Page 1

everyone is doing quotes wrong.

Hey everybody, can we all stop attributing quotes from characters in books to the author who wrote that dialogue? It’s just nonsensical! I don’t care what the rules are for different forms of citation, we need to change them so that they aren’t completely asinine.

There seems to be a concerted disregard for quote accuracy. For example, every time someone wants to add gravitas to a quote, they throw Hemingway or Lincoln or a Roosevelt at the end of it, regardless of whether or not it had anything to do with that person. I’ll see signs and things with a quote on it attributed to Lincoln and think, “That doesn’t seem right at all.” Then, with a shallow internet search I am able to discover that the quote is in no way connected to Lincoln. That bugs me.

Yet, what bugs me so very much more is that people will take a character’s line from a book that they like, put it in quotes, and then attribute it to the author. That’s erroneous. I may not always be against citation rules, but I can confidently say it’s stupid and people should stop doing it. Putting someone’s name at the end of a quote means that you are attributing the sentiments therein to that person. So, if I were to say “I wish people would stop being idiots.” You could very accurately put Scott Small underneath it when you throw that shit on an inspirational pillow or whatnot. However, if I were to write something on trigger fiction where a character says, “I don’t know how I’d get through the day without crystal meth,” you could not reasonably think it’s ok to attribute that quote to me personally. The sentiments clearly aren’t mine, they are those of a character in a story I was writing.

If an author writes a character who is racist, or a serial killer, or a 900 lb. wizard gorilla, you can’t use that character’s quotes to reveal some genuine belief the author holds. Yet, it’s what we do all the time when a character says something inspirational and then we throw it up on the internets as a direct quote from the author. It’s just inaccurate, and I’m so tired of how blasé we are about accuracy. And if the rules allow for it or even encourage that inaccuracy, we should change the rules.

It’s even more common for people to misquote when the author is writing as the narrator of a book. If you remember your high school English classes at all, you’ll remember that the narrator and the author are not necessarily one and the same. Actually, they very rarely are.

For example, this: “It was a pleasure to burn.” – Ray Bradbury

Now, this would be appropriate as a citation on a list of greatest opening lines in novels. Then it would be attributing it to Bradbury as an opening line, not as an idea. However, to just randomly put it on a sign or pillow or quote site would be attributing that actual sentiment to Bradbury.

How hard is it to do something like this instead?: “It was a pleasure to burn.” -Guy Montag, from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Six more words, none of the incorrectness.

Obviously, the examples I’m using here are overdrawn. No one really gets confused when they see that Bradbury citation. No one actually thinks I need crystal meth to get through the day (because I am very good at hiding it). However, there are countless times where it is actually confusing and/or ambiguous. I see it most every day on Facebook and Goodreads and Tumblr (when I still went on Tumblr). Even worse, it can be used that way to misrepresent an author’s thoughts and ideas for the purposes of ideologues and those who want books banned.

Accuracy is important. Facts are important. Reason is important. We should collectively start acting like it.


ancillary justice.

I’ve been writing again, every single day. Here, and also working on a short story. After a very long time where I couldn’t bring myself to write, one might think that I’d feel better to see some progress, some momentum. Instead, everything I write just reminds me how much I’m not writing, how much time has been wasted, how much more I could be doing. It’s counterproductive and unhelpful, and hopefully I can just ignore those voices and keep doing the work.

One thing that helps toward that end are the folks who work and slog away at writing with nothing to show for it, and after decades finally find some traction. If you keep putting in the work, you never know. One such writer is Ann Leckie. It took her a while to get a story published, and even longer to finish her first novel… then that novel won the Hugo, the Nebula, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Locus Award, and the British Science Fiction Association Award. That’s astounding. Keep putting in the work, you never know.

As for the book, I find it well deserving of all the accolades and praise. I won’t go into plot details, but it is a story of revenge and identity, set against a backdrop of a delightfully nuanced human empire many thousands of years in the future. The philosophies, class struggles, gender ideals, as well interactions between biological and artificial intelligences is beautifully imagined by Leckie. The world she has built is unapologetically complex and alien enough to our own to require some close reading early on to get what’s going on.

At times, Leckie’s story had me thinking on a massive scale, lamenting the ways power and injustice abound in our own world. Other times, it had me thinking on a profoundly personal scale, about the fact that each of us is made up of a seeming endless number of fragments that often only relate to one another through the narrative we choose for ourselves.

Leckie wrote something genuinely brilliant when she could have given up. She could have believed the conventional cultural bullshit that a 45 year old woman isn’t about to burst onto the literary scene. Instead, she said ‘Fuck it’ and kept doing the work. I’m glad she did.





locke & key.

JoehilllockekeyJoe Hill (second child of Stephen King) writes the sort of horror I enjoy, the kind that uses the scary and macabre to tell a story instead of just attempting to manipulate certain reactions and emotions for the hell of it. Too much horror wants nothing more than to scare or disturb people for a moment, which isn’t really that hard to do. There are versions of that cheap sort of manipulation in every genre and medium, but the better storytellers transcend that and use the tropes of their genre or medium as a palette to paint a larger, more engaging picture.

In Locke & Key Hill does exactly that, teaming up with artist Gabriel Rodriguez to create a truly fantastic series of comics. The story follows the Locke family, who after a grisly tragedy retreat to an ancestral home in New England. The three children of the family begin finding keys around the house, each unlocking its own remarkable power.

At first the magical keys are as fun as they sound, but it soon becomes clear that there are much darker things at play within Keyhouse, and that the Locke children will be tasked with stopping an evil presence from obtaining the Omega Key while also trying to put their lives back together and prepare for adulthood in the wake of ongoing trauma.

That’s as much as I can say without spoiling anything, but you should definitely check this title out. They’re all in trade paperbacks now so you won’t even have to worry about having to wait a long time for a new issue to see what happens next.

Random warning: don’t let the fact that minors are the focal point of the story fool you. These are very dark, violent books intended for mature readers.

And for those who want to check out Joe Hill but aren’t willing to give graphic novels a try, 20th Century Ghosts is a collection of his short stories that would be an excellent introduction.




the year you can start complaining about george r.r. martin.

I made a mistake yesterday, I read comments on the internet. Every time I do, no matter what the comments are about or where they are found, I promise myself I will never practice such an enraging and depressing exercise again. Yet, every few months, I backslide. Nearly every time the reason I read comments is absentmindedness. They are sitting there at the bottom of an article I just read or a book I was just checking out on Goodreads,  and I am reading a few comments before I even realize what I’m doing. Mistake. Every time.

Yesterday, the comments I started reading were at the bottom of the Goodreads page for Patrick Rothfuss’s upcoming book, The Slow Regard of Silent Things. For the uninitiated, Rothfuss is the author of a fantasy series called Kingkiller Chroniclewhich is successful in every measurable category: fans love it, sales are great, and critics rave about it. Fans of the series have been waiting for the third and final installment for several years, growing more impatient as time passes. The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a short book that takes place in the world as The Kingkiller Chronicle, but is not the long awaited final book. This led to some folks in the comments section railing about how Patrick Rothfuss is basically the worst person of all time, and should be ashamed of himself for not finishing a book they are looking forward to… concluding a story that he invented… featuring characters he imagined… and shared with them.

Many of them started calling on the name of George R.R. Martin as an example of how terrible artists can be for not creating art on a customer’s timetable. But here is the thing, as Neil Gaiman now famously wrote six years ago, “George R.R. Martin is not your bitch.” The fact that you bought something an artist created doesn’t mean you somehow now own a portion of their soul and can forevermore dictate how they spend their time and what their schedule looks like.

Would you really want Martin or Rothfuss or any other artist you love to crank out a bunch of shit just to satisfy your impatience? Would you rather wait for a really long time in the hopes that a satisfying conclusion will someday come, or get a terrible conclusion immediately that you now have to live with forever?

I mean, think about what these writers are dealing with! The pressure on them is immense, and then they have to do one of the scariest things in the world and sit down in front of a blank screen or page and make something good. It makes me think of the feeling I get at a sporting event when fans boo a hometown player who is struggling. Every time I want to get up on the jumbotron and chastise the fans, “Yeah guys, that’s really going to help. He’s already having a miserable time so let’s heap more pressure and shame on him… that will help him turn things around.” What if folks like Martin and Rothfuss actually read these comments on some terrible day? Now, as a fan who supposedly loves this fabricated world, you have taken active steps to make it harder for the artist to finish the story you want to hear the end of.

It’s asinine.

In Martin’s case, the pressure just grows and grows. The success of the series and scrutiny he faces has grown astronomically in the almost two decades since the release of the first book. Which led me to an idea that, while not helping Rothfuss much, would at least help Martin lighten the load a bit.

Let’s make things fair! Martin’s first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series came out in 1996. Just about everyone I know who has read the books didn’t start until 2011 when the HBO show started. This means that most fans waited a minimum of 15 years before picking up the first installment. 15 years! And all fans have to do is read the books, Martin has to fucking write them! What I propose is that fans aren’t allowed to bitch about how long Martin is taking until they have been waiting for the next book for as long as it took them to pick up the first one. This means that the vast majority of you will be able to start complaining in 2026.

Sure, it would be better if people just stopped being assholes. If folks think it’s so easy to write the entirety of a satisfying story then they should just go and do it. Or, they could imagine what their work life would be like if they were subjected to similar sorts of scrutiny and criticism. Since that isn’t going to happen, maybe we can at least make things even in the sense that you can be expected to wait as long as George R.R. Martin waited for you to buy one of his books.


five and five. [five things i’ve been enjoying and five things i hope to enjoy very soon]

I’ve been in the mood to do this again. I’d like to do it as consistently as I used to, but needs must and whatnot. Maybe my schedule will allow it, maybe it won’t.

For my first post back in a while I decided to share five things I’ve been enjoying, along with five things I still really want to try soon.

Five Things I’ve Been Enjoying

1. Kurt Vonnegut. 

vonnegutLoving a writer like Vonnegut is pretty obvious, especially for someone with my particular sensibility. Still, before this year I had only read Slaughterhouse-Five, or, The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death. As some of you know, this year my goal was to read every Vonnegut novel. I’m through six, and he is everything I’d hoped he would be and more.

I expected the gallows humor, the irony, the cleverness, and the imagination that he is known for. What I didn’t expect was the beautiful tenderness in his writing. Sure, the writing is darkly hilarious and honestly realistic about the world, but for all Vonnegut’s ability to see humans for the absurd beings we really are, he also seemed to love us in spite of it all.

Vonnegut’s work is hopeful, but in an eyes-wide-open way that results in the only hope that’s worth a damn.


2. Justified

Justified Season 4 Gallery Timothy Olyphant

The contemporary western series based on characters created by Elmore Leonard is one of my favorite things of late. I’ve been careful not to start episodes most days because it too often results in binge watching multiple episodes in a row.

I only just finished the second season and it was outstanding. What could easily be a purely formulaic affair is elevated by great camerawork, satisfying and thrilling season-long story arcs, phenomenal acting by recurring players, and two of my very favorite characters on television in Raylan Givens [Timothy Olyphant] and Boyd Crowder [Walton Goggins]. Like Eastwood’s various protagonists, these characters give us those moments of delightful badassery, complete with smart-ass one-liners and love/hate banter.  


3. Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley

I started watching because it was created by Mike Judge and Kumail Nanjiani is in it. I kept watching it because of how great it is.

Relevant, original, hilarious, and smart. This and True Detective are the best examples of why HBO is still in the company of Netflix, et. al. as the future of serial storytelling.

Also, the eureka moment in the series finale is probably my favorite ever, but I won’t explain why and spoil anything.


4. Seattle Sounders

obaThe trick with sports is that your team is going to have a season that ends in defeat significantly more often than in victory. Being a sports fan, even a relatively realistic and rational sports fan like myself, is often a painful affair.

Thus, the Sounders could break my heart sooner rather than later.

Right now, though, it sure is fun to be a Sounders fan! In the 15 games before the break they are literally running away with the entire league. Hopefully after the World Cup break the boys in Rave Green will get right back to providing a non-stop highlight reel.


5. Last Week Tonight


The first two or three episodes were good. Certainly good enough to keep me coming back. Yet, as the show hit its stride it became downright brilliant. The writing is improving every week, and Oliver continues to get his legs doing a job he’s done before but never in this context.

At this rate, Last Week Tonight, a show that in its initial episode looked to be merely clever and funny, will become one of the more important weekly events on television. John Oliver’s rants smack of a special kind of truth-telling this world needs a shit-ton more of.


Five Things I Hope to Enjoy Soon

1. Child of Light


A video game that follows a young girl who finds herself unable to awaken in her real world, but is instead trapped in a dark world where the sun, moon and stars have been stolen by the Queen of the Night.

From what I’ve read, which isn’t much because I don’t want everything spoiled for me, the game uses the fairy tale structure to engage deeper themes of sadness, isolation, connection, and hope. So, basically, the description you’d give if you were trying to catch me hook, line, and sinker.


2. The Edge of Tomorrow

edge-of-tomorrow-movie-trailerSo far this weekend, people aren’t going to see this. However, I hope that before the week is out I can be one of the few who have bought a ticket. The premise looks exciting and fresh, Tom Cruise continues to make entertaining movies even if he is apparently a psycho IRL, and critical reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.

Oh yeah, and Emily Blunt.


3. Her

imgresI’ve already seen it, but it becomes available as a Netflix mailer on Tuesday and I can’t wait to enjoy it again. So far, Her is my favorite of the films I’ve seen this year.

I am still baffled that one of the storytellers I cherish the most for his insight, tenderness, and honesty helped create Jackass. Oh, Spike Jonze, you beautiful enigma.


4. Chef

images-1I’ll actually be seeing this later today, so, WIN!

It’s good to see Favs writing something smaller again. Did I mention some friends and I used to watch Swingers once a week in freshman and sophomore years of college? Occasionally we would take breaks and watch Made once a week instead.

Plus, the cast looks fantastic. I really wish there were more Bobby Cannavale performances in the world.


5. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

51tpIK8K+tLTechnically, I’ve already started enjoying this because I’m 50 pages in. I hope to have time to enjoy the other 650something pages later this week, because so far it seems to be exactly the kind of book I want to be reading right now.

Lynch’s first novel, and the first book in the ‘Gentleman Bastard’ series (which is up to three books thus far), is apparently a well-written crime caper in a beautifully realized fantasy setting. So far, I agree with the consensus assessment that the book is awesome. I can’t wait to get back to it!


the best books i haven’t mentioned yet, part two. [2013 edition]

Part one is here.

And, we’re off!

7. Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell


Rainbow Rowell is Emily’s favorite author of the year. For that matter, she could be mine as well. In Eleanor & Park, Rowell somehow delivers a work that manages to be delightful and heartbreaking, joyful and devastating, funny and tear-jerking, often all on the same page, if not in the same paragraph.

I can’t recall any other book I’ve read that gets high school right, or being a teenager in love right, or nails the rage and depression of being the helpless young victim of abuse the way Eleanor & Park does.

This is a book to satisfy both folks who love YA romance, and people like me, who detest the vast majority of it. This isn’t just a love story, it is also an ode to music and rebellion and freedom and transcendence and self-discovery and the need we all have to somehow find ways of letting people see and accept those places in ourselves that we keep secret.

Rowell released two books in 2013, with one on the way this year. If that is any indication of how prolific this talented young writer is going to be, we all have reason to be excited.


8. All the Pretty Horses – Cormac McCarthy


Cormac McCarthy writes amazing novels, that’s just what he does. His work gets under a reader’s skin, clean and no-nonsense prose that is at once tough and elegant. He never feels to me like he is droning on, and yet he is still remarkably descriptive. One never merely reads about the post-apocalyptic wastelands, the savage border territories, or the Mexican horse ranches McCarthy writes about, we inhabit those places while we are reading and for some time afterward.

All the Pretty Horses is a beautiful novel about passion, and desire, and the limitations we all face in a fucked up world like ours. It is proof that McCarthy doesn’t need to rely on savage violence to move a reader, that violence being something many of his novels are known for, and rightly so. This novel, while it still has a moment or two of more muted violence than you’ll find in, say, Blood Meridian, would be a great place to start for someone curious about McCarthy’s work but uninterested in cannibals, psychotic nihilists, or large gangs of monstrous outlaws murdering and pillaging their way across the North American West.


9. Embassytown – China Miéville


Everything Miéville writes is fascinating. His work is weird, and he is proud of it, and that is just one of the things that makes his work so satisfying and original. He is supremely talented, with prose that is visceral and complex. He never does the same thing twice, and has even claimed he wants to write a book in every genre eventually. Yet, with every genre he writes, he puts his own beautifully mad twist on it, making him the sort of author you should read in a given genre even if you think you don’t like said genre.

Embassytown is science fiction, set in a future where humans have colonized the stars, on a planet where a small city of people live amidst a mysterious alien race they call the Hosts. STAY WITH ME. Embassytown is, among other things, a way for Miéville to play with ideas of language and metaphor and meaning, and I can’t really say much more without spoiling stuff.

As always, it is evident that Miéville is a brilliant human being. I am running out of books by this wild, crazy, socialist genius that I haven’t read, so hopefully he will continue to pump out books at a steady clip.


10. Hyperion – Dan Simmons


Ugh, depressingly terrible cover. As is often the case with genre books it seems to imply that the artist never actually read the book, but instead was just told about a particular scene or concept and went at it.

Anyway, Hyperion first came to my attention because of a genre class Emily took with Nancy Pearl, the world’s most famous librarian. When Nancy Pearl recommends something, you should pay attention to it. I did, and got the book from Powell’s in exchange for some other books I didn’t want. Then former RtM writer W saw the book in a photo and gushed about it for a while, and it moved to the top of my personal reading queue. Aren’t you glad you know that story now?

Hyperion is everything W and Nancy said it would be. Told as a frame story, where much of the action actually takes place as a series of characters tell stories about why they are returning to the mysterious world of Hyperion (named for the Keats poem) where they will likely meet their doom. Each chapter thus shifts into an entirely new genre, with a new voice. It’s a joy to read as Simmons somehow brings all that together into a single narrative, revealing a little at a time to introduce this terrible planet.

The book engages deep territory, and I can’t wait to get through some more books on my ‘To Read’ shelf so I can grab the second book in the Hyperion Cantos. 


11.  Attachments – Rainbow Rowell


More Rainbow Rowell. Her first novel, while not as good as Eleanor & Park, is still more than worth your time.

The story follows a guy trying to figure his life out who takes a job doing electronic security at a newspaper, or in other words, he reads flagged emails to make sure no one is doing anything inappropriate. He comes across emails between two best friends at the paper, and quickly becomes enamored with their banter and conversations. As the back cover of the book says: “Hi, I’m the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you.”

Immensely likable characters written in Rowell’s playful but stirring voice makes Attachments another winner.


12. Smoke and Mirrors – Neil Gaiman


And, more Gaiman. I know a lot of people don’t like short stories, but I love them more all the time. This is especially true with writers like Gaiman, with a voice I love and a wide swath of tones, themes, interests, etc. It makes it so that each new story goes to a wildly different place, and that can be a whole lot of fun in the right hands. Obviously, I think Gaiman is a prime example of “the right hands.”

A dark, 100 word story about Santa Claus; a man who unwittingly invites the end of the world because his fiancé cheated on him; a werewolf detective; an old lady who finds the Holy Grail at a thrift shop… Smoke and Mirrors has a little bit of everything.

Long live the king.




the best books i haven’t mentioned yet, part one. [2013 edition]

As much as I love making lists, I hate to make straightforward top ten lists and whatnot. That’s why most years I won’t do a Ten Best Movies of the Year list, but instead will do a list of my favorite heroes, then a list of my favorite villains, along with a bunch of other superlatives. It is why most years Brian and I make a bunch of music lists in different categories instead of simply picking our five or ten favorite albums. Part of the reason for this is because it’s more fun, but it is also because I hate leavings things I love off of the list as I whittle it down. It also results in the comparison of apples and oranges.

Alas, sometimes that’s all a guy can do when he wants to share his favorite stuff with people. The only thing that separates this from a straightforward top ten list is that there are twelve books included, and that i avoided redundancy by leaving off books I’ve already written about. This is the best of the rest, as it were. The books I haven’t written about yet came down to time and energy, and wasn’t because the books I neglected were inferior to the books I raved about. I don’t love the books on this list more or less than the books I’ve already mentioned.

As is always the case with books, these are NOT necessarily books released this year, but instead are books I read this year for the first time. Some are brand new, some are decades old.

The books I’ve already written about are:
This is How You Lose Her – Junot Diaz
The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater
Shadow and Bone – Leigh Bardugo
The Imperfectionists – Tom Rachman

Here are six more I loved, out of the twelve I will inevitably get to, in the order I read them:


1. Dodger – Terry Pratchett


Set in a slightly alternate version of Victorian London, a teenaged tosher (a street urchin who makes his living collecting valuables that have washed into the sewer) named Dodger saves a young woman trying to escape from would-be kidnappers. The result is an adventure that brings him into contact with historical figures like Dickens and Benjamin Disraeli, and fictional characters like Sweeney Todd.

It’s a light, fun read, but not without some satisfying engagement with questions of coming of age, finding our place, and decisions about what it means to live well in a morally ambiguous and complicated world.

The eponymous main character is easy to root for. Personally, I’ve always been a bit predisposed to love sneaky, clever characters who are moral in the big areas but grey in the smaller ones. Those underdog characters using wits and street smarts to consistently get one over on the cruel and powerful have always been a favorite of mine, and Dodger is a top notch example.


2. The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. Le Guin

left hand of darkness

Another installment on my quest to read every novel that has won both the Hugo and the Nebula, and yet another reason to be in awe of Le Guin’s body of work. Le Guin’s science fiction/fantasy functions at a higher level than most. Often, science fiction that wrestles with ideas like this sacrifices prose, but hers is always beautifully written, never a missing or wasted word.

The Left Hand of Darkness finds a human character sent alone to a planet of sexually androgynous humanoids to be a representative for the Ekumen, a galactic coalition or empire. Never wanting a new planet to join the coalition due to fear or intimidation, and never wanting unnecessary bloodshed, the Ekumen always sends a single envoy to reveal the existence of other intelligent live in the universe, and establish first contact and an invitation to join the Ekumen.

One of the most celebrated SF novels of all time, the territory explored is complex and rich, but the writing is always simple and straightforward. The metaphors of the book play with sexuality, gender, political intrigue, language, religion, and faith.

When folks make claims about liking Battlestar Galactica because “it isn’t like other science fiction, it is about people and ideas and politics,” they are ignorant of the fact this isn’t what separates Battlestar Galactica from science fiction, it is what separates Battlestar Galactica from the shitty, lazy sort of science fiction. Among many other things, all fiction uses metaphors in the telling of a story to say things that can’t be said well enough in mere propositions and arguments, science fiction and fantasy just uses a particular palette of themes in doing that. Sure, there are garbage science fiction books that appeal to people who will read anything with spaceships in it, but writing off all science fiction because of that is like writing off Jane Austen as a hack because Harlequin Romance novels exist.

The Left Hand of Darkness is proof positive that a book should never, ever be judged by its genre, and if you write off an entire style of writing without curiosity you’re lazy, and you’re the one missing out.

Rant ended.


3. Forever Peace – Joe Haldeman

Joe Haldeman_1997_Forever Peace

And immediately, another installment in my quest to read every book that has ever won both the Hugo and the Nebula. Although the author is the same, and the title sounds like the title of a sequel, this novel is actually entirely separate in narrative from Haldeman’s earlier novel The Forever War. Forever Peace engages war, but in a very different way, and from an entirely different angle. Actually, I think it is far more brilliant and interesting than The Forever War (which I loved, by the way).

Forever Peace is set in a not very distant future where American military personnel jack their brains into computers and remotely control units called “soldierboys” to fight around the world. That premise could easily set up a straightforward action story, where narrative loosely connects action scenes. Instead, this is a novel that is constantly surprising and engaging, and like The Forever War, pushes the reader to understand the inevitable costs of war on individuals, societies, and beyond. This one spins way out beyond that, too, with all sorts of twists and turns, without ever losing its core of intelligent ideas.

In connection with the argument made in regards to the previous book, I actually think this book is more accessible to the science fiction virgin. Even if you think you don’t like SF, you should still give this book a try.


4. Ironweed – William Kennedy


Ironweed is the Pulitzer winning novel about Francis Phelan, a homeless drunk, once a talented baseball player, who is so haunted by his that he is crippled by it. To a lesser degree, it is also about his lover, who is equally trapped in her life as a drunk.

Francis man wanders around his hometown of Albany, returning after years away, as he comes to terms with whether or not he will finally face his (literal) ghosts and try to live again.

As the Pulitzer suggests, this book is beautifully written, wonderful prose that adds to the wrestling heartbreak and hope on Ironweed’s pages. The characters are never lionized or demonized, Francis feels like a real person, unable to forgive himself for his past mistakes, unable to reconcile his current state to the giant he once believed himself to be. Yet, as he is forgiven by others, the reader hopes he might come to see himself in a new light, neither giant nor monster, but simply a man.

I look forward to eventually reading the rest of Kennedy’s novels, some about other members of the Phelan clan, and almost all part of his Albany Cycle. 


5. The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman

ocean at the end of the lane

Such a surprise that the newest book by my favorite author would show up on this list (it’s also not the last time he shows up either).

As said in this review of the book, those of us who love Gaiman love his voice just as much as we love whatever he says with it. I love the things Gaiman writes about, but I also genuinely love the way he writes about them.

My masters thesis was about fiction and its ability to (quoting my own abstract) “create a liminal space which can be a site of growth and transition, in which we can enter into ambiguity and reemerge as changed people, with increased capacity for wonder, mourning, relationship, creativity, and life.” It is no coincidence that it is Gaiman’s work that I used as a central way of discussing fiction’s power to do this. Gaiman is the storyteller who, in my mind, best illustrates the power of fiction (starting with myth as far back as history stretches) to do what I argued it is capable of doing.

In The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Gaiman writes a story of a man who returns to the neighborhood of his childhood, and there re-enters a story from his youth he thought imaginary. In his narrative, we are confronted with the reality that as we “grow into ourselves” as adults, we often leave ourselves behind in truth. Part of the reason I love Gaiman’s work so much is because it is often an invitation to risk and life, and his stories lead me down into the dark and terrifying terrain that is my own heart, reminding me always to do the scary work of listening to my desire instead of constantly hiding it from myself.


6. Motherless Brooklyn – Jonathan Letham

motherless brooklyn

Lionel Essrog is muscle for a sleazy detective agency, he also suffers from the frequently comorbid conditions of Tourette Syndrome and OCD. When his boss is killed, Essrog is compelled to unravel the who and the why.

In this wonderfully written private detective novel, Letham explores the difficulty of unraveling the mystery of ourselves. And in that sense, instead of truly offering answers, what Letham actually does is better reveal the mystery and the questions.

Motherless Brooklyn offers the excitement, enjoyably dark characters, and pacing of a detective novel, but with brilliant prose,  and a far more profound and engaging story.




the books of march.

2013-04-03 23.21.51

March’s reads were all pretty light, as it was a busy month in a number of other respects. The good news is, the books were all enjoyable to varying degrees.

The Raven Boys I’ve already written about. The Peculiar is an imperfect yet impressive debut by a kid who started writing the book when he was sixteen. The Age of Miracles is a coming of age story set at the end of the world. Siddharta is a lovely story marrying western psychological concepts and eastern spirituality. And I decided to read Alice in Wonderland to check another classic off of my list, it had a delightful British wit that made the story more enjoyable than the adaptations I’ve seen.

Hopefully I can get through an even better pile in April!


game of thrones is back!!


Game of Thrones is back, bitches!! Although we didn’t get all the great characters back in the premiere. 

GoT is my favorite drama on TV, and I’m not alone. A ton of people watched the season three premier live, and loads of people don’t watch HBO shows live, but watch during re-airings or On-Demand. Also, apparently it had the biggest pirating swarm of any television show episode, ever. People can’t get enough of this GoT action.

For me, the show is a perfect storm, because not only do I love the show, but I also read the first book when it was released in 1996, so I’m what you would call an O.G. (Original Gangsta for the uninitiated). This means that I know what’s coming for the most part, I know who lives and who dies, and while you might think that would ruin things for me, it doesn’t at all. The show is so well made, and is such a great adaptation in a lot of respects, that I enjoy watching the viewers who haven’t read the books deal with events as they occur. You thought people lost their shit because of Downton Abbey killing off important characters? Hahaha. Haha. HA. Hahahahahaha. Just wait.

I told you before the show ever aired that you would do well to watch it, and even predicted that, as long as it was well-made, it would become my favorite show.

The end of every episode is a disappointment. I just wish it would keep going. I start getting worried as the minutes tick by, because I realize the end of the episode is soon approaching. So sad. I only watched this week’s episode once so far, but for episode two I will probably get back to my habit from last year, in which I watch the episode alone on Sunday night, and then watch it again with Emily and my friends on Monday night.



‘the imperfectionsists,’ by tom rachman. [fictionista.]


Christopher Buckley of the New York Times wrote that The Imperfectionists was “so good I had to read it twice simply to figure out how he pulled it off.” That’s the sort of work Tom Rachman has done with this book. It’s called a novel, but it is really a series of vignettes revealing the lives of staff (along with the owners and a subscriber) at an international English language newspaper based in Rome. Thus, the only character present throughout the entire book is the newspaper. Having worked as a journalist, Rachman has the insider insight to add satisfying depth and details to his fictional paper.

There are so many bittersweet romantic notions surrounding the dying newspaper industry, which are thrown into even starker contrast by the oddity of an English language paper in Rome (the reason why the paper exists to begin with adds even more heartbreaking truth to this). That being the case makes this particular setting the perfect backdrop for the bittersweet moments (although some are just bitter) of the various characters we meet in this book.

Rachman’s prose is perfect, and fans of word craft should definitely read this book. His short glimpses into the lives of these folks is carefully wrought to let each feel whole, like all the best writers of short stories have the power to do.

I read the book back in early February, and it was a part of what started to get the creative forces in my heart thawing. It’s one of those things that is just so wonderfully crafted that it made me want to create something of my own, writing so good it made me want to write. I can’t imagine offering anything higher praise than that.