace Atkins. He has a brand new novel out called THE RANGER. I'm halfway through it and loving every minute. Yes, government, Ace gave me a free advance reading copy, so what? Though THE RANGER is set in the here and now, Ace wanted it to have the feel of those great Burt Reynolds (or Joe Don Baker, pictured) revenge pics from the 1970s, popularly known as "hixploitation." And boy did he succeed, spectacularly! Now that I have given you the code, you can read the book on dual levels, because I know how much you enjoy doing that, experiencing things on dual levels. You love that! 4) Ace also loaned me an advance copy of THE END OF EVERYTHING by Megan Abbott. I read it and think it might be her best book yet, though it is so hard to pick just one! Were I to blurb it, I would say, "Do you like great writing and being really nervous and creeped out all the time? Even when you sleep? Do you want to be pulled down into a terrible and beautiful and inexorable nightmare, no, dream, no, nightmare, no, dream, no, nightmare? Then this is the book for you!" Also, SHE is coming here to read at the end of July so we have that to look forward to. 5) Megan's book just got a starred review from my sworn enemy Publishers Weekly! So this is the one thing we can agree on, PW and I, like characters making an unholy secret alliance on GAME OF THRONES. PS: My blurb might also say, "Abbott's beloved Freud glimmers darkly from every riveting page!" Ugh, that's awful. Just read the book! I keep blurbing Megan's books in retrospect. 6) Speaking of blurbs that will never happen, Kevin Brockmeier says something really, really nice about me in the new issue of the Oxford American, something too nice for me to repeat here, something that would make a perfect blurb, but as we have seen, no book of mine is ever going to come out ever again, not even the cat book that is alarming, confounding, and distressing publishers' flunkies the world over even as we speak, but I have the blurb ready to go, thanks to the generous and gracious Kevin Brockmeier, and I will always have it, and the book will never come out, no book will ever come out, so maybe they can just carve it on my gravestone, that thing that Kevin Brockmeier said. 7) The real attraction of the new OA (well, I haven't read the whole issue yet, it's usually all good!) is a sparkling new short story by Elizabeth Kaiser, also known as "Elizabeth" of "blog" fame. 8) And another former "student," John Oliver Hodges, has a really good and bold and moving article in there, too! It's a follow-up to his piece in the previous issue, also about his (and Elizabeth's) great mentor Barry Hannah. Speaking of which, the new Kitty Snacks (see #2 above) features several never-before-published full-color photographs that John took of Barry. He is not only a fine writer, John Oliver Hodges, but an accomplished photographer, yes, where do these people get all this talent? It makes me sick. I didn't teach John or Elizabeth a thing. 9) Check out John's novella WAR OF THE CRAZIES, just out from Main Street Rag press! Now that one, I really did blurb. Blurbs! Is there anything less useful? (Note to the government: yes, I read WAR OF THE CRAZIES in manuscript, but I won my actual copy in a raffle, I really did, so that doesn't count!) 10) Yes, John Brandon and I are in the new Kitty Snacks together AND we are in the new Oxford American together, just as we were in the previous issue of McSweeney's together. In fact, we are going to get an enormous shirt with two neckholes and just walk around like that from now on. 11) Are you still reading this? Don't lie to me! 12) McNeil has found what seems to be a series of mysteries featuring members of "the Rat Pack." It is not for me to say whether on the surface they appear to be the worst books ever written. After all, haven't we been told time and time again not to judge a book by its cover? Like, didn't I tell you that earlier in this "post"? I did! But it was so long ago you have probably forgotten. Look again. Still, the titles do not inspire confidence! There is one called EVERYBODY KILLS SOMEBODY SOMETIME - this dubious assertion a "play on words" inspired by the Dean Martin hit "Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime." While I was checking to make sure this is a real mystery series (and it is, but those covers, they just don't LOOK real somehow... in fact they seem vaguely illegal to me) I ran across one not listed on McNeil's "link," one called LUCK BE A LADY, DON'T DIE. What does that EVEN MEAN? I "get" that it is supposed to be a "play on words" based on the song "Luck Be a Lady Tonight" from GUYS AND DOLLS, but it's just barely that, isn't it? And does it MEAN something? Isn't it just a string of words, I mean, isn't it? Well maybe these will turn out to be the greatest books ever written and I'm just a jerk. 13) The new "LaFa Shopper" got shoved into our mailbox yesterday, but once again John Arrechea IS MISSING! We do hear from Faylene Bryant with the breaking story "Vacation Bible School Approaching Fast," plus there's a column called "The Playhouse" in which one Camille Anding lists "Things I'd Like To Find" (dozens and dozens of them!) including "My keychain that remains hidden since last January" and "More movies as charming as 'The Sound of Music.'"