“because love too is like a county fair/ in that it’s at its best in the dark/ next to someone you just met.”- Keegan Lester
Keegan Lester’s debut poetry collection this shouldn’t be beautiful but it was & it was all i had so i drew it, winner of the 2016 Slope Editions Books Prize, possesses a haunted urgency that, as one careens through its poems like a semi navigating mountain roads, suspends one between what we cannot know about being human and what we cling to as gospel. Gospel’s an accurate word for Lester’s verse. He explores language, love, grief, and Lester’s adopted home state of West Virginia.
The collection, however, is not coal-dusted or steeped in stereotype, but instead luminous with the acknowledged humanity of Appalachians. This is summed up neatly toward the book’s end in “You Appalachian Re-appropriating Asshole Poets,” in which Lester writes, “i don’t write about killing deer… my great uncle pitched/ for the yankees. He also killed deer/ he never wrote a single poem.”
There is an impossibility in both capturing the places we have lived, how they must necessarily change in our actions and through the echo of our memories. In the first “half” of the book (although this part accounts for the majority of the book), Lester weaves together disparate poems into a singular “ghost note,” which is like an elegy. Or prayer. Or the scribbled final thoughts of the dying. Or the dead.
In early 2017, I had the opportunity to see Keegan Lester perform his poems. He reads with both the New York Poetry Brothel and the Travelin’ Appalachian Revue. I use the word perform because Lester affects the posture of a backwoods preacher. The words travel through him, rather than from him as if transfused through the mother-lode vein of a word mine.
I picked up the book this morning for a long car ride and tore through the book for the third time. Perhaps it took some time to compose proper thoughts on the collection, but there must be a reason I keep returning. This book is itself a return, a home town not yours but nevertheless intimately familiar.
“Keegan Lester is an American poet splitting time between New York City and Morgantown, West Virginia. His work is published in or forthcoming from Boston Review, The Atlas Review, Powder Keg, Boaat Journal, The Journal, Phantom Books, CutBank, Reality Beach and Sixth Finch among others and has been featured on NPR, The New School Writing Blog and ColdFront. He is the co-founder and poetry editor for the journal Souvenir Lit. This is his first book.” – Found on Publisher’s Website
At first, I found his rendition of “When the Saints Come Marching In” endearing, until I heard the same rendition, scratched out-of-tune against the violin’s abused strings, for the sixth time. He stands on the corner of Wentworth and King, battered case lying at his feet. I, of course, have witnessed street performances from around the world—the immigrant’s trumpet bellows in a walking tunnel in Tuebingen, the one-arm man’s accordion finesse in the city square of Krakow, the instrument-less lament of a Cuban opera singer at Havana’s rum-washed Malecon—and the man in Charleston, SC is not up to snuff.His repertoire is obviously lacking: he shifts between Charlie Brown and other pop standards before reverting back inevitably to “When the Saints Come Marching In.”
Although performing these songs on a broken violin seemed at first avant garde, a stab to establish an atonal surprise for the passerby listeners– the venue itself being remarkably fresh, music that takes place away from the hallowed concert hall. But I conclude that the man simply does not know how to tune his violin nor does he care that the instrument is missing its A-string.
Overall, three out of five stars.
NBC’s crime drama Hannibal breaks the mold of crime shows like NCIS and Criminal Minds, building throughout the first season a far more consistent plot than such shows generally do. This makes Hannibal not only a show that dwells on crime (and its dark psychology) but also a drama about the participants: what are the effects of constantly looking at horrific scenes and imagining the lives of serial killers?
For Will Graham, the result turns out to be tragic. He slowly loses his senses, hallucinating and imagining vile, trippy experiences, to the point Will causes his superiors and friends to question whether he, like the men he catches, is a psychopath. Will has a form of empathy that allows him to “feel” and “understand” serial killers, due to his condition (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/31/hannibal-will_n_3366085.html). During the first few episodes of the season, this helps him assume the role of the serial killer and ultimately catch them, before he goes crazy.
At first, I did not particularly like this feature of his personality, not because the idea was not good but because of its execution. I understand his empathy aiding him to understand psychopaths, but show pushes the boundaries of believability. By viewing a simple murder scene, he not only knows how the killer killed his victims, but why. Often, the why is so very complex that it is implausible he could so rapidly construct a motive (i.e. the angel people).
As the show progresses, however, the show-runners and Hugh Dancy do a better job of showing how the illness
is affecting him negatively. Not only does it destroy his relationship with his coworkers and possible lover, but it also corrupts his sanity. He becomes conflicted because though he wants to continue to help people (he adopts a fatherly role for Abigail, the daughter of the Minnesota Shreik), he also realizes he might be traumatized by the gory sights he sees.
The level of gore and violence in Hannibal is at times over-the-top, like when the FBI find a tower of putrefying bodies stacked and strapped atop each other at the beach. Or when girls are found impaled on elk antlers. Or… any other death in the entire series. The writers are seriously, but impressively demented for creating some of this material, and the “disgusting way to die with psychologically unique killer” a week schtick, while intriguing, may be difficult to keep up. By season’s end, the show-runner’s give up, giving instead screen time for the characters to ultimately come to terms with their fates.
Whose fate I find most interesting is that of Hannibal (which I’ll discuss later on below). Mad Mikkelson portrays Hannibal in an amusing, cool way, a departure from Anthony Hopkin’s unhinged menace. While I have always loved Silence of the Lambs, Mikkelson convinced me Hannibal Lector could be far more menacing when not slurping at Clarice Starling or carving off men’s faces—he could be just as menacing having dinner with Laurence Fishbourne or making sexy eyes at his therapist (Gillian Anderson).
He often waxes poetically about psychologically and coldly manipulates the other players in this drama. He strikes a compelling relationship with Will, which he claims is a friendship, but each step he takes to “aid” Will ultimately leads to Graham’s demise. In fact, Hannibal takes a curious pleasure in manipulation, and when confronted about his actions (several murders and cover-ups), he simply states he was “curious to see what would happen.” But Mikkelson’s Lector, unlike Hopkin’s, is someone capable of receiving sympathy.
At some point, he know Lector will betray Will, which makes their relationship nefarious. In the books, Will confronts Lector and ends up with his face cut to shreds. This creates a palpable tension for the entire season. When next will Lector kill and when will Will Graham, a man capable of understanding serial killers, finally realize his friend and psychologist is the serial killer he’s been looking for. [SPOILER] Furthermore, Lector sets up Will to take the ultimate fall for his murders in a genius, long-term plan that convinces Will, at first, he might be guilty, until Will then realizes the truth about Lector. “I see you,” he says in the finale when they return to the murder scene of Abigail Hobbes. [END SPOILER].
But Hannibal wants Will to become the Chesapeake Ripper (Hannibal’s media moniker) because he wants to be understood. The show is entirely about the need to be understood. Garret Jacob Hobbes, the first murderer, longs to share his passion for skinning and eating girls with his impressionable daughter. Another killer, a doctor, uses living human bodies as fertilizer because he felt a better connection to his victims as mushrooms.
Will Graham possesses the ability to empathize with and understand these people, and in the end that’s what Lector wants to—to be understood. Unlike Hopkin’s Lector, who would eat a census taker with chianti and fava beans, Mikkelson’s Hannibal Lector begs to be explicated, to be sympathized with, to be explained. He may not understand his own psychopathic tendencies, and he may not even understand why he manipulates the only man he might care about into a terrible position and madness.
[SPOILERS ABOUT THE FINALE]
Of course, in the end, this presumption is flipped. Perhaps Lector only took the case because he recognized Graham’s unstable condition, understood the opportunity to exploit it. By becoming his psychiatrist, he could manipulate Will into taking the fall for all of his murders and then make Will believe so deeply he was mad, that perhaps Will would adopt the shrine of Chesapeake Ripper. Instead, Will outsmarts Hannibal and sees through his plan.
By then, though, Hannibal has already convinced Graham’s friends and colleagues of his guilt, even Jack Crawford who before did not question Graham’s loyalty. The ending sets up an interesting dynamic for next season. Will Graham in prison while Hannibal Lector remains free. Though Will understands Lector now as a monster, he is powerless to stop his further killings. Also, the feud has become personal after Lector’s betrayal. Next season will likely see Will attempting to prove his innocence and Hannibal’s guilt while Hannibal continues to cover his tracks. By season’s end, however, let’s hope the two end up on each others’ side of the prison bars.
[END OF SPOILERS. READ ON!]
Overall, the series is dark and somber, taking itself incredibly serious with an armada of symbols and overwrought motifs (that elk). It’s twisted, gory, and horrific, much like the human mind, and as far as drama goes, it is better and more subtle than many other shows on television. I hope the show-runners can continue the intense tension into following seasons, because above all, Hannibal is different.
1.) Didn’t all of the food look absolutely delicious? It makes one ALMOST want to become a cannibal. Almost. If you’d like the non-human recipes for the food cooked on the show, you can find them here: http://janicepoonart.blogspot.com/
2.) The elk motif did not actually make me annoyed. I thought it was a useful way of showing Graham’s madness and darkness, which we in the end see was a direct result of Hannibal Lector. Lector IS the dark and mad part of Will’s brain, and he does not go insane until Lector begins toying with his fragile state of mind.
3.) Seriously, the cinematography.
4.) My favorite non-main character was Abigail Hobbes, played with a mix of startled innocence and haughty malice by Kacey Rohl.
5.) When Will Graham first started hallucinating, I rolled my eyes, but the direction they took this plot thread by season end made all the sweating and time loss and strange dreams worth it.
6.) Laurence Fishbourne was alright. Mostly annoying, to be honest, but he was alright.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 120,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
Upon a recent visit to Firehouse Subs (at which this was my third time eating, and my third time enjoying the food), I found that they had outfitted their restaurant with one of those cool, new soda machines that spurts out hundreds of different soda. From every Fanta imaginable to every Coke ever sold, you can drink it from this machine. When I began to fill up my drink (either Dr. Pepper or Root Bear), I decided instead to venture beyond my taste bud safety boundaries.
Under the Sprite category, this enigmatic machine offers the original Sprite as well as its diet counterpart, but includes other previously unknown-to-me flavors such as cherry, strawberry, grape, peach, raspberry, orange, and VANILLA. I am very fond of Vanilla Coke so I tried Sprite Vanilla.
It tasted like straight-up vanilla extract mixed with cough syrup. The sort of taste you expect to be reminiscent of Polyjuice Potion or the like. Maybe a draught to put you into a deep slumber for years so you can enter the Matrix? I don’t know.
Do I suggest trying it?
Remember when I vowed to read more YA books from now on when I wrote The Percy Jackson Experiment? Well, I took that seriously and have been searching for other decent YA novels. This lead me to another much talked-about Dystopian novel which both has been praised as highly original and dejected as a Hunger Games rip-off. The book is Veronica Roth’s Divergent, the first book in a new trilogy.
Divergent serves as a fast summer read brimming with action and suspense, but very little substance– the themes Roth tries to translate come out forced. What she’s trying to say isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but we’ll touch more on that in a second. Where the book shines is in its plot, which though not exactly tightly woven, twinkles with moments of action.
In a dilapidated future-version of Chicago, Beatrice Prior lives with her family and faction Abnegation. In this city surrounded by a fence beyond which there are apparently terrors, there are five factions who cooperate but live by different ideologies. Each holds one trait above all else: for Abnegation, this is selflessness, for Erudite knowledge, for Amity love and acceptance, for Candor honesty, and for Dauntless bravery. At the age of sixteen, each teen must complete an examination to determine the correct faction and then decide whether or not to leave their families and factions or stay.
Beatrice (or Tris as she is later known) makes a choice which might shatter the status quo and uncover a conspiracy.
You already know what I liked about the book, that it keeps you engaged with action. Leaping on and off trains, fighting, shoot-outs, zip-lining from skyscrapers. When Tris joins Dauntless, she embraces their lifestyle by acting out dangerous missions which really aren’t so brave as they are stupid. But I love stupidity and reading about a community of people devoted to risking their lives for no reason to do stupid things– count me in!
The political overtones about coming together rather than driving each other apart because of ideologies felt a little heavy-handed and strangely ineffectual. From the very beginning, the system of factions seemed rather strange and though the system begins falling apart, it probably should have fell apart a long time ago.
All this turned out completely fine. I really enjoyed the book, in fact, and would suggest it for those rainy summer days you may spend all hours indoors reading. You will finish it fast and likely want to continue the series because the story ends with a dramatic cliffhanger. If there’s one thing Roth does right, it is to entice you to buy the next book. And yeah, sure, I’ll probably buy the sequel at some point, but there are plenty of other books to read at the moment.
The only real problem I had with the book was the forced romance with the characters Tris and Four. Before they even build a real relationship (which they do, fair enough), she already has “feelings” and freaks out when he is around. I’m sorry, but as a “strong” female protagonist, Tris gets much too “shaky in the knees” around Four. What starts out as a school-girl-type crush blossoms into a full-fledged romance and though toward the end, this romance becomes more believable, her initial queasy feelings toward him rubbed me the wrong way.
I think also most reviewers find too easy of a connection with The Hunger Games or Harry Potter, though besides the genre Dystopian, I think Divergent differs great from Collins’s novel. There is, at least, something fresh and fun about the read. Roth’s tale is not exactly like those, but that’s a good thing– reading the same book again would make me snore.
If you’re looking for something fun and fantastical and action-packed and teen-friendly, pick up Divergent by Veronica Roth. And maybe even the sequel Insurgent.
Neil Gaiman. Time Travel. The Marvel Canon. Mix these fine ingredients and you should get something amazing right?
Well, what you do get is Marvel 1602 which is fun, energetic, enjoyable, and creative. It does no quite blow you away like you keep expecting it to, like you might wish after reading the first issue, but nevertheless, it’s a breezy, adventurous comic book read.
More than anything, the limited comic series is an interesting premise on many levels. What happens when you transport all your favorite super heroes to Elizabethan times? The Spanish Inquisition seeks to burn and torture heretics and witches. Those with angel wings, who can control weather, who are cosmic magicians, who are beast-men– those people might just be tied to a stake and burned. At the same time, King James of Scotland is carefully watching the throne as Queen Elizabeth dies.
Our heroes, clad in olden clothes and olden times (Sir Nicholas Fury, Peter Parquagh, and the gang) must face a new corrupt monarchy, an evil, rich count (Count Von Doom!), a time traveling Captain/Native American impersonator, The Spanish Inquisition (lead by a man readers will recognize halfway through the book), and oh– the imminent destruction of not only Earth but every world ever.
Because of the time-altering, strange events in this continuity, the world becomes 313 rather than 616, a separate universe. Whenever Marvel wants to open up a new plot line with the same characters, they generally just unfold a new world/dimension. Because someone traveled back in time, they have to reverse events to their proper order. At the end, however, things continue in this world for some reason, because there’s a new dimension?? Or something?? Anyways, it allows for a sequel which I may or may not read. That will depend on the reviews I read.
I read this in a course of two days, both at night and by the pool. It’s that sort of comic book, not exactly the dark, gritty stuff of Watchmen, but the fun heroes-to-the-rescue bravado with a historical twist.
The most fun in this book is discovering who is who, which current character corresponds with other Marvel characters. Some are simple like Dr. Strange, but others you must endure the entire story before discovering their identity. If you’re looking for a quick, light read that gives a fresh feel to characters you already love, give this a try.
(I might just pick up the sequel after discovering Iron Man features in it. Hm…)
Just for the record, Gaiman did a killer job with Daredevil’s character. Loved both his swagger and interpretation. This, I think, may have been a call-out to Shakespeare’s Fieste in Twelfth Night just as Jane Gray’s cross-dressing also paid tribute to Shakespeare.
I know also I said at the beginning I wasn’t blown away by the book, but I did enjoy it immensely. Gaiman did a good job of balancing suspense with cameos and fanboy winks.
It’s time to talk about YA seriously. We enjoy it secretly, buy it for our Kindles, Nooks, and IPads so no one will see the covers of the books we read, and we deny its quality. We say, “I don’t read YA, but I guess I enjoyed Harry Potter. And the Hunger Games. Oh, and–”
Let’s stop pretending: YA is just another category we can store books. That doesn’t mean YA books are shined up like you’d expect: no, YA books we consider suitable for teens and preteens are full of guts, sex, and gore. Teachers can apparently even be fired for reading YA material to their middle school classes. No that that’s a problem. Books are the one great free place for children anymore, forbidden to see R-rated films or cuss. They can sink into the sordid details of books their parents never expect hold immoral pleasures, those same parents only happy “that they’re reading.”
In my formative years, when I had so much acne my face looked like a red scatter-plot and my voice screeched like a porpoise, I
resented reading YA books. I tackled lengthy Dostoevsky tomes, serialized syntactically-repulsive Charles Dickens works, and sometimes even excerpts of Keats. Now, this all had a profound effect on me, this chasing after philosophical significance in each work I read. I craved classics, and they served both to entertain me and make me look like an under-aged literati. I scoffed at kids who read so-called YA books.
To be honest, anything from The Hunger Games to Ender’s Game to Treasure Island may be flukes. They may entertain more than just young adults simply because they are not meant for young adults. But let me impress upon you an important idea. In publishing, the marketing choice to make something YA usually does not come until the author has a deal.
Because of all of these revelations, when perhaps three weeks ago I was offered the chance to read the Percy Jackson series, I took it. I recently finished the fifth book, having devoured them quickly and rapaciously, even in the midst of exams. Getting hooked on any series when exams approach is as bad an idea as pointing a laser pointer in your own eye. Why are these books so addictive? I’m afraid you’ll have to discover that for yourself. Here is a synopsis of the debut.
After getting expelled from yet another school for yet another clash with mythological monsters only he can see, twelve-year-old Percy Jackson is taken to Camp Half-Blood, where he finally learns the truth about his unique abilities: He is a demigod, half human, half immortal. Even more stunning: His father is the Greek god Poseidon, ruler of the sea, making Percy one of the most powerful demigods alive. There’s little time to process this news. All too soon, a cryptic prophecy from the Oracle sends Percy on his first quest, a mission to the Underworld to prevent a war among the gods of Olympus.
This first installment of Rick Riordan’s best-selling series is a non-stop thrill-ride and a classic of mythic proportions.
There are five books in the series, and I really enjoyed them. At first, I was annoyed by little things. The meaning of some events were vague, and a lot happened for no reason at all. But as the series progresses, Rick Riordan finds his footing in about the third book, the plotting much smoother, the character motivations much clearer.
I believe it is extremely important to pay attention to YA books because they capture very adult themes while delivering a tight, fast-paced plot. People complain a lot about books either being pointless or too pretentious, and most YA books hit that sweet middle spot.
Like I said before, I have not read many YA books, but I will suggest a few I actually did read.
1.) The Underlander Chronicles
Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games author) first wrote this brilliant, multi-faceted series. Absolutely fell in love with it in the sixth grade. Great action with some quirky twists.
This irresistible first novel tells the story of a quiet boy who embarks on a dangerous quest in order to fulfill his destiny — and find his father — in a strange world beneath New York City.
When Gregor falls through a grate in the laundry room of his apartment building, he hurtles into the dark Underland, where spiders, rats, cockroaches coexist uneasily with humans. This world is on the brink of war, and Gregor’s arrival is no accident. A prophecy foretells that Gregor has a role to play in the Underland’s uncertain future. Gregor wants no part of it — until he realizes it’s the only way to solve the mystery of his father’s disappearance. Reluctantly, Gregor embarks on a dangerous adventure that will change both him and the Underland forever.
2.) Chronicles of Narnia
Classic books to better get in touch with your childhood imagination.
Narnia is the land of enchantment, glory, nobility–home to the magnificent Aslan, cruel Jadis (the White Queen), heroic Reepicheep, and kind Mr. Tumnus.
3.) Inheritance Cycle
Like dragons? Fair enough. Read this.
Fifteen-year-old Eragon believes that he is merely a poor farm boy—until his destiny as a Dragon Rider is revealed. Gifted with only an ancient sword, a loyal dragon, and sage advice from an old storyteller, Eragon is soon swept into a dangerous tapestry of magic, glory, and power. Now his choices could save—or destroy—the Empire.
4.) The Bartimus Trilogy
Possibly one of my favorite fantasy books growing up. As I begin to delve back into fantasy, I remember why I fell so deeply in love with the genre. This dark and stylized book thrilled me.
Nathaniel is a boy magician-in-training, sold to the government by his birth parents at the age of five and sent to live as an apprentice to a master. Powerful magicians rule Britain, and its empire, and Nathaniel is told his is the “ultimate sacrifice” for a “noble destiny.” If leaving his parents and erasing his past life isn’t tough enough, Nathaniel’s master, Arthur Underwood, is a cold, condescending, and cruel middle-ranking magician in the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The boy’s only saving grace is the master’s wife, Martha Underwood, who shows him genuine affection that he rewards with fierce devotion. Nathaniel gets along tolerably well over the years in the Underwood household until the summer before his eleventh birthday. Everything changes when he is publicly humiliated by the ruthless magician Simon Lovelace and betrayed by his cowardly master who does not defend him.
Nathaniel vows revenge. In a Faustian fever, he devours magical texts and hones his magic skills, all the while trying to appear subservient to his master. When he musters the strength to summon the 5,000-year-old djinni Bartimaeus to avenge Lovelace by stealing the powerful Amulet of Samarkand, the boy magician plunges into a situation more dangerous and deadly than anything he could ever imagine. In British author Jonathan Stroud’s excellent novel, the first of The Bartimaeus Trilogy, the story switches back and forth from Bartimaeus’s first-person point of view to third-person narrative about Nathaniel. Here’s the best part: Bartimaeus is absolutely hilarious, with a wit that snaps, crackles, and pops. His dryly sarcastic, irreverent asides spill out into copious footnotes that no one in his or her right mind would skip over. A sophisticated, suspenseful, brilliantly crafted, dead-funny book that will leave readers anxious for more.
6.) Perks of Being a Wallflower
Not a fantasy or adventure series like the rest, this too is considered YA. It is beautifully written and will break your heart and make you crack up until you wheeze for air. For even further awesomness, there will soon be a movie of this starring Logan Lehrman and Emma Watson. Count me in!
Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor. This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
This is the story of what it’s like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie’s letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.
Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up.
If you read any of these books, including the Percy Jackson series, you will come away with a new appreciation for books usually meant for kids. While at 18 I’m supposedly an adult (under the law), I am certainly still in love with imaginative stories that spark my mind and carry me to magical realms.
I first encountered Chuck Wendig on Litreactor when he was interviewed about his upcoming book. I began reading his very cool blog terribleminds and was hooked, so when his first full-length novel was released, I bought it for my Nook.
Well, I both enjoyed and disliked the book for several reasons. Perhaps reading it was a bit out of element though I can’t say anyone would not be. While it falls into the category “urban fantasy,” I read it more as a horror-drama with smatterings of snarky humor. In a moment, I’ll give you its high and low points, which seem intricately intertwined.
Here is the Amazon low-down:
Miriam Black knows when you will die.
Still in her early twenties, she’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, suicides, and slow deaths by cancer. But when Miriam hitches a ride with truck driver Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be gruesomely murdered while he calls her name.
Miriam has given up trying to save people; that only makes their deaths happen. But Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim. No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.
The premise is probably one of the best things about this novel, not because it is entirely unique, but because of the approach Wendig takes. So she can see how you’ll die, but hey, instead of saving you, I’ll hook up with you and then rob your dead body. We encounter Miriam while she’s travelling cross-country, conning sleazy men so she can thieve from their corpses. She’s vile, dirty, and caustically sarcastic– not to mention a bit hilarious. The opening was one of Blackbird’s better segments as it allows us to see into the grim life of Miriam, a simple slice of the last few years. But as much as the opening chapters gave us, I wanted more.
Blackbirds is mainly about Miriam’s transformation, from sly psychic temptress to sly psychic temptress with a heart. But I don’t think we got to see enough of Miriam’s previous life to fully appreciate where she ends up in the end.
On the road, when she encounters Louis, it’s almost sweet. Probably because he’s the only character not interested in killing and thieving, he is my favorite character. Miriam’s ultimate attachment to him and her eventual attempt to save his life give this book emotional impact.
The book reads like an underworld travel guide for debauched clairvoyance-catchers. I really enjoyed the viciously dark tone, the gratuitous cussing, the extremely realistic violence, and the general air of pessimism. But still something felt very off as I was reading. Maybe I never allowed myself to be fully sucked in. It’s not that the main characters were not compelling enough but perhaps that the plot was predictable.
Which is very nearly the point. Miriam sees the future and she decides finally she should try to stop some guy’s death. The tension is somehow lost because we know exactly where we’re going to end up and if you try hard enough, you can figure out what might happen when we get there. Not that there are not small surprises, but those feel small once you worm through the main mystery.
What did carry better tension than the main Louis-based plot were brief interludes during which Miriam told her story to a young interviewer. Whether this was in the past or future, we do not know. We get flashes of Miriam’s past, her troubled childhood and eventual pregnancy. And this backbone for the character certainly gives her better weight. It gives you a little bit of the unexpected I was expecting. Which is what I want. Chuck Wendig, I just want you to sneak up on me from behind and twist my neck and break it.
Don’t get me wrong: I really enjoyed Blackbirds and will be tuning in for the sequel Mockingbirds coming out this September, but there is one major flaw, a distracting flaw in this work: Chuck Wendig is a blogger at heart.
He writes funny but passionate passages full of sarcasm, wit, and satire, but this satire sometimes overwhelms the actual story. He spends so much time saturating the atmosphere with the scent of urine and blood that we realize, no this isn’t just a diatribe about the nastiness of truck-stop bathrooms and Waffle House’s, it’s an actual story about an actual girl. This sort of tongue-in-cheek writing best serves blogs, where he is absolutely brilliant. But the same sort of style crosses into his book, which feels strange and very distracting. There are times he gives in to some of the most conventional literary tropes, then whips out very imaginative sentences. So, the writing is hit-and-miss.
I would probably give this story a six out of ten stars if I proscribed to such rating systems, but I don’t, so I’ll leave it at “Read it.” It’s a short, fun novel that slightly blackens your heart and eye. Fans of Chuck Palahniuk and other subversive writers will probably get a kick out of Miriam Black.
Want to hear other’s thoughts? Check them out here: