The Graduate by Charles Webb – A Review

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 Pebble is a Rock is a Mountain is Me

I look at the little pebble at my feet and can’t help but think

But for the grace of god go I

And then laugh

Not out of humor

But of fear

Because he’s nowhere

But within the magic of my mind

The madness

For, but for the grace of chance goes that pebble at my feet

No more purposefully than the patient rock at the corner of my lot

Having had waited a million years for me to move it there

Or the mountain I’ll never climb

Or the moon, or the sun

Or the boundless galaxies in the sky

That are as real to me as the oxygen molecules I breathe

I just have to take your word for it

And yet you admonish me over and over

Essence before Existence!

An a priori on high

And I want to take your word for it

Like I do for the oxygen molecules I breathe

And many times I almost convinced myself I had

But then comes the horrible news

Relentlessly so

To remind me that

Nope

You got the order all wrong

That the only a priori meaning there is

First and foremost and forever more

Is only that of my mind’s making

Of its madness

RAINY SEASON – A Review by Rose Auburn

Review excerpt:

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:

ROSEAUBURN.COM

WE ALL DIE IN THE END by Elizabeth Merry – A Review

BOOK | FICTION | SHORT STORIES
WE ALL DIE IN THE END by Elizabeth Merry
RATING: ★ ★ ★ ★

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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…

And surreal…

Kafkaesque.

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.


EMBOOKSTUFF.WORDPRESS.COM

In a Field Left Fallow

In a field depleted and left a fallow

Where only single crops have e’er grown

‘Twill sundry bloom soon rich, tho’ callow

When by Nature’s hand the seeds are sown

 

My Novel Approach to Novel Writing

At least it’s novel to me…

Anyway, these kinds of posts are always a bit self indulgent, but if you’re like me (and god help you if you are), you too like to know how the sausage is made when it comes to an author’s creative process.

I’m both old and old school when it comes to writing. First drafts are were always done with pen and paper.

Mostly because I love the physical act of writing, the feel of pen in hand, the feel of ink flowing on the paper.

But also because if I try to write the first draft on the computer I never make it out of the first chapter seeing that I’m one of those edit-as-you-go guys. I have too many folders with forgotten novels with unfinished first drafts that I attempted to write on the computer.

Writing the first draft by hand allows for limited editing — a line through here, a line through there maybe — and because of this, I enjoy a more immersive, free flowing writing experience…

One that actually results in finished novels.

How ’bout that?

But there is a catch.

My handwriting is garbage.

Which means draft two is pure and absolute torture when it comes to typing it up into the computer. Oftentimes it takes longer to type up the second draft than it did writing out the first.

Which brings me to my novel approach to first drafts, an approach that saves me months in novel development…

The iPad.

And the Nebo app.

Using this new technology (new to me; never been an Apple guy) I can still write out my first drafts longhand, but with the Nebo app, it automatically converts it to digital text.

It’s amazing.


The notebook contains a print copy of the screenplay (which I use as an outline for my novel). The cool sculpture/now paper weight is courtesy of my highly creative daughter. The iPad Pro 12 with Apple Pen attached shows the chapters of my latest WIP in the Nebo app.
A screenshot of the chapters in Nebo. One slight downside is that you can’t arrange the files (at least I haven’t been able to figure it out if you can) so they’re stored as they are created.
If you look at the top of the first paragraph (click on the image to enlarge), you’ll kind of see how it shows a highlight of my writing as converted text. It’s unbelievable in how well the app understanding my crappy handwriting, but if it doesn’t convert a word correctly, you can catch it in the highlight and go back and write it more clearly.

Of course you don’t get the same feel writing on the iPad as you do with pen and paper. The iPad screen is a bit slick so it takes some getting used to. I initially put a screen protector on it but that made it even slicker and it also screwed up the functions in Nebo to add and delete stuff.

The Apple Pen feels good in hand and works like a charm with zero lag between it and the tablet.

There’s another tablet I’m interested in checking out that is designed specifically for writing. It’s called reMarkable and the developers claim it will give you the feel of writing on paper. Sounds awesome. The best selling point to me for it is that it is a heck of a lot cheaper than the iPad Pro 12.

So, yeah… when it comes to drafting novels, that’s how I now roll.

Oh, and if you haven’t guessed by now, I’ll be announcing my latest novel soon…

Like tomorrow. :)

#writeon

A GATHERING OF BUTTERFLIES by Sean C. Wright – A Review

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…

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.

Book Description from Amazon

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….”

Nice, indeed.

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…

Really 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.

SEANARCHY.WORDPRESS.COM

THE GOOD KILL – A Review by Cathy Geha

I’d like to thank Ms. Cathy Geha of Cathy’s World for her review of The Good Kill. Cathy had, fortunately for me, come across the book at NetGalley.

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.

CATHYGEHA.TUMBLR.COM

THE GOOD KILL – A Review by Gina Rae Mitchell

I would like to sincerely thank Ms. Gina Rae Mitchell for taking the time to read The Good Kill and write such a fantastic review for it.

I could tell when first visiting Gina’s website packed full of book reviews, author interviews, and all kinds of other interesting information from gardening tips to tasty recipes that hers was a platform I would love to get my book profiled on. So, as you can imagine, I was very grateful when she responded in the affirmative to my review request.

And grateful I am indeed for throughout the entire time it took from my initial request to Gina posting the review today, it has been nothing but a pleasure to work and correspond with her.

Right from the beginning I signed up for her newsletter and I’m glad I did because it offers way more than just links to her latest book reviews. Had I not been on her list I would have never known to add apple cider vinegar to my bone broth to better soften the bones so my dogs/boys can better enjoy them without me having to worry about them choking on a shard!

There’s so much cool stuff on her site that you’re sure to be amazed when you head over there to read her review of my book.

So be on your way now to Gina’s site… and don’t forget to sign up for her newsletter!

Thanks, Gina!

GinaRaeMitchell.com

THE TELEPORTER by Lee Hall – A Review

BOOK | FICTION | HUMOR
THE TELEPORTER
LEE HALL
RATING: ★ ★ ★ ★

What if there was a power like no other? What if one drunken slouch happened to stumble where nobody has stumbled before and discovered the ability to teleport!
Just when you thought there were enough super hero stories in this world, we made another one…
Kurt Wiseman is your average mid-twenties slouch with a serial thirst for alcohol, that is until destiny calls upon him to stumble where no man has clumsily stumbled before. By day he works for a familiar sounding, power hungry, media controlling, mega rich American businessman who represents everything wrong with society today. Whilst investigating this politically loaded story arc Kurt accidentally acquires a super power like no other. The ability to teleport!
Before he can think about saving the day, Wiseman must endure a journey of self-reflection by earning the trust of his friends and overcoming his greatest weakness, booze. Even if the path is filled with comic book cliché, inappropriate one liners and genre busting fourth wall action.
Not all heroes in this world are the same and with great power comes the possibility to go viral! This is a story that will unite humanity…
Kurt Wiseman is the Teleporter!

Publisher’s Book Description

This is a fun, breezy read of a book that delivers on exactly what the author set out for it to do, and that is, essentially, to have it be a fun, breezy read of a book.

How do I know this? Because we’re told as much in an author’s note at the end of the book.


“I set out to create this story with one goal in mind, which was above all, to make people laugh…” – Lee Hall


Mission accomplished, Mr. Hall.

And not only does our besodden superhero Kurt Wiseman (cool name) humor us with his meh Millennial mentality, he does so while locked in a life-or-death battle with the (stereo)typically corrupt corporate (never noticed how similar the words corrupt and corporate are in appearance until now) tech executive and his conglomerate of clownish henchmen, all while reminding us along the way of the dangers and unintended consequences of technology run amok, among other timely and topically important issues of the day.

Now, would I liked to have found the story with more fully developed characters and settings? Sure. But we must remember our tale is narrated by our slacker superhero so the sparsity in development can be considered almost apropos, as it leaves me feeling as I did as a parent when dealing with my own similarly-aged Millennial offspring who are equally adept at providing just enough information needed to keep them out of any serious trouble.

Bottom line: this is an all-around enjoyable book. Simple as that. So…

Buy it.

Read it.

Laugh with it.

THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME by Donald Ray Pollock – A Review

BOOK | FICTION | LITERARY
THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME
DONALD RAY POLLOCK
AUDIOBOOK
RATING: ★ ★ ★ ★★

Set in rural southern Ohio and West Virginia, The Devil All the Time follows a cast of compelling and bizarre characters from the end of World War II to the 1960s. There’s Willard Russell, tormented veteran of the carnage in the South Pacific, who can’t save his beautiful wife, Charlotte, from an agonizing death by cancer no matter how much sacrifi­cial blood he pours on his “prayer log.” There’s Carl and Sandy Henderson, a husband-and-wife team of serial kill­ers, who troll America’s highways searching for suitable models to photograph and exterminate. There’s the spider-handling preacher Roy and his crippled virtuoso-guitar-playing sidekick, Theodore, running from the law. And caught in the middle of all this is Arvin Eugene Russell, Willard and Charlotte’s orphaned son, who grows up to be a good but also violent man in his own right.

From the Book Description

First let me point out that the title of this book is THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME. It’s not The Devil Some of the Time or The Devil Every Once in a While. I repeat, it’s The Devil All the Time. This is an important point, one that all the up-in-arms one-star reviewers of the book complaining about it having no redeeming characters seem to have somehow missed.

Little details like book titles do matter folks.

So yeah, with a title like that you shouldn’t be surprised when finding that it’s a gritty, grimy, nasty, corrupt, vulgar tale of a story that thoroughly explores the deep dark levels of depravity to which our inhumane human-ness is capable of descending.

It’s also beautifully written with a complex twisting of storylines that straighten themselves out nicely as one in the end, if not a bit too conveniently so as some of the negative reviewers point out and which I somewhat agree with them there.

But only somewhat.

The part of the publisher’s book description that I didn’t include above states essentially that The Devil All the Time is a mashup of “the twisted intensity of Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers with the religious and Gothic over­tones of Flannery O’Connor at her most haunting.”

There were several reviewers who seem to consider it sacrilegious to compare this work to O’Connor’s, the literary icon that she is. I kind of have to agree with them. Certainly not so vehemently, nor even for the same reasons, but because I got more of a William Faulkner vibe from it than an O’Connor.

But that’s just literary semantics. The book is an exceptional read in its own right.

What made it an especially exceptional read for me is that the audiobook version is narrated by master voice actor Mark Bramhall. I was fortunate to discover Bramhall’s genius when reading Christopher Buehlman’s wonderful horror tale THOSE ACROSS THE RIVER, and it was in search of more of his genius that I came across this book of which I am now reviewing for your entertainment and instruction.

Okay, all that’s fine and dandy; but want to know what impresses me most about The Devil All the Time?

Too bad. Ima tell you anyway.

What impresses me most about the work is the author himself, Mr. Donald Ray Pollock.

Not only is Pollock originally from the area of which his depressed story is set, he depressingly dropped out of school at seventeen and, after a (depressing?) stint at a meat packing plant, spent the next thirty-two (depressing?) years working as a laborer in a paper mill.

Don’t know if it all was as depressing as it seems, but it sure seems as if Pollock is trying to play it up that way in his bio.

Regardless, he, at some point, decided he wanted to be a writer so, at the age of forty-nine, he went ahead and enrolled in the MFA program at Ohio State University.

How cool is that?

How brave is that?!

I can’t imagine the courage it must have taken for him to follow his literary dreams at such an advanced age, especially knowing that to do so he would have to expose himself so openly before classroom’s full of young and exceedingly idealistic whippersnappers, most of whom probably never once had to worry about their parents not covering their expenses, let alone worry about the real life challenges this often dark and dangerous world will offer them once they’re out of the controlled college environment and having to provide for themselves.

Yeah…

This old dude Pollock is now this old dude Brindley’s newest hero.

And, btw, not only does Pollack have more guts than I’ll ever have, his first novel, as dark and disturbing and sans morality as it may be…

Is frikkin’ amazing.


Featured image courtesy of the author’s official website

THE DISTANT SOUND OF VIOLENCE by Jason Greensides — A Review

BOOK | FICTION | LITERARY
THE DISTANT SOUND OF VIOLENCE
JASON GREENSIDES
RATING: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Do we ever escape the decisions we make when we’re fifteen?

Nathan Dawes, the loser from school, an outsider, street philosopher and member of The Grove Runners gang, needs Ryan’s help to get Stephanie to fall for him. When Ryan’s lawnmower is stolen, Nathan sees this as his chance to enlist Ryan in his plan. 

Although Ryan knows becoming friends with Nathan could lead to trouble, he reluctantly agrees to help.

Stephanie wants nothing to do with either of them. Besides, she’s more interested in the one guy in the world she really shouldn’t be.

As Nathan continues his pursuit of Stephanie, and Ryan gets mixed up with The Grove Runners, soon events overtake them all, haunting their lives for years to come.

Part coming of age, part mystery story, The Distant Sound of Violence is a heartbreaking tale of bad decisions and love gone wrong. It’s about choices that lead to violence, loss and tragedy.

Amazon Book Description

THE DISTANT SOUND OF VIOLENCE by Jason Greensides is a hauntingly atmospheric tour de force with its stark and captivating descriptions of English life during the Nineties and beyond set in, on, and around the mean streets of London, its fully-fleshed characters as flawed and true-to-life as any character on a page can be, and its ringing dialogue that is at times achingly smart, witty, and/or sad, and that is always cut with just the right amount of a pleasingly rhythmic patios.

Not to say that I didn’t have some quibbles with this masterwork. At over 500 pages, I thought the narrator interjecting his personal story from time to time, while interesting enough to some extent, didn’t add enough value to the overall arc and purpose of the story to merit the lengthy interjections. Specifically, there is one part of the book where the narrator again interjects himself and becomes oddly obsessive in trying to track down and map out the locations of mysterious graffiti tags left by Nathan Dawes, our also oddly obsessive (but oddly obsessive with clear purpose) protagonist; where, in the end, all the time and effort spent in the narrator’s mapping of the tags served no revealing purpose that I can tell except to further highlight something that we already knew — that our protagonist is oddly obsessive to a life-wrecking fault.

But again, these are mere quibbles and ones not nearly severe enough to lower this grateful reader’s overall five-star ranking of this highly intriguing and highly recommended epic of a read.