Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Here They Come

by Yannick Murphy

Wow! Thumbs — and big toes — up!

This was one of those books that occasionally arrive on hold for me, and I think, "I put this on hold? When? Why? Must be some reason; suppose I'll read it anyway..." It turned out to be a great read, and it's also one of the most beautifully constructed books I've ever encountered.

First, let me wax poetic about the object itself. It's a smallish book, about an inch shorter than most adult fiction, a size more common in young adult fiction. There's texture: cloth, leather, embossing, satin finish. And the paper! It's practically art paper, it's so thick and smooth — and saddle-stitched! You don't see much saddle stitching these days; most publishers just glue the pages into the spine. Cheers to McSweeney's for this fine piece of work. (BTW, I left it on the coffee table for a few days, and everyone who visited was compelled to pick it up and feel it and look at it. It's just that beautiful.)

Here They Come is not really a plot-driven novel, but very hard to put down nonetheless; it's not so much that you want to know what's going to happen next, you want to know what the narrator will say next. She lives in a garbage-strewn and unheated loft in an industrial building in New York, and her best friend is either an aging, touchy-feely hot dog vendor or a police horse. (You read that right: not the mounted officer, the horse.) Her brother seems to have antisocial personality disorder, her sisters are just plain weird, and her parents are either physically absent or might as well be — and yet somehow it all seems funny, and we're never worried about the well-being of our adolescent narrator.

All in all, shades of Running with Scissors, but definitely not a copycat. Probably a good recommendation for fans of Douglas Coupland, Tom Robbins, and other authors with a sense of the surreality of reality.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

What We Do Is Secret

by Kief Hillsbery

I almost never do this, but I'm not going to finish a book I've started.

Even though I'm a fan of the genre (gay Bildungsroman), and even though one of the author's previous novels (War Boy) has been recommended to me by two friends, I didn't pick this up when I first saw it. The back-cover description didn't catch my interest. I decided to read it when someone else told me it's about Darby Crash, a punk rocker who was afraid to come out of the closet — and I also heard the story's being made into a movie.

Well, however great the story may be, I was only able to force myself through a few chapters. It's narrated in a stream-of-consciousness-cum-free-association style that I found absolutely irritating and impossible. I mean, post modernism is so last millennium, right? (Actually, I enjoy Virginia Woolf, and I've written some free-associative verse, so maybe it was just the combination of the two — or the failure to combine them artfully.)

Anyway, I give up.