Category Archives: Uncategorized

a stranger north, by henry olsen

a stranger north

a stranger north is a novella and part of a series called the northland chronicles, written by henry olsen. it is set in the future but is reminiscent of the past. it harkens back to frontier days and the wild west, but in fact is set an undetermined number of years from now, in a desolate future where many people have been killed, with the remaining population going about their lives. survival is important, but unlike other books and movies of this sort, it is not the absolute focus of the book.

the book is essentially about the appearance of a man called osborne, who shows up in the minnesota backwoods and whose arrival sets in place a chain of events. he is overall a well-drawn and mysterious figure, yet like the rest of the book, osborne is not entirely unique and reminds me a little too much for comfort of other sci-fi anti-heroes. likewise, the survivors of the future remind me too much of those throughout the rest of popular culture.

yet the book is quite tight and well-written. as a novella, it is also told at a brisk pace and is easy and enjoyable to get through, particularly with olsen’s excellent dialog. the characters speak naturally, believably, and ultimately they paint a solid picture of a somewhat old story.


so say the waiters, by justin sirois

so say the waiters

this week’s review is of a book by justin sirois, who collaborated with the subject of last week’s review, sam pink, on a recent “bundle” by publishing platform, tomely.

let me start by saying that the premise of sirois’ book (which, i hate to say, is not really a straightforward novel but rather a collection of “episodes”) is phenomenal, fantastic, and other positive adjectives.

it goes a little something like this: there’s a guy called henry. he’s a loser. then he’s hired to work for a company that makes an explosively popular app, but henry continues to be a loser by failing in his new job. however, the app is the interesting part. it’s called “kidnApp” and like many apps that exist in reality, it’s creepy as fuck. the creepy part of this app is that instead of allowing people to hook up or stalk each other, they engage in mutual kidnapping (or “kidnApping”).

great idea, right?


the book starts with an online conversation and soon moves into craigslist postings, and i thought, “oh no, another tao lin imitator.” but soon sirois is handling more straightforward, traditional prose with ease. his own voice comes through as he deftly tells his story. he is, as it turns out, a wonderful writer.

he is not, i feel, alt lit, but he is definitely a writer of his times. he feels to me like chuck palanhiuk sometimes, and even hemingway in his sparsity of language. i enjoy that each page is broken by dialog, rather than endless reams of thoughts and observations. the book is long but to the point. not a word wasted, more or less.

(added afterthought: a lot of amazon reviewers seem to dwell on sirois being from baltimore and “capturing” baltimore’s culture or whatever. i’ve never been there but this didn’t remind me of the wire. it did, however, bring me to a place i’ve never been, and that’s the mark of a solid author.)

person, by sam pink

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i had long heard of sam pink before i ever read sam pink. such is the way, sometimes.

sam pink seems popular among the people i like to read. i guess i assumed i liked him without having read him. you know, like if hemingway liked fitzgerald then you wouldn’t need to read gatsby or anything like that. you just take hemingway’s word for it.

the book, person, is simply a story about being a person, and, as such, it is incredibly depressing. as the buddha said, “life is suffering, and so you should walk about thinking of interesting or effective ways to kill yourself.”

maybe i’m paraphrasing.

in any case, that’s what this person (the protagonist) does. he wanders about, observing life and thinking dark thoughts. it’s not unlike the stranger or even catcher in the rye.

so what does pink bring to this old tale? is he simply “remaking” classics? well, for a start, it’s a very funny book. so far i’ve focused on the dark side, on the depressing angle. yet, pink seems to view life as a tragic comedy, and his witty one-liners had me “lol-ing”.

the sane asylum, by allison whittenberg


disclaimer: i am a friend of the publisher of this book, david s wills of beatdom books. we share some interests in literature and when he told me about a book he was editing, i offered to review it. this is the first time i’ve been personally affiliated with a publisher or author of the books on this blog, but, as always, i’ll be honest.


the sane asylum is the story of an african-american member of the us military in a time that is uncertain. there are references to george w bush, but it is unclear how many years have passed since his time as president mercifully came to an end.

the theme of the book is confusion, and the author has formed the narrative to follow that theme. it is, in a word, confusing. i don’t mean that she has told the story badly, but rather that the reader and the protagonist – called “coop” – are equally baffled by the events right up until the end.

the book begins with a brutal murder, which sends the protagonist insane. he is surrounded by insanity, too. the military and the anti-war movement are depicted with equal hostility, and morality is suspended. 

in my previous reviews i’ve focused entirely on alt lit, which this is not. yet it searches along similar themes. coop is disaffected and confused, and there is a sense of nihilism that permeates the text as the author refrains from jumping and casting judgement. 

the sane asylum is a short read and probably deserves to be called a “novella” rather than a “novel”. it’s out soon and i highly recommend it.

if you dont love the moon your an ass hole, by steve roggenbuck

if you dont love the mooni’m sorry, but i just can’t help hating steve roggenbuck. on the surface, i should enjoy his work. he reminds me of peter orlovsky, and his honesty and unbridled enthusiasm should be described with adjectives like “infectious”.

but, instead, he’s just annoying.

i can’t respect a writer who can’t write. i get that literature is moving into the realm of the internet and that being able to throw spontaneous/stream-of-consciousness words and sentences into the air is part of poetry, but… come on. i suspect that the misspellings and grammatically inaccuracies are partly deliberate on his part, and definitely an endorsement of the absurd on the part of the publisher. ok, great.

but i’m not going to recommend sitting and reading a book that has been written by someone who doesn’t know the language. i mean, if i wrote a book in japanese, would you read it? (note: i don’t speak japanese.)

roggenbuck seems like a nice guy. his videos are sometimes vaguely amusing. but his sort of “poetry” (if we must label it that) should be confined to youtube along with videos of cats falling off sofas. those cats, after all, are his intellectual equivalents.

what purpose did i serve in your life, by marie calloway

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if you recognize the name “marie calloway” it’s probably because of her infamous essay, “adrian brody”. the essay was not about the adrian brody you know, but rather another person to whom she assigned the moniker, “adrian brody”.

the essay was about sex. it was about fucking.

it was, therefore, controversial.

so, too, is her debut book, what purpose did i serve in your life. (normally i remove capitalization for the purposes of this blog but in this case the decision was on the part of the author.)

the book is, in a word, brave. it is not particularly well written. it is not a literary masterpiece. it is not one for the ages. but it is, in its own way, admirable. to read such vivid and honest depictions of sex from such a young woman is refreshing and encouraging. i imagine – and i realize how insulting this may be construed as – that her next book will probably be better.

she has what it takes to say important things, but she just hasn’t yet found her voice.

selected unpublished blog posts of a mexican panda express employee, by megan boyle



and the winner for title of the year goes to…

and the cover of the year…

i’d type it again if it weren’t so damn long, but i feel that *insert name of book* is pure poetry.

then you open the book.

more poetry.

i love megan boyle’s perspective on life. i’m an alt lit fan and she’s often tossed into the alt lit crowd, but her wit, her lack of that nihilistic and total sincerity is what makes me love her.

this book, her first, is a beautiful debut that should’ve received far more fanfare than it did. she is funny, perceptive, and other flattering adjectives.

the book is a sort of diary of her times. sometimes it reads like tweets or facebook statuses, and her twitter and facebook are also a joy to follow. she, like other alt lit artists, has captured life through the media of her time: namely, internet applications. that is her style, and that is what makes her so engaging.

also recommended: her liveblog.