New Short Story Alert!

Spring 2017 cover

cover art by John E. Richards; design by Ignacio Carrion

The great Hello Horror has included my short story “The Inventor” in their Spring 2017 issue. The magazine is free to read (and they have quite the back catalog, so get on that, horror fans).

The issue contains nine short stories, four poems, three micros and the conclusion of a serialized novel, which I need to go back and read all of.

I had a fantastic time reading the stories today and I’m going to pitch them to you because I think you should read them, too. (If my pitches fall flat, blame me, not the author.)

All the stories are extremely readable, but I marked my three most-recommended with *** next to the title.
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“Something Happened” (Post 2/3)

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[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

Post 1/3

Post 3/3


 

The office in which I work

[5] The best section of the book. The satire here is almost as good as DeLillo’s White Noise (and it’s the only time Heller is going to resemble his Catch-22 style). Something Happened is never as witty and amusing as it is when Slocum is focusing on his office and we get to hear his obsessive stories for the first time. As the book goes on, Slocum’s paranoia and depression overtakes his wit. Which the point of the book, I suppose. What a weird, draining project for Heller to undertake.

Green worries painfully that someday soon the Corporate-Operations Department will take my department away from his department and give it to the Sales Department. Green has been worrying about this for eighteen years.

(p.17)

 

Nobody in the company has yet been killed in an airplane crash, and this is highly mysterious to me.

(p.22)

 

I am currently occupied (as one of my private projects) with trying to organize a self-sufficient community out of people in the company whose names are the same as occupations, tools, or natural resources.

(p.32)

 

Reeves confides in me because he thinks I am capable, honest, and unpretentious; he knows I drink and lie and whore around a lot, and he therefore feels he can trust me.

(p.44)

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“Something Happened” (Post 1/3)

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[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

Post 2/3

Post 3/3


 

Joseph Heller’s second novel, published in 1974. I read a first edition hardcover. 

3 out of 5 stars.

The Plot:

Bob Slocum, a 1970s upper/middle-class worker, husband, and father, delivers a topic-hopping, paranoid, hateful, sentimental monologue.

Something Happened is a strange book to discuss and often difficult to read. Heller’s effort is admirable but not enjoyable. The 3-star rating I’ve given it is deceptive; at times it hits a 5, at times it struggles to rise above 1.

If you undertake this, understand that you’re dealing with a narrator whose thoughts never travel in a straight line. You will hear the same things again and again from different angles and with different emotional approaches. You will eventually learn more about Slocum and his family, but you will never learn enough to understand or know them. You are seeing everything though Bob’s distortions (and, boy, is he distorted). Something Happened is the ultimate example of an unreliable narrator.

This was my second time reading the book. Knowing where it ends up, I was looking for clues of how we get there. I don’t believe Slocum is always telling us the truth, but I don’t think he knows when he’s lying. His memory is dissolving; by the end, he freely admits that he is imagining, forgetting, and inventing things. Which leads me to believe the major climactic event does not actually happen. Let’s just get into it.

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“Being There”

Being There 01.jpg

Jerzy Kosinki’s third novel, published in 1970.

1.5 out of 5 stars.

The Plot:

Chance has lived his whole life as the Old Man’s gardener; only connected to the outside world through television. When the Old Man dies, Chance is cast out on his own and, within a week, becomes one of the most influential men in America.

Being There isn’t a short book because Kosinki is deft with words; it is a short book because it lacks content. The premise is intriguing (a naive, television-raised man released into New York City) but Kosinski makes no effort to maintain interior logic. Fables and satire must still be able to stand as narratives when symbol and metaphor are removed (see Animal Farm, my friends). Kosinski gives the reader nothing to hold onto. His satire is obvious and thin, his metaphors are often incomprehensible, and his dialogue is wretched.

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“A Kiss Before Dying” (Post 2/2)

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[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

Post 1


[30] References:

“We’ve just got time for one more record, and it’s the late Buddy Clark singing ‘If This Isn’t Love.’ ”

(p.161)

Buddy Clark (1912 – 1949) was an American popular singer of the 1930s and 1940s. He became one of the nation’s top crooners before dying in a plane crash in 1949. His biggest hit was the song “Linda” (1946), written by Jack Lawrence for one-year-old Linda Eastman (later McCartney).

If This Isn’t Love” is a popular 1946 song composed by Burton Lane with lyrics written by E. Y. Harburg. Buddy Clark recorded a version in November 1946.

[31]

He dropped the other two notebooks into the suitcase and turned around, his mouth opening to form Ellen’s name in a triumphant shout.

The shout didn’t come through. The exultant expression clung to his face a moment, like a stopped movie, and then it cracked and slid slowly away, like thick snow cracking and sliding from a canted roof.

(p.161 – 162)

[32]

Probably he’s all talked out after the – what’s the word? – logorrhea of a cocktail lounge. Good word.

“I bet you don’t know what logorrhea means,” he said.

(p.163)

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“A Kiss Before Dying” (Post 1/2)

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[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

Post 2


Ira Levin’s first novel, published in 1953. I read a 2011 British Edition with a great introduction by Chelsea Cain that’s smart enough not to spoil anything.

5 out of 5 stars.

The Plot:

A college student doesn’t want to marry his pregnant girlfriend. But he’d still like a piece of her inheritance…

Spoiler warnings usually don’t apply to sixty-four-year-old books but, unlike Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby (another 5-star review) and The Stepford Wives, the twists in this one aren’t in the modern public zeitgeist. It’s still possible to go into A Kiss Before Dying blind.

So don’t look it up, don’t poke around on Goodreads or Wikipedia. Don’t read any more of this review. Just find a copy. It has Levin’s usual wicked and clever touches without being gratuitous; his plots are puzzle-boxes, not voyeuristic meditations on gore or pain.

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The Black Angels – Death Song (2017)

Death Song

The fifth full-length album by The Black Angels, released on April 21st.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

The Black Angels sound like a late-60s band with access to modern recording equipment. Heaven, basically.

Death Song is nearly their best effort (2010’s Phosphene Dream still takes that title). It’s also a huge improvement over their last full-length release, Indigo Meadow (2013), which had me fearing for my future with the band. Indigo was unfocused and uneven and weirdly flirting with pop-psychadelia; an album I only listened to a handful of times before sticking three songs on my iPod and calling it a day. Thankfully, starting with the Clear Lake Forest EP (2014) and now with Death Song, The Black Angels are back on track. Continue reading