July 12th, 2007


Russian Lover and Other Stories

I'll get back to the Straubathon soon, but in the meantime there are a few books by friends and loved ones I want to get to.

First up, Russian Lover and Other Stories by Jana Martin. In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that Jana is my cousin (and was also a founding member of my writing group, Who Wants Cake). Actually, her mother and mine were cousins, so I guess that makes us...second cousins? Cousins once removed? I never could figure that one out.

But even with that said, and the hopes that being related won't affect my review, I loved this collection of short stories. Jana is a literary stylist, which means that her stories are less about plot than they are about character and, perhaps even more importantly, the language used. Each word choice is perfect, resonant to the point of making me jealous of her vocabulary. She also likes to play with structure (as do I; it must run in the family!): the story "Perforated: A Lexicon" is about a woman who is losing her hearing but is told in the form of dictionary entries. "Russian Lover" is a snapshot of a marriage falling apart, told as a series of increasingly angry and desperate letters to the narrator's mother-in-law. "Why I Got Fired" -- one of my favorites from the collection -- is a first-person narrative about a stripper whose bottled up rage explodes one night on stage, and it is told almost entirely without the pronoun "I", using instead a series of gerund verb forms. All this may sound terribly academic, but it leads to a colorful, thrilling reading experience.

Other favorites include "Hope", the story that won her the Glimmer Train Short Story Award, about an ex-junkie taking a bus to Florida to start a new life; "Goodbye John Denver", about a woman who suffers head trauma and becomes obsessed with John Denver's plane accident; and "Rubber Days", about a woman who accidentally lands a dominatrix job and finds she's a little too good at it.

There's a strong sexual undercurrent that runs through many of the stories, replaced only occasionally by an equally strong sense of nostalgia for family life, and almost always told from a female POV. There's a great deal of humor pulsing under the skin, too. If you like well written literary fiction, you should definitely check out Russian Lover and Other Stories.

Up next: My friend and fellow Who Wants Cake member David Wellington's 13 Bullets.

The People Have Spoken!

Another excellent General Slocum's Gold review has bubbled to the surface, this time on sarcobatus's LiveJournal. And bless her heart, she even gives a shout-out to last year's Cemetery Dance story "Toad Lily"!

Here's a pull-quote from her review, which you can click on to read the whole thing:

"This novella is a fast moving, action packed read, told successfully in present tense, which is no mean feat. Nicholas Kaufmann accomplishes this difficult task effortlessly, pummeling the reader forward at a breakneck pace, toward an eerie conclusion of self discovery....GENERAL SLOCUM’S GOLD is for anyone and everyone who enjoys a good ghost story -- buried treasure and all."

Thanks, sarcobatus!

Also, thanks to imago1 for pointing it out to me!

The Quiet Earth

Have I ever mentioned that The Quiet Earth is one of the greatest science fiction films ever made? No? Well, I'm mentioning it now. yoppulent and I went to go see it when it first came out in 1985 and it has stayed with me ever since. Especially that strikingly gorgeous final shot.

If you've never seen it, you should seek it out immediately. Anchor Bay recently released it on DVD in a beautiful metal case -- which I just acquired and watched tonight -- though I'm sure you can find it for rent on Netflix or at your local video store.

Like Flight of the Conchords, the Lord of the Rings movies and Sam Neill, this is just one more awesome thing we can thank New Zealand for.