Spectator and Spooks Issue 1 Now Available

Hey. It’s Saturday. There’s not much to do. It’s not rainy in Boston but maybe when and where you’re reading this it. Let the world fade away as you devour the debut issue of Spectator and Spooks, a magazine some friends and I spent the past three months working on. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty damn good in my humble opinion.



Graphic Novels I Read in 2015

1. Red Sonja: Queen of Plagues by Gail Simone and Walter Geovanni

2. Wonder Woman: The Earth’s Ends by Gail Simone and Aaron Lopresti and Bernard Chang

3. Jinx by Brian Bendis

4. Sin City: The Hard Goodbye by Frank Miller

5. Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar and Dave Johnson

6. Homecoming: Birthright by Joshua Williamson and Andrei Bressan

7. Sandman, Vol. 4: Seasons of Mist by Neil Gaiman and Matt Wagner

8. Sandman, Vol. 5: A Game of You by Neil Gaiman and Shawn McManus

9. Locke and Key, Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

10. Sandman, Vol. 6: Fables and Reflections by Neil Gaiman and Brian Talbot

11. Sandman, Vol. 7: Brief Lives by Neil Gaiman and Jill Thompson

12. Spiral Into Horror Uzumaki by Junji Ito

13. Sandman Vol. 8: World’s End by Neil Gaiman and Mike Allfred

14. Sandman Vol. 9: The Kindly Ones by Neil Gaiman and Marc Hempel

15. Echoes by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Rashan Ekedel

16. And then Emily Was Gone by John Lees and Iain Laurie

17. Sandman Vol. 10 by Neil Gaiman and Michael Zulli

18. The Monsters of Jimmy Crumb by James Patrick and Jen Hickman

19. Pretty Deadly Vol. 1 by Kelly Sue Deconnick and Emma Rios

20. Gyo Vol. 1: The Death-Stench Creatures by Junji Ito

21. Gyo Vol. 2 by Junji Ito

22. The Invincible Iron Man by Matt Fraction and Salvador LaRocca

23. The Tomb of Dracula vol. 2 by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan

24. Eel Mansions by Derek Van Gieson

25. Something Monstrous by Steve Niles, R.H. Stavis, and Stephanie Buscema

26. Transmetropolitan, Vol. 1: Back on the Street by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson

27. Batman: Court of Owls by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

28. Batman: City of Owls by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

29. Death of the Family by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

30. Gotham Central Vol. 1: In the Line of Duty by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, Michael Lark

31. Batman: The Man Who Laughs by Ed Brubaker and Doug Mahnke

32. Tomb of Dracula Vol. 3 by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan

33. Habibi by Craig Thompson

34. Planetary vol. 1: All Over the World by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday

35. Beasts of Burden by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson

36. Life in Pictures by Will Eisner

37. The Mammoth Book of Best Horror Comics Ed. by Peter Normanton

38. Blankets by Craig Thompson

39. Palestine by Joe Sacco

40. Bone by Jeff Smith

41. She-Hulk by Charles Soule and Javier Pulido

42. Wilson by Daniel Clowes

43. The Book of Magic by Neil Gaiman and John Bolton

44. I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and J.M. Ken Niimura

45. Rise by Tarek Shahin

46. Prophet vol. 2: Brothers by Brandon Graham and Simon Roy

47. The Animal Man Omnibus by Grant Morrison, Chas Truog, and Doug Hazlewood

48. Intro to Alien Invasion by Owen King, Marc Poirier, and Nancy Ahn

49. All Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely

50. Prophet vol. 3: Empire by Brandon Graham and Simon Roy

51. Stitches by David Small

52. Unknown Origins and Untimely Ends: A Collection of Unsolved Mysteries Ed. by Emi Gennis

53. Prophet vol. 4: Joining by Brandon Graham and Simon Roy

54. Batman Vol. 4: Zero Year: Secret City by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

55. Batman Vol. 5: Zero Year: Dark City by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

I read 55 graphic novels this year, which averages out to about one a week. It didn’t look like that in practice though. I cleared out Emerson College’s (where I’m finishing up my MFA) library’s graphic novel section in the summer, as well as going through my roommates ample collection. Now I’m going through their horror movies.

Graphic novels got their own list this year because they read so much quicker than prose/poetry books. It felt like I was artificially inflating my book number by including them, and I decided against continuing that.

I want to read more by women next year, so if anyone has any recommendations I’d love to hear them. I’ve read Alison Bechdel’s books and am ever so slowly making my way through The Greatest of Marly’s by Lynda Barry, but I need more.

Books I Read in 2015

I read 74 books in 2015. Here they are:

  1. The Guernsy Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  2. Revival by Stephen King
  3. The Butterfly Mosque by G. Willow Wilson
  4. Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris
  5. Bark: Stories by Lorrie Moore
  6. Hold the Dark by William Giraldi
  7. Space Traveler by Benjamin S. Grossberg
  8. Jesus’ Son by Dennis Johnson
  9. After Rain by William Trevor
  10. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
  11. The Girl in the Flamnable Skirt by Aimee Bender
  12. Pastoralia by George Saunders
  13. Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro
  14. Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer
  15. Shotgun Style by Delaney Nolan
  16. 16. Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
  17. Spunk by Zora Neale Hurston
  18. Urgent, Unheard Stories by Roxane Gay
  19. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  20. The Master and the Margarita Mikhail Bulgakov
  21. Reasons to Live by Amy Hempel
  22. Monstrance by Brian Dietrich
  23. No god but God by Reza Aslan
  24. Egyptian Tales and Short Stories of the 1970s and 1980s Edited by W.M. Hutchins
  25. At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom by Amy Hempel
  26. What Narcissism Means to Me by Tony Hoagland
  27. Paradise Lost by John Milton
  28. The Time and the Place by Naguib Mahfouz
  29. The World’s Wife by Carol Ann Duffy
  30. Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz
  31. I Shall Not Be Moved by Maya Angelou
  32. Enourmous Changes at the Last Minute by Grace Paley
  33. The Dog of the Marriage by Amy Hempel
  34. Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water Before I Diiie by Maya Angelou
  35. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
  36. See Now Then by Jamaica Kincaid
  37. The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson
  38. Tumble Home by Amy Hempel
  39. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  40. A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
  41. Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flanney O’Connor
  42. The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor
  43. Blockade Billy by Stephen King
  44. Project X by Jim Shepard
  45. Nine Inches by Tom Perrotta
  46. The Arabian Nights Entertainment by Anonymous, translated by Andrew Lang
  47. For the Union Dead by Robert Lowell
  48. Birds of America by Lorrie Moore
  49. Transformations by Anne Sexton
  50. Howl by Alan Ginsberg
  51. Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
  52. The Old English Baron by Clara Reeve
  53. Lunch Poems by Frank O’Hara
  54. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy O’Toole
  55. Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  56. Jacklight by Louise Erdrich
  57. Zone One by Colson Whitehead
  58. The Business of Fancydancing by Sherman Alexie
  59. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
  60. Loteria by Cynthia Pelayo
  61. Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
  62. Binocular Vision: New and Selected Stories by Edith Pearlman
  63. Meadowlands by Louise Gluck
  64. Spiritual Development Through Astrology by Lynne Conant
  65. Coyote V. Acme by Ian Frazier
  66. Best American Short Stories 2007 edited by Stephen King
  67. I Too Dream America by Darlington Iheonunekwu Iheanacho Ndubuike
  68. The Almost Moon by Alice Seabold
  69. Brotherly Love by Dalton Giesick
  70. Citizen by Claudia Rankine
  71. A Manual on Exposure in Photography: Digital Photography Reflex and Compact Cameras by Ceriel van Arneman
  72. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  73. Sleep Donation by Karen Russel
  74. The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King


Technically, this would be two less than last year, but I decided graphic novels should be their own list, so there’ll be a separate post with the 55 of those I read this year tomorrow.

I’m proud to say that I read as many books by women as men this year (actual, one more by women if we were to get technical). I try to read an equal amount by each gender in an effort to use the tiniest bit of power I have as a consumer to make the publishing world more equitable. I know it’s not much, but it’s the power I can exercise.

Next year I’m keeping the goal of reading as many books by women as I do by men, but I’m not setting any other reading goals. I don’t know where (of more terrifyingly if) I’ll be working, so I don’t know what a realistic goal is, and no interest in setting a goal I can’t meet due to work obligations.

What have you read this year that you recommend? Do you love/hate any of these and want to talk about them? Let me know in the comments!

This Year in Reading

Hey everyone. I know I’ve been off here for about a month, so rather than trying to catch up on all of the books I read in the between, I thought it would be better to post a list of the sixty-four books I read in 2014. If you want to discuss any of them, feel free to post in the comments!

1. 11/22/63 by Stephen King
2. Wouldn’t You Like to Know by Pamela Painter
3. Mystique: Ultimate Collection by Brian K. Vaughan, Jorge Lucas, Michael Ryan, Manuel Garcia
4. Unmentionables: Poems by Beth Ann Fennelly
5. Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
6. Seminar in Short Fiction by Ladette Randolph (Anthology)
7. There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband, and He Hanged Himself: Love Stories by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
8. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
9. Round House by Louise Erdrich
10. Speak of the Devil by Gilbert Hernandez
11. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
12. Maus I by Art Spiegleman
13. Maus II by Art Spiegleman
14. Colonizing Egypt by Timothy Mitchell
15. The Isle of Youth by Laura Van Den Berg
16. Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham and Lan Medina
17. La Perdida by Jessica Abel
18. Air, Vol. 1:Letters from Lost Countries by G. Willow Wilson and M. Kuhtlukhan Parker
19. Air, Vol. 2: Flying Machine by G. Willow Wilson and M. Kuhtlukhan Parker
20. An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
21. The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner
22. The Doll’s House by Neil Gaiman, Steve Parkhouse, and Chris Bachalo
23. Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
24. Dream Country by Neil Gaiman, Kelly Jones, etc.
25. Lost at Sea by Brian Lee O’Malley
26. Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen
27. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
28. Someone by Alice McDermott
29. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
30. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
31. Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury
32. Bossypants by Tina Fey
33. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me by Mindy Kaling
34. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
35. Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks
36. Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
37. The Realm of Last Chances by Steve Yarbrough
38. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
39. Willpower by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney
40. Getting Past No by William Ury
41. The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter
42. Blow Up by Julio Cortazar
43. Freaks Amour by Dana Marie Andre and Ande Parks
44. Old Rosa by Reinaldo Arenas
45. Cairo by G. Willow Wilson and M.K. Parker
46. Tunneling to the Center of the Earth by Kevin Wilson
47. Sweet Diamond Dust by Rosario Ferre
48. Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
49. The Old Gringo by Carlos Fuentes
50. Who Killed Palomino Molero by Mario Vargas Llosa
51. I Want to Show You More by Jamie Quatro
52. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
53. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
54. The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender
55. Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
56. Doctor Strange: The Oath by Brian K Vaughan and Marcos Martin
57. Undertow Volume One: Boatman’s Call by Steve Orlando and Artyom Trakhanov
58. Prophet, Vol. 1: Remission by Brandon Graham and Simon Roy
59. Mystic:The Tenh Apprentice by G. Willow Wilson and David Lopez
60. The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector
61. The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
62. Luisa in Realityland by Claribel Alegria
63. The Tomb of Dracula by Various Writers and Eugene Colan
64. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

This Week in Reading 12/5

Last week, I got a little bit caught up in Thanksgiving travel and didn’t get a chance to pen one of these, or really do much reading. I ended up riding in a car, like a real people, thanks to my friend Dan. I did manage to read three books in the last two weeks though.

The first was Mystic: The Tenth Apprentice by G. Willow Wilson and David Lopez. It’s one of her earlier works, and it’s worth reading just to see how much she’s grown from there to Ms. Marvel. She’s really weaned herself off tropes like the special orphan that we see in Mystic. What stays the same through all of her work though is the humor and emotiothat she brings into all of her stories. She really is remarkable at capturing authentic characters, even in her earlier work.

The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector was also funny, but not as worthwhile. It’s a work of metafiction, and in the interest of full disclosure I will say right out front that I generally dislike it. The essay is a great form, and when it comes time to espouse ideas about the nature of storytelling or politics (which is the other place I often see writers giving up on their story to address a particular idea) it works much better. The problem is that writers lose sight of their characters and artistic project when they try and shoehorn these kind of ideas into fiction. There are great exceptions, and what makes those books great is that they’ve transcended the rule, rather than followed it.

In eighty pages, Lispector spends thirty or so having the narrator tell us about his connection to the story despite having no involvement in the plot or relationships with the characters. There are some interesting ideas and funny moments, but this kind of meta-nonsense is not my kind of reading.

I also finished The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson. “The Lottery,” which ends the collection, is an amazing story. So is “The Intoxicated,” which starts the collection. The problem is the expanse of stories in between. Maybe story collections were different then (it’s been nearly fifty years since the collections was written), but twenty-four seems like too many stories to me, especially when it seemed like quality control was thrown out to fill an arbitrary amount of pages. While all of these stories are written with a great sense of rhythm and drip with the paranoia that Jackson infuses into all of her work, they often feel short of the mark because they aren’t ambitious enough. The stakes are often low for the characters, and hard to get through. My feeling after reading the collection is that Jackson’s talent better lent itself to novels than stories.

Next week, I’m working on Luisa in Realityland by Claribel Alegría, The Butterfly Mosque by G. Willow Wilson, and The Space Traveler by Ben Grossberg. That book has been taking me forever because I refuse to bring a book I plan to get signed on the train, and I really like Ben’s work and learned from him in college.

This Week in Reading 11/21

This was a comics heavy week for me, which means it was a good week. I haven’t talked about them much on here so far, but I love the comic book as a medium, and particularly I love superheroes. The idea that someone who comes by a superpower would use it defend other people is beautiful. Neither of the comics I read this week was a superhero comic though, so enough about that.

Undertow, Volume One: Boatman’s Call by Steven Orlando and Artyom Trakhanov is going to be the last volume that I read. The protagonist is a John Q. Marine type character who you can find in just about every first-person shooter ever made and the art style makes the characters hard to differentiate and the battles hard to decipher. I really like to know who is getting shot, rather than just seeing the bloody remains of the head. I don’t want to only say negative things though, because this is a pretty small book, and even if I don’t like the creator’s deserve some credit. There was a very funny and interesting side character, and they do a cool swap by making the sea the safe place for characters and the land where the characters cannot breathe.

The other comic I read, Prophet, Volume One: Remission by Brandon Graham and Simon Roy was much better. During the first issue, I was very worried that it was going to be another John Q. Marine book, but thankfully it turned out to be much cooler. The story is based around a group of clones, which explains the generic personality in a way that makes it acceptable, who are being awakened after years, maybe centuries of hibernation. All of the chapters in this volume are a different stand alone story of one of these John Prophets going on different mission. The reader slowly learns that the John Prohpets may not be the good guy they initially seem like, even if they’re the only traditional humanoid figure we’re seeing. It’s a cool book, and I recommend any comic or scifi fans pick it up.

As I mentioned last week, I also read a large chunk of stories of The Stories of Eva Luna by Isabel Allende for my Latin American Short Fiction class. The class itself has been a wash. The books aren’t the problem, it’s the way we’re studying them. An MFA in Fiction should be looking at everything through the lens of how can we learn from this writer and apply his or her craft to our work, but the class is about literary analysis, which is a fine pursuit and can be found in PhD programs in Fiction. What separates the MFA from the PhD as a degree is that the MFA doesn’t go into literary analysis, which is why I’m so frustrated with this class. Enough complaining. On to the stories!

I’ve read enough fairy tales for a lifetime. From my freshman year of college to maybe a year and a half ago, I loved reinterpretations of fairy tales and I read a lot of them, the originals too. I am, at this point, thoroughly sick of them and unimpressed. To be fair, Allende wrote her book in 1989, so she got in before the boom, so that’s on me for not reading her sooner. The book is older than me. The concept of a fairy tale with extremely real depictions of prostitution, rape, or other dark themes should be shocking, but it’s been done so many times. The last story in the collection, “And of Clay We Are Created” is an amazing straight realism story, and I might read more Allende because that story blew everything else in the collection out of the water.

Next week, I’ll be reading The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector and working on The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson. I’m slowly reading The Space Traveler by Benjamin Grossberg, which is a great poetry collection.

This Week in Reading 11/14

To quote the great wise man, Eric Matthews, “Well, hidey ho!” I had Tuesday off because of Veterans Day, and one of my classes randomly decided that this was a good week for no homework. I couldn’t agree more. It’s such a good idea that it should extend for the rest of the semester. Thanks to all this extra time, I ended up finishing five books this week. Time for a lightening round of This Week in Reading.

Roxane Gay’s essay collection Bad Feminist is the second of two amazing books she’s published this year, and it’s hard to say which one is better. Her novel An Untamed State is astounding and intelligent, but probably not as smart as Bad Feminist. They’re both rough books, but they’re taxing for a reason. Gay is fighting for the rights for the downtrodden. The books are hard at times not because she lacks skill, but because she’s so expertly turning the mirror on American society and culture and it’s not easy to stomach. Everyone should have to read Bad Feminist.

I also finished The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. This was another very good book. Jackson’s descriptions bring the house and it’s lopsided terror alive, making me feel as if I were there in this experiment in stupidity (“Let’s get a bunch of people who have been exposed to ghosts in the past and put them in the most haunted house that we can find. For science!”). It’s a fun, scary book. I’ll be reading more of Jackson soon.

Book number three was Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez. It’s hard to stress how good my week in reading was. The book is brilliant. If you haven’t read any García Márquez, this would be a good place to start. At 120 pages, it’s an easier hopping on point than One Hundred Years of Solitude, which is also a great book, but is crazy long. If you don’t believe me about Chronicle of a Death Foretold, ask the folks over at Nobel who gave it their prize. His attention to detail, and the way he textures even the smallest characters is what makes him so great.

My roommate Chris, who is doing an awesome short story a day project on twitter that you should check out (@CMPoolehall), lent me a copy of The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender, which I read in two sittings. I’d been familiar with Bender as being the weird writer, and I’m really glad I finally read her first book. What’s really worth talking about is the way she evokes entire worlds with a single detail. Her stories work because of the economy she gets out every word.

The last one was Doctor Strange: The Oath by Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin. The opening was spectacular. Iron Fist and Araña make small talk in the waiting room of a doctor who specializes in superhero treatment, and I’d honestly have rather spent the entire graphic novel there. The story isn’t bad, but the frame is just more interesting. Imagine a whole comic book series where a doctor treats superheroes and they tell him or her their story. I would read that. Anyone would be crazy not to.

Next week, I will definitely not be reading this many books. I’m working on The Stories of Eva Luna by Isabel Allende for class, but I’m already disliking it. It’s translated by Margaret Sayers Peden, who also translated Sweet Diamond Dust so it may just be that I don’t like the way she translates work. (Correction: Margaret Sayers Peden actually translated The Old Gringo, not Sweet Diamond Dust. I was incorrect, and apologize). I’m still working on The Space Traveler by Benjamin Grossberg and will be starting The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson.

This Week in Reading 11/7

This week I finished Who Killed Palomino Molero by Mario Vargas Llosa and I Want to Show You More by Jamie Quatro. (I also got 50 or so more pages in Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, and for those of you who have been holding your breath but still not suffocated, I’m going to finish it and talk about it next week).

Who Killed Palomino Molero came under a lot of fire when it was published. Vargas Llosa is a respected literary author, and went on to win the Nobel Prize a couple of decades after writing Who Killed Palomino Molero. Critics were angry that a talented author would write something that might appeal to the masses. It was a part of this stupid genre versus literary fiction dichotomy that drives me up the wall. The idea, in the debate, is that literary fiction is Literature with a capital L and genre fiction (which spans everything else) is pulp and not really worth anyone’s time to read, write, or talk about. Every once in a while a “literary” writer will write a “genre” book and critics lose their mind because someone they claimed as one of theirs is writing for the other side. It is a nonsensical dichotomy. For my money, Vargas Llosa should write a detective novel if he wants to write a detective novel.

My problem with Who Killed Palomino Molero wasn’t that it wasn’t Literature with a capital L, but that it wasn’t very good. The prose work, and the characters are memorable, but the ending is copped from Chinatown, and not in a Carlos Fuentes intertextual redefining the source material way, but more in a Shia LaBeouf “this is good and I’m going to steal it” way. If you haven’t seen Chinatown or read Who Killed Palomino Molero, you’re better off seeing the movie. It’s a classic and the book is a midlevel detective novel that happened to be written by a great writer.

I Want to Show You More by Jamie Quatro is a good collection of stories that’s distributed poorly. The first five or six stories focus in on the Corley family, who are boring people, dealing with beaten path literary issues. Infidelity. Cancer. Raising children in the aftermath of a spouse’s death. They’re all serious issues, but Quatro doesn’t bring enough newness to them for me to really get invested after all the other stories I’ve read about those topics. She doesn’t do enough to make them her own.

Once you get through those few stories though, wow does that book get better. The second half, starting with “1.7 to Tennessee” is incredible. The descriptions are both visceral and beautiful, and at times very funny. “Sinkhole” is one of the best stories I’ve read. Period.

What leaves me scratching my head is the way the stories are ordered. If I were her, I’d be worried about losing readers in those first few. If I hadn’t pushed through and gotten to the great stories at the end, which I only did because of the book’s stellar reputation, I would’ve written her off. I’m glad I didn’t though. I would feel good about reading the whole collection just to have read “Sinkhole.”

Next week, I’ll be finishing Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay and Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez. Both books have been amazing so far, so I’m excited to talk about them. I’m also still working on The Space Traveler by Benjamin Grossberg, and I started The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, which has been absolutely amazing. I’m in love with her style. Hopefully I’ll finish those two in the coming weeks.

This Week in Reading 10/31

Busy week this week. I put together the Words Apart Issue 5 Reading and Launch Party, which will be up on Youtube and Vimeo by the end of next month. If you haven’t read the issue yet, I’m very proud of it, and you should go over now and check it out. I also finished reading The Old Gringo by Carlos Fuentes.

The Old Gringo is a fictionalization of what happened to the great American writer Ambrose Bierce after he disappeared into Mexico during the Mexican revolution. Fuentes does so much so well. It’s a heady novel, but Fuentes keeps it fun and entertaining through his grotesque descriptions, at one point describing a character with a constant half erection and testicles like “hairy avocados.” I couldn’t read that and not laugh at the absurdity of it. He also mixes in movie tropes from Westerns, and that’s a lot of fun, even if you’ve seen the tropes before.

It’s a strange structure for a novel. Fuentes doesn’t follow a linear narrative, but rather overlaps images. They start out as being mentioned once, but then the images come back again and again, being stacked on top of other images that force the reader to reconsider what they mean. He does the same with his characters. They start as tropes, but as they repeat throughout the story and are put into different contexts, we’re allowed to see that they are so much more than the simple tropes they start as.

I really liked this book, and would recommend it to anyone interested in writing. The way it plays with times and expands tropes into undiscovered territory is an incredible thing to see. I have heard that Fuentes, like his subject Ambrose Bierce, is a writer’s writer, so keep that in mind with my advice.

Next week, I’ll be reading Who Killed Palomino Molero by Mario Vargas Llosa, and I Want to Show You More by Jamie Quatro. I will definitely finish the former, and possibly the latter. I’m also still chipping away at Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay and The Space Traveler by Benjamin Grossberg. I did 100 more pages in Bad Feminist this week, so I’m hopeful to finish it this week, but I likely won’t finish three books next week on top of classes.

And I almost forgot, Happy Halloween! I’ve got three articles up at Action Figure Fury celebrating the holiday. If you’ve got some free time, check them out!

This Week in Reading 10/24

This week I finished reading G. Willow Wilson’s Alif the Unseen. Overall, I liked the book. I admire the way she’s introducing mythological creatures from Middle Eastern traditions into a Western fantasy genre. She also does a great job of treating the creatures as characters rather than animals.

The strongest move she makes is bringing computers into the fantasy world. The scene where Alif fixes the Effrit’s (a shadow creature) computer is hilarious and makes me a feel a greater connection to the seen and unseen worlds she’s creating.

Alif is full of allusions and tropes, but she turns them from cliches to humor by acknowledging them and making light of how overused some of them are.

I will say that the writing was, at times, sloppy. She’d have too many words at the end of the sentence of unnecessarily bulky phrasings near the beginning. As the book went on, it got better.

For the most part though, it was very good. It captured my imagination with the beautiful descriptions of the Unseen world and the Empty Quarter. She is a tremendous talent.

Next week, I’ll be talking about Old Gringo by Carlos Fuentes and possibly Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay and The Space Traveler by Benjamin Grossberg. (I’m going to finish those two eventually, though I’m moving at a glacial pace).