You probably know that Steve Earle is a world-renowned folk/country/crossover singer-songwriter…
And maybe you know that he is also an actor, having appeared on The Wire, Treme, and other productions, his characters mostly mirroring his life as a musician, as in Treme, or as a recovering heroin addict, as in The Wire.
But did you know he is also an author?
And a damn fine one at that?
Dude’s def got it going on, I must say. Obviously, I’m a big fan.
His book I’ll Never Get Out of this World Alive is named after a Hank William’s song. I listened to the audiobook version, of which Earle performed. It’s great. The main character is a down-and-out, disgraced doctor, and an addict, who angelically performs illegal medical services for the locals of his unruly hood, particularly for the at-risk sex workers. It is a sad, touching, funny, magical, hallucinatory/ghostly tale (Hank Williams plays a critical role… or at least his ghost/Doc’s hallucination of him does) of which I highly recommend.
Anyway, have a listen of this little ditty of Earle’s from when he was a much younger human, and tap a toe or two while you’re at it…
BOOK | FICTION | LITERARY
THE GRADUATE by Charles Webb
RATING: ★ ★ ★ ★
When The Graduate, a book published in 1963 by recently deceased author Charles Webb, popped up as a Kindle Unlimited recommendation the other day, I thought to myself, why not? I mean, shouldn’t every fan of the movie version, a film which “is often ranked among the greatest, most quoted and talked about of all time,” feel obligated to read the source from which the film’s greatness was spawned?
The answer, of course, is yes.
So I read the book obligingly – it’s a fast read as the book weighs in at a slim 224 pages – and upon reflection, I didn’t realize it from the movie version, but The Graduate is essentially a continuation of The Catcher in the Rye. In other words, we essentially witness Holden Caulfield’s post-collegiate angst as channeled through Benjamin Braddock.
In the movie version Dustin Hoffman’s Braddock, as excellent and memorable as it is, comes across to me as more neurotic and whiney than angry and angsty as the character is portrayed in the novel. As I’m not a practicing psychologist, please don’t ask me to differentiate between the two as per the DSM-5 or whatever version the shrinks are now working off of.
However, as examples, when I, the layman psychologist that I am, think of neurotic-y (whiney) type actors in the vein of Hoffman’s Braddock, I easily think of Woody Allen (obviously), Owen Wilson, and Jesse Eisenberg.
However (once again), coming up with angsty type actors in the vein of Webb’s Braddock, that’s a little harder for me to pull off – Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattison both come to mind (probably can blame it on Twilight), and perhaps Zack Braff. Of course on the extreme end of the angsty scale we have Christian Bale, whose several angsty roles often seem to teeter on the precipice of sanity.
Anyway, that’s my impression of the novel. So I give it a four-star, not so much for its literary achievements (because, honestly, it’s not that well-written (Just about everything is described as perfectly this or that; and for some reason, just about every character seems to have a hearing problem as they keep having to ask What? after something is said to them. Quite annoying; however, we see a similar case of the What’s in The Catcher in the Rye as well, so… take that for what it’s worth.)). But for a book written by a twenty-four-year old that becomes the foundation for such an important movie, hey, I can afford to grade on a curve and give it an extra star.
Incidentally, it’s interesting to me that both J.D. Salinger and Charles Webb were so disillusioned with society that one became a famous grouchy recluse and the other donated his book proceeds to charity and lived a chosen life of poverty.
How ’bout that?
A jazz club in Tokyo, mysterious men in black suits, money owed, and bones are broken. Yes, just the perfect storyline for a noir title. Brindley writes settings and atmosphere so well. You are taken there and planted as you read. Whether it’s a crowded street corner, hospital waiting room, or local ramen diner, you will feel your surroundings.JennaScribbles of Whispering Stories
Read the complete four-star review at Whispering Stories:
I read Rainy Season in one day. Not because it’s a fairly short novel (175 pages) but because I simply could not put it down. It is not a poorly-written imitation of a Noir Romance, it is a Noir Romance. The opening was absolutely spot-on for the genre; sublime, stylised, descriptive and cynical. All the scenes played through your mind in shades of grey and black with the permanent tattoo of the rain which, in so many ways, is another character.Rose Auburn, Writing & Reviews
Read the complete five-star review at Rose’s website:
BOOK | FICTION | SHORT STORIES
WE ALL DIE IN THE END by Elizabeth Merry
RATING: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
If Joyce, Faulkner, and Kafka were to collaborate…
The result would be Elizabeth Merry’s We All Die in the End.
Merry’s is some of the best writing I’ve read in a while. Like Faulkner, she creates a fictional world unto its own, Faulkner’s set as a struggling Mississippi town, Merry’s as a struggling seaside town in Ireland, both populated with struggling characters with thick dialects common to their region.
However, regarding dialect, where Faulkner reveals his characters’ through heavy (and at times disruptive) word alteration and accent marks, Merry reveals her characters’ distinctive brogue (seemingly) effortlessly and without hardly a notice through beautiful setting descriptions and strategic use of words uncommon to those not of her world.
The effect of her writing to me is powerful…
Merry’s nineteen interwoven stories, or scenes as identified in the book, often misled me into letting my guard down – getting me lost in the cold ocean spray or in the delectable odors stewing from the stove or in the broguish din of the local pub – lulling me into thinking all’s well (how could it not be in such a quaint little town with waves pounding the shore like a mesmerizing lullaby) until it slowly dawns upon me that all is not well in Merry’s little corner of the world. In fact, not until it’s too late do I realize that just about everything beneath the quaint veneer she has laid for us is in fact quite dark and bleak, and at times… quite deadly.
We All Die in the End has left me with a haunting literary hangover.
And for that, I am grateful…
For, as rare as it is, it is that exact aftereffect I yearn for in every book I read.
BOOK | FICTION | SHORT STORIES
A GATHERING OF BUTTERFLIES by Sean C. Wright
RATING: ★ ★ ★ ★
Tales of steely but vulnerable women of color will melt your heart while lifting your spirits…Book Description from Amazon
A fierce grandmother keeps her grandson from the clutches of Old Scratch in Devil Does Dallas.
An alien abduction transforms a large, miserable woman in Hazel Hogan.
A country girl meets a city girl on her birthday, and struggles to decide if the girl’s heart is dark or light in Bubble Bath Twelve.
And methodical Genie forms an unlikely relationship in Heaven’s Halfway House while in a coma.
I am in wholehearted concurrence with Amazon reviewer Neferet when they opine that “[Author Sean C. Wright’s GATHERING OF BUTTERFLIES] is a nice collection of interesting and clever short stories….”
And I feel nicer as a human being for having read this diminutive collection of pithy and powerful (a redundancy I know, but one worth repeating) folksy parables; and I could tell without a doubt from reading them that the author herself is nice…
I just wish there had been more nice stories to appreciate — there are only four and the collection as a whole weighs in at just over a hundred pages.
Three of the stories are good, written light and fast with limited (but enough) character and setting development as one would expect to find in such folksy parables and morality tales.
However, one of the stories — Bubble Bath Twelve — is exceptional. I got so very and happily lost within that wonderful, beautiful tale and I regretted it when finally finding myself at its end. It compares easily with the best of anything William Faulkner has written, if the boozy, self-hating grouch were to have written such nice, lighthearted stories that didn’t stress the reader out with their unrelenting and migraine-inducing dialect.
Yeah, the story’s that good.
Outside of expanding this fine collection with more stories, I would recommend the author consider a more professional book cover. Personal preference, perhaps, but I think such fine writing deserves something a little better than its present adornment.
So, fantastic work by Ms. Wright, work that I highly recommend. I also recommend checking out her website. While it’s a little confusing to navigate, there the determined reader can find a treasure trove of her equally fun and interesting flash fiction, which, if you recall, is how all who gather here first became acquainted with her fine work.
Her’s is the forth review I’ve received from the site, which is pretty cool. It’s been downloaded from there over 50 times so hopefully we’ll see more than a few more as a time goes on. Fingers crossed.
Help me show my appreciation for Cathy’s review, and all the other many reviews she has prepared for us, by visiting her site and spending some time there with her.