Archive for the Reviews and Recs Category

Hard-Hitting, Clear-Headed Reviews of Libraries

Posted in Reviews and Recs with tags , , , on 05/31/2011 by Tim

Today I went to the library, and then I wrote about it. As I skulked around the stacks like a weirdo, taking photos of books and windows, I planned to complain about the lack of organization in the music section, how the only nod to alphabetic sorting is a grouping of everything by its first letter, so that it’s all a jumble, eight or nine stacks of J or whatever, but then when I got to the albums a librarian was sorting them all with the determined and undaunted grumbles of someone up against a hard but beatable challenge. Bless that woman. I still couldn’t find any of the albums I wanted to check out, but I’ll report back after my next attempt.

I will probably also carry this series of library reviews forward. Des Moines had a pretty unfortunate library system and then around 2005 or 2006 they built a new downtown library with free underground parking, a cafe, two fancypants levels with recliners that faced wide windows overlooking the lawn outside and, beyond that, downtown’s buildings. Their downtown branch went from a cramped and yellowed maze that looked like something from an old elementary school to something modern and airy and well-stocked.

I’m curious to check out the Minneapolis library system as well. The website does not inspire confidence, but I have high hopes.


Here are Some Stories!

Posted in Reviews and Recs on 05/23/2011 by Tim

There are some good moments in this story by Katrina Denza. The narrative follows the mother of a family on a French vacation, coming in close but sometimes backing off to a nice distance.

I also enjoyed “Roman Road” in matchbook. A mother and father drive their daughters a long way off, stopping in family restaurants and rest stops on the way, until the father gets out to start a new life. Author Trent England’s accompanying thoughts on the story are also worth reading.

Fiction in Dark Sky Magazine 7

Posted in Reviews and Recs on 04/01/2011 by Tim

I wrote a piece of the fiction in the new issue of Dark Sky Magazine and read the rest and now recommend it. All the stories are good. Mike Meginnis, who guest edited, summarizes them nicely here, but I will summarize them differently for you:

My story is about some people who really could use some money, and about their creepy cat.

Erin Fitzgerald’s “Capacity” is narrated by a young woman fresh home from the hospital and desperate to follow the advice of professional organizers on TV.

Jack Boettcher’s “I Want His Baby!” is about the weird eccentric disaster child, now an adult, of a well-known and wealthy man.

Andrea Kneeland’s “All of This and Nothing” is about two women and then one woman in a bar and then on a bus and is full of the kind of lines that you’ll want to read aloud to people. I just went through looking for one and found several but they all work better in context so go read them.

Darby Larson’s “Day One of Discarded NaNoWriMo Attempt” is made of fast chunks, bits written like notes to a self, poetic.

New Reviews

Posted in Reviews and Recs on 03/23/2011 by Tim

Today the new Prick of the Spindle holds lots of good stuff, including two reviews I wrote: one of Monkeybicycle 7 (focusing on the balance between realist and fantastical fiction in the issue, with special attention to stories by James Kaelan and Elizabeth Alexander) and Descant 148 (examining the merits of long work and very edited work).

There is also a review by Cynthia Reeser of Ampersand Books’s RE: Telling that makes me want it even more. Why do I not just buy this damn book? Good cover, intriguing anthology idea, recognizable and unfamiliar writers.

Interview Time

Posted in Reviews and Recs on 03/13/2011 by Tim

Okeydokey, smokeys (smokies?): I interviewed Elizabeth Alexander for the Uncanny Valley blog. Alexander has written lots of things but the first I read was “On Anzio Beach,” which is in Monkeybicycle 7, which I recently wrote a review of. The story is inventive and uses very playful surrealism (a talking bear and a talking dog inhabit the first few pages) to tell a story that feels more real than a lot of realist stories I’ve read recently. When I finished, I thought about how the story could have existed in a separate form without the magic animals, the time travel, etc.; all its essential elements are understandable longings, I mean, and recognizable relationships. It works well as it is, but it is more than an exercise in strange invention.

I was excited to see the piece work so well, because I’m trying a similar balance in a project right now, putting ridiculous moments on one half of the board and intense and important ones on the other and hoping it all manages to keep level. And it is a difficult goal to achieve. Alexander told me she finished 12 drafts of Anzio before she walked away, and I’m glad to see the effort paid off.

Next, Pym

Posted in Reviews and Recs on 03/07/2011 by Tim

Were you wondering what I thought about James Hynes’s Next? Now you can find out.

“Chasing Adonis,” by Adam Gallari, in Anderbo

Posted in Reviews and Recs on 02/28/2011 by Tim

Last week J. Bradley recommended this story as an example of successful second-person POV, and I agree.