The Silliest Stories out of Bustleburg: America’s Worst City by Jimmy Misfit

“Brand new hello!”  Welcome to Silliest Stories Out of Bustleburg, Jimmy Misfit’s collection of tales from America’s Worst City.  With biting children, daily fires, fashion shows gone awry, and some vampire-run businesses, if you don’t see hints of your own town in this read, the joke’s on you.

The collection begins with a busload of weary prospects to Bustleburg, and ends with a family trying to evacuate.  The point is, no one wants to stay and it’s difficult to leave.

Each story is narrated by one of the town’s residents.  Penny Sweet, 7, tells about her sister Tootles, whose biting habit is so bad, it wins the family a rare vacation.  In another story, she interviews her grandpa, a retired firefighter, whose department been on strike his whole career, hence, the frequent fires.  Zachary Quarles, 26, is an extreme croquet pro and self proclaimed American innovator. His is the way of the future: “Gossipy and disloyal athletes.  The drama. The foot stomping” (70). This kind of future isn’t just for croquet – debutante Mauve Mertz, 39, attempts to win the favor of the high society Gamboge Girls with her fur coat fashion show, until an idealistic New York designer has a plan of his own.  These insider perspectives give us a glimpse of what passes for normal in this fictional Mid-South-North town.

What makes these characters so funny is their obliviousness.  They don’t realize how abnormal their normal is, stuck in the eternal fight between evil and more evil that plagues Bustleburg.  On one hand, a mob vampire family runs some businesses and on the other, Reverend Maple of the Pious Revivalist Church gives out points for vindictiveness.  Count Razvan Simonescu, 412, remarks, “it must be a sign of the times. We’re the old guard of terror. The Reverend is the new, and somehow, we need each other” (166).  Bustleburg begs the question: what old and new guard of terror are we under?  And whatever the answer, is there anything to do, but laugh?

Read closely.  Jimmy Misfit packs each sentence with so much information, it’s easy to lose the thread.  But stick with it and the picture of a comic dystopia becomes crystal clear.  find the book on Amazon

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Disoriental by Negar Djavadi

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“[T]o really integrate into a culture, I can tell you that you have to disintegrate first, at least partially, from your own.”  The creation of Kimia Sadr’s individuality set against her Iranian and French backgrounds, Disoriental, Négar Djavadi’s debut novel, is as fresh as a newly fertilized egg.    

Born in 1969 in Tehran, Kimia Sadr is the youngest of Darius and Sara’s three daughters.  Kimia is born for a second time in French, when she is ten, after her mother and sisters follow Darius to exile in Paris.  Instead of Kimia, she becomes Kimi, with a chance to make up an identity all her own. She tells her story from front to back, beginning in the waiting room of a Parisian in vitro clinic and filling in her history back to her family’s roots in Iran.

Although her father refers to the French as “them,” Kimia candidly narrates in the first person, addressing, “you,” her (mostly) French audience.  She grows up steeped in rebellion, her parents intellectuals and protesters against the imperialist regimes of the Shah and Khomeini. She, too, rebels against growing up, against becoming a woman, against the past, against speaking, against assigned roles.  The intimacy of her tone – including conversational phrases like, “for your sake…,” “let’s linger for a minute” – shows how far she comes from pushing against, keeping her distance; her “love disability,” as she calls it, to welcoming new life.

Disoriental is a total reorienting along free associations.  The novel is difficult to categorize.  Based on the author’s life, it is personal memoir and political history layered betwixt and between each other.  But it is also a collage of indie music and cinema, books and subculture references. It is literature on drugs, a stream of consciousness dialogue that only makes sense taken as a whole.  Juxtapositions structure the book: the conversational tone and Kimi’s proclivity for hiding, Kimi waiting in the in vitro office and her father’s escapades, her birth and her grandmother’s death, coming out to herself and the 1979 revolution, 9/11 and reuniting with her girlfriend Anna, leaving Iran and Iranian New Year’s.  While seeming coincidences, these pairings inform each other, forging new meanings and a unique genre of storytelling.

Toward the end, the novel becomes more linear the happier Kimia becomes.  She becomes the person she envisions herself to be: a music mixer. She masters sounds as Djavadi masters a new style of prose.  Disoriental delights and challenges the literary palette with a one of a kind tale of one woman’s coming of age amidst Iran’s tumultuous recent past.

 

Literature by Guillermo Stitch – out today, July 1, 2018!

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Literature’s become a tool!  Guillermo Stitch’s Literature® tells of Billy Stringer’s attempt to serve literature, not the other way around.

Billy is a reporter for the Herald, covering a story of GrippingTails’® new transport system utilizing literature as a means to get around.  When Billy picks up on a metaphor used in GrippingTails presentation, the presenter perceives him as Lit, a threat, someone who reads.  Billy has two choices: be put to use at GrippingTails or suffer the consequences of his rebellion.

In this depiction of the future, in an unnamed town, unless literature is a commodity to be bought and sold, it is all but eradicated.  GrippingTails has changed all that, bringing literature under the thumb of business, in the vein of Solace® and other enlightening substances.  

Literature® cleverly plays by this dystopia’s rules, as well as breaks them.  On the functional level, it’s an entertaining story, earning its entertainment value through a fraught love story between Billy and Jane, a PhD candidate, chase scenes, newspaper intrigue and colorful thugs.  But on a deeper level, it follows the rule of good art; it reads effortlessly, maneuvering seamlessly between past and present, with beautiful similes, such as “rage draped like a shroud,” and an overall conceit that speaks to contemporary culture wars.  

Billy and his nemeses, the GrippingTails employees, ring true as ordinary people caught up in age-old struggles.  Jane and her brother, Vince, a reader like Billy, are less developed. I wanted to hear more about Jane; she could fill out Billy’s motives.  Vince holds the key to understanding Gilgamesh, the Lit terrorist group.  Without more knowledge of him, the real threat of literature remains murky.         

At just over 100 pages, Literature® is a quick and gripping noir novel that pumps us up for the subversive act of reading!  Find the book on Amazon

A Place Called Schugara by Joe English

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“The greatest sin of all is the failure to love.”  A Place Called Schugara by Joe English is a classic of the Me Generation, setting epic life lessons in a cross cultural story that spans continents and decades.

Several character threads converge on the Caribbean island of Mabouhey.  In 1989, Ohio businessman Travers Landeman brings Bibles and used clothes there, to Father Chester and his congregation.  Father Chester was sent to Mabouhey as punishment, in the 1970s, for upsetting his Chicago Monsignor. In 1991, Joe Rogers, a Chicago bookseller and vodka devotee, and his travel companions search the island for buried treasure.  Also in 1991, insurance investigator Albert Sidney, of New York, hopes to reap the rewards of finding the missing Travers – or his remains – in Mabouhey. Each of these men escape from something at home but discover something in Mabouhey to which to escape.

The book goes back and forth between Travers’, Joe’s, and Albert’s stories, among others, but only Joe narrates in the first person.  Each strong personality is brought out by colorful turns of phrase and habits. Joe’s winsome word play, a clue to the author’s sense of humor, contrasts with Father Chester’s verging-on-vitriolic chapters.  At times it is hard to tell whether the criticisms of the Church’s racial biases and tyrannical policies are his own or belong to Joe English. The sing-song dialect of Black characters, Zero and Ragweed, is a delight to hear.  Marguerite, a Mabouhey native, is a convincing female heroine among the predominantly male cast.

In addition to distinct character voices, the novel includes a variety of styles.  Mabouhey songs and poems are featured. Matthew, Travers’ nephew, writes a journal about his budding sexual orientation.  A snobbish sociology PhD writes up her interview and evaluation of Zero and his place in the cultural landscape. Newspaper articles summarize the conclusion.  The mix of voices and styles reflects the mélange of societal problems plaguing the characters: urban flight, the war on drugs, the Catholic Church clergy abuse scandal, among others.  Transitioning from city to city, person to person, each described in a new way, there is never a dull moment. The quick, fresh pace sets a hopeful tone.

The climax comes when not only Travers, Joe, and obese Albert, but the psychic baggage they carry, all descend on Mabouhey at the same time.  What could be a clichéd redemption moment (remote island paradise saves modern city dwellers), is anything but. Each character plays his or her freely chosen part to help each other solve problems practically and creatively.   If the greatest sin is to fail to love, then the greatest gift is to succeed in loving. Don’t miss this unpredictable and unforgettable historical fiction story involving both sides of the logic gate.  Find the book on Amazon

 

Mad Boy by Nick Arvin

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“Another angle that must be considered is the science of luck,” says Henry Phipps’ father.  Deeply in debt, sick and weary, the War of 1812 on their heels, Henry is determined to help his family’s luck to turn.  Nick Arvin’s latest novel (due out today), Mad Boy is Henry Phipps’ rousing adventure through Washington area battlefields, to save his family – and himself from it.

Henry Phipps’ mother is dead.  His father is in debtor’s prison.  His brother Franklin might be hanged for deserting his regiment in order to visit his girlfriend, Mary, whom he accidently impregnated.  Henry’s wild search to keep his promise to do his dead mother’s bidding — to keep the family together at any cost — is as crazy as her voice in his head.

Henry is called mad because he hears his mother speak through death.  Although the story is mainly his, it includes his mother’s perspective, as well as his brother Franklin’s, the Radnor the slave’s, and that of the acquaintances Henry meets along his way. These conflicting and well delineated perspectives raise the question of whether Henry is mad, or the world in which he dwells.  Is it mad for Franklin leave the family to go to war when his father is a drunkard and a gambler? Is it mad to loot when the economy has collapsed, as does Morley, one of Henry’s acquaintances? Is it mad to sell one’s self when it makes Abigail, Henry’s other travel companion, the most money? As a slave, is it mad to join up with the British, against one’s own country men, who are already against you, as Radnor does?  These characters, each with his or her own voice, paint a complex picture of the forces for and against Henry.

Arvin’s knack for colorful turns of phrase matches the colorful settings and characters they describe.  Baltimore, Henry’s first destination leaving home after his mother dies, is a “city of clamorous dazzlement.”  Mary, left by both Franklin and her father, a ruthless businessman, sees that “grief came from the knots of unforgiving.”  For Henry, “trying to think of what to do is like trying to balance on a greased tightrope.” As mad as he is, Henry is an ingenious character, both as a young man finding his way in a ravaged world, and as Arvin develops him.

Mad Boy is a historic dystopia novel.  Instead of seeing doom in the future, Arvin finds its origins in the past.  But, he also sees “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen.”  Henry’s quest is a darkly comic one, relying on luck and a plan made up as he goes. Although Henry does not entirely fulfill his promise to his mother, he does succeed in finding freedom for himself.  find the book on Amazon