Maxi Kim, One Break, a Thousand Blows!

One of a series of nine carefully commissioned bodies of work, Stewart Home chose One Break, A Thousand Blows! as part of a historical tribute to a previous tendency to choose more difficult, less obvious texts, highlighting the more non-commercialized, avant garde tendencies of the mid-twentieth century’s Beat Generation or the somewhat tedious constraint-based Oulipian dialectics. This novel—like many bubbling up in this millennium—is tainted in a good way, clouded with previous literary influences, wary of outright acceptance by a quaint populace. One Break can be frustrating, for it could be interpreted that Kim does not care whether or not the reader hears the joke or the punch line. A drum roll doesn’t always lead to humor, and humor is sometimes far from appropriate. More »

Alison Carter, A Fixed, Formal Arrangement

It’s not hard to appreciate A Fixed, Formal Arrangement, for this segmented, creative work doesn’t pretend to be anything that it’s not; it hopes that you aren’t pretending to be anything less than yourself when reading it. It’s best to be frank with one another, you and this text, if you want to get to the meat of it, if you want to be more comfortable with solitudes, strangeness, unfinished dialogues, eye holes into panoramas of the beautiful and unfinished life, found among the confused and questioning, found among what comes natural if even unconventional. More »

Axel Thormählen, A Happy Man and Other Stories

One of many to-be-desired releases in Les Figues’ TrenchArt: Parapet Series (among others such as I Go to Some Hollow by Amina Cain and God’s Livestock Policy by Stan Apps), this special compilation of nine well-crafted short stories by German author Axel Thormählen exceeds any careful reader’s expectations—they are gems to be marveled. Though these stories are similar in tone and in literary design, the subject matter in which they investigate, explode or agitate is such that any receptive soul must harbor the ability to linger appropriately with each one, and a safe haven is needed for the reader to engage in Thormählen’s highly subjective, poetic fiction. Thormählen does not avoid uncomfortable subjects, and because of this, his fiction is—at times—philosophically cumbersome. His stories do not shy away from our mutually shared experiences, and they display internal worlds of his characters with a selective eye—keen in observation, precise in both their secular and otherworldly guises. More »

Aaron Kunin, The Mandarin

The prospect of writing an innovative novel could be a contemporary poet’s nightmare, for who wants to be confined by mainstream devices of the conventional narrative, and how does a poet turned novelist avoid the blunders of monotony (or as Kunin writes on pg. 28, “a lifetime of needless repetitions”)? At best, how does this novel pursue a previously overlooked approach? Aaron Kunin’s first novel The Mandarin is hardly coy in dissecting the heavy sentiments associated with such a pursuit. The lines between the writer and the novel’s panoply of characters, between the reader and the read and among the novel’s personalities (both human and their inanimate counterparts—e.g. a TV set, toenail clippings, umbrella, telephone, ad nauseam) are brimming with pointed opinions, intellect and desire—they are infinitely built, demolished, rebuilt and tinkered with. The Mandarin requires the strictest attention; its pace is quick, odd and askew but careful not to exhaust. One could almost declare that Kunin’s book, along with being a disappointed jester of our current political and spiritual state, is a questionably harmless enemy of the predictable and linear. More »