Soul Collector | Chap Review

1I “bumped into” Duvay Knox on Twitter one night as he was joking back and forth with Stephen J. Gold about buying panties on the internet — of course I had to crack a joke, cuz… it’s me. I got to reading his tweets and fell in love with his humor and his style (have you seen his Twitter icon? It oozes sex and a “I don’t give  FUCK” kinda style). When I saw that he had a book coming out, I snapped that little shit up ASAP.

I want to start by saying that I’ve never read a pulp / pulp-noir book in my life. This one is my first; I bought it because Duvay is dope as hell and because the premise of the book tickled my pussy in the right way. I’m not familiar with the genre, so I don’t know how they’re supposed to be written –so,  cut me a little slack if I don’t catch all the fine details.

Book Description

I recognize these can be a little long/tedious for some folks, so I’m going to start bulleting this section for ease of reading (if you’re interested in that kind of thing).

  • 4.25 x 7 inches in dimension
  • Approximately 156 pages
  • Cream colored, (appx.) 20lb weight paper
  • 12pt Times New Roman font (estimation)
  • Matte covers printed on cardstock
  • Glue binding which didn’t crack under my fuckery — no pages lost.

I was surprised by the dimensions of the book – I was expecting a standard 5 x 8 – but, in all honesty, I’m really charmed by it. It feels so nice in my hands, and was easy to shove into my purse and take it with me wherever the hell I was going.

Contents/Summary

Soul Collector tells the goings-on of Sippian, a young man who died by violence, and assumes the role of Death when he descends to hell. The story follows Sippian through all the fun and fuckery of his rise to the top and the challenges he faces.

Review

I want to begin by addressing the obvious; the formatting errors.

Right around Chapter 9, something happened and the Chapter titles got all fucked up – some of them ending up at the bottom of the previous page, which jacks up the formatting of the rest of the book. Duvay has addressed this, and it’s been fixed — and is sending out free copies of the corrected version to all who have bought the fucked copy.

What do I think about it? Well, to begin with editing and layout formatting is a BRUTAL and tedious job. We’re human, we all fuck up and sometimes after looking at a manuscript for 100 hours, shit just happens.  The fuckup doesn’t take away from the story in anyway — it just one of those weird-ass things that happens. Final thoughts on it:  Seems to me I got a first edition copy of Soul Collector that’s gonna be worth some coin in the future!

Second: The book is dialogue driven. There’s very little, to no, description of people, surroundings, places, things, moods, etc. I’m not sure if that’s a hallmark of pulp / pulp noir or not, to be fair and honest. I do know that I really like descriptions, because it drives me further into the story.

THAT BEING SAID — I didn’t even notice this until my second read through of the book! The story-telling that happens through dialogue is so rich and engaging that it doesn’t fucking matter if there’s descriptions.

Soul Collector is a fast-paced, funny as fuck, SUPER engaging, well written story with twists that will make your head snap sideways.  I loved this so much, and my ONLY complaint is that there wasn’t more to read… that cliff-hanger… THAT CLIFF-HANGER, THO!!!!! I need more. Like… NOW.

I cannot WAIT until Pussy Detective comes out with Clash Books in December, I’m gonna snap that fucker RIGHT up.

If this is your bag — and it should be your bag — make sure to support the author and BUY THE SHIT

Bloodwarm | Reviews that Suck

1I found Taylor on Twitter by chance; a mutual friend re-tweeted one of her pieces, and I fell in love with her style. I followed her and saw that she was hyping her upcoming chap with Variant Lit, Bloodwarm, and knew that I had to get it.

Book Details

Bloodwarm is 23 pages in length and approximately 5×8 in size. The binding is the standard glue and DID crack under my bending. That being said, the pages all remained in their place so it’s not that big of a deal.

The cover is matte with gold foil accents, and is made out of a good cardstock. The feel and look is high quality and professional.  My only “complaint” – if it could be called that – is the red text on the front and back covers. It’s of a hue that makes it difficult to read.

The paper looks like a 30lb cream, and stands up under both fountain pens and highlighters with zero bleed and no show through. The font appears to be 10pt Garamond, so you may need some readers for this.

Content

This is a collection of poems which details the embodied experience of a Black woman in the United States – particularly the South.  Taylor’s work isn’t technically dirty realism – but it’s certainly realism.

Review

They say dynamite comes in small packages and that certainly holds true for Bloodwarm. It’s 23 pages of pure fire. Napalm. White Phosphorus.

This is not a collection for the White Liberal, the Devil’s Advocate or those who claim they can’t be racist because they got a Black ___insert relationship here___. This is a collection for those who have the desire enter into a Black woman’s embodied experience and have the spine to believe what she’s telling you.

This collection is immaculate; incredibly beautiful in its vulnerability and its trust as Taylor allows you into her heart and mind. It’s not something you read quickly – each piece needs to be sat with to mull over the deep symbolism.

The show stopper for me is “How I Take My Morning Tea.” It wasn’t until my third read through that I caught it – the almost invisible text between the stanzas. At first I thought it was a printing error, and rubbed my thumb along the text to see if it’d disappear. When it didn’t I brought the book right up to my nose to look at what was going on there.

There’s a hidden poem here!

To say I was thunderstruck is not an exaggeration.  I immediately recognized that I was reading a hidden transcript (ala Scott’s Domination and the Arts of Resistance), a real-time Code Switch. The brilliant marriage between poetic realism and the Acadamy had me over the moon! This is the kind of shit that I really, really live for in my Academic life.

This whole collection is brilliant, and I’m thrilled to hear that Variant is doing another run! Congratulations Taylor!!!

Now don’t be a fuck face, and go buy it!

Shooting Gallery Vultures | Reviews that Suck

image-1Scott and I encountered each other fairly early on in my Twitter adventures. We ‘met’ through a mutual friend because I was looking for someone to do some poetry collaborations with, and they directed me to Scott. The collaboration never panned out – probably because I totally forgot about it until now, but I had peeped some of Scott’s pieces on a few websites and loved the gritty style of them. 

When I sent out my request for folks to pimp their chapbooks so I had some new shit to read Scott, actually, didn’t respond. BUT I had been eyeballing Shooting Gallery Vultures (SGV) for a hot minute and knew I was gonna order it.  

I got the package early afternoon on Tuesday (July 6) and tore that envelope right open.  To my surprise not only was SGV in there, but also 2 additional chapbooks, 2 broadsides and four high quality vinyl stickers (which were immediately stuck onto my new poetry notebook!). It felt like Christmas! 

This post will be a review of SGV only – the other two poetry chaps I’ll review at a later date (spaced out between other chaps that are coming my way).

Book Details

SGV is approximately 86 pages in length, and measures roughly 7 x 10 inches. Like the other chaps I’ve reviewed it’s got a glue binding and stood up against my vigorous bending, folding and general rumble fucking; no pages were lost. 

The cover is full color with a glossy finish, which not only feels good in the hand but also looks/feels REALLY high quality. The external presentation on this chap is second to none.

The paper looks like standard 28 lb bond; it doesn’t bleed under a highlighter nor a fountain pen – though I did notice it sucks fountain pen ink up like a sponge. So if you’re planning to note anything in the margins for any reason, use a ballpoint. 

Each poem is an illustration created by Andrew Nutini, and it appears like they are thermal printed to the page – which means that there’s no bleeding of ink, but there is a slight sheen which may make it difficult to read either outside or bright white over head lighting. The font used looks like Courier and is nice and large so there should be no problems reading this at all.  

Content

SGV is a collection of poetry which consists of memories, observations and insights of Scott’s life as a (sometimes?) homeless addict (heroin, crack, alcohol are mentioned). If this subject matter bothers you, or you can’t stomach reality – I’d invite you to find something lighter to read. 

Review

Since 2016 I’ve worked as a Catholic Worker – both in my hometown as well as New York City – whose aim is to extend radical hospitality to all that knock on our doors. Sometimes this has meant shelter, at other times it has meant food – but the great majority of the time it has meant being in community with the homeless population of these two cities.  I lived and built community with all manner of housed and unhoused – those folks which ordinary people refuse to look at or acknowledge their humanity. 

With all of that being said; the world which Scott describes feels so very familiar to me – as recognizable and as intimate as my favorite pair of boots that have molded themselves to the exact angle of toes and arch of my foot. Though many wouldn’t understand this when I say it; it’s a comfortable space for me. 

Scott doesn’t soften the blow; he speaks about his time as a homeless addict – a life which normal people refuse to see, think about or acknowledge – in language that doesn’t spare anyone’s feelings.  His work grabs you by the scruff of your neck and forces you to look, forces his humanity down your throat until you choke – “Look at me! I’m a fucking human being!” it screams. 

If you’re hoping for a bullshit redemption arc at the end, don’t hold your hand on your ass for it. You won’t get it – and you shouldn’t. Humanity isn’t – and shouldn’t –  be contingent upon conforming to the norms and expectations of society. I respect the mother-fuck out of Scott for not giving the reader that – for forcing you to either swallow this shit whole or gag and die. 

It’s difficult for me to evaluate this collection without any bias because of my own history being in community with homeless and addicted folks. I gravitate towards these stories because I feel that they are important – not only for myself who has experienced them from a position that straddles the inside and outside of this world, but also for those who have never thought to ask these people their stories. 

So, of course, I love it.  I love it for its humanity and its honesty. I love it for its heart that bleeds, and bleeds and bleeds. 

I’ll be honest: after watching The Basketball Diaries on HBO all those years ago (don’t act brand new and pretend you didn’t see the shit, too!), I expected Jim Carroll’s poetry to be much realer and grittier than it was – I was truly disappointed. SGV gave me everything that I wanted and expected from Carroll, and more. 

The one and only critique I have of the book is this; I wish that the accompanying graphics were full page bleeds and that they were in color. 

If you’re interested in buying of Scott’s work you can find his website here and if you’re interested, specifically, in Shooting Gallery Vultures you can tweet him here.

History of Present Complaint | Reviews that Suck

1A few weeks ago I tweeted the #writingcommunity to recommend me their chapbooks; the first response was @HLRWriter who recommended me her CNF chap, History of Present Complaint. 

I read the summary on Amazon, and was interested enough in the premise to buy it. When I went to check out, however, I realized that the book is only offered on Amazon UK – which meant exchange rates and what I knew would be a lengthy shipping time. A little reluctantly, I went through with the transaction, and waited patiently for the book to arrive. 

Arrive it did, a little bit ahead of schedule, on Saturday the 3rd and in my excitement I immediately began inspecting and reading. 

Book Details

History is approximately 86 pages long, and is roughly 5 x 8 inches in dimension. It has a glue binding which held up under (my very intentional) stressful bending, folding and other sorts of general fuck-housing – which means the binding didn’t crack and no pages were lost. 

It has a lovely glossy cover which feels thick and durable, and is printed on reasonably good paper which doesn’t bleed under a highlighter or a fountain pen.  The font is legible – Garamond, I think – doesn’t smear when you run a thumb over it and while it’s just a hair smaller than the standard, it’s still totally readable. Get some fucking glasses.

There is a content / trigger warning directly after the title page. 

The contents is beautifully laid out and shows the care that was taken to put this work together. 

DO NOT SKIP THE EDITOR’S NOTE. It details how the book is structured – as it’s not linear – and you will, at first, need this as a reference point as you make your way through the book. 

Contents

The book details the story of a woman who experiences a psychotic break and is (involuntarily?) admitted to a psych ward in the UK. The story is presented in stream-of-consciousness style which leaps back and forth in time to events that happened prior to the break, the break itself and what happens afterward.

Review

Reviewing this book is complicated; I have so many thoughts about it that I’m going to need to break the review into bite size portions. 

  1. Time and Space 

Non-linear story telling is easy to fuck up – just look at Netflix’s version of The Witcher (I said what I said, motherfuckers). It’s significantly more difficult to do this on paper than it is on film – there are no cinematic cues that let you know you’ve jumped backwards or forwards in time.

HLR did this masterfully; she let’s readers know where they are in her journey by titling sections and poems with the headings Present Complaint, History of Present Complaint and Post Complaint – the definitions of which are in the Editor’s Note that I told you not to skip, you asshole. All in all, the transition between time and space is seamless and makes sense. She makes a notoriously difficult style of story telling look like child’s play. 

2. Style and Content

Complaint blurs the lines between genres; part creative non-fiction, part poetry, part stream of consciousness journaling which culminates in an incredibly authentic read that puts you inside her head as she’s going through these monumental crises.  

What’s really unique about this is that – in the editor’s note that I fucking told you to read – HLR doesn’t say this is her story… she says it’s YOURS. “YOU suffered an acute psychotic episode, during which YOU were detained under Section 135 of the Mental Health Act.” 

Very early on the boundaries between reader and writer blur, and you begin taking on her story as your own until you’re jolted back into your own reality when you realize “holy shit, I’ve felt that way before” and then are lulled back into the story again. 

I want to point out a fucking BREATH-TAKING line on page 44, “You dragged myself to the kitchen and stood in the doorway.”  Full stop. Read that again, do it slowly and hold that line for a few moments. You dragged myself. This is a mind blowing line; one that holds both the duality of reader and author and the coalescing of them simul-fucking-taneously! 

There are pages and pages of lines like these that both parallel and juxtapose author and reader that make you stop, and think, and wonder. 

3. Theme

I want to begin by saying this; you need to be mindful of how you approach this work. What I mean to say is this: it’s not a fucking sideshow for you to get your jollies off.

Complaint is important for so many reasons:

  • It restores humanity, which has been robbed by society, and the System, to those who live with mental-illness.
  • It depicts how very broken the Mental Health system is; simultaneously abusing and neglecting those who have the misfortune to find themselves jailed within it.

Overall

The testitucular fortitude required to be this honest and this vulnerable is Herculean – and HLR fucking NAILED IT.   I want to both acknowledge and thank her for that bravery. 

This is the book that Girl, Interrupted should have been – could have been – had Vintage had an ounce of backbone and didn’t neuter it to hell and back.

Is History of Present Complaint worth the exchange rate, and the long shipping time? Hell. Yes. I would buy if it was written in shit on a cardboard box. I would wait forever for this. I will re-read it fifty times over. 

Now… don’t be a bitch, and buy the shit. 

The Worst Poetry Book Ever | Chap Review

imageI was window shopping on Amazon the other day when this chapbook came up in my Books You May Like feed. The title captured my attention because it’s the same type of fuckery that I would engage in.

I read some of the reviews, which were a glorious display of shit-posting that captured my warped little heart, so I decided to buy it.

Book Details

So this chapbook is rather large – 105 pages – and was self-published on Amazon’s KDP earlier this year.  It’s classified as Limericks and Humorous Verse, Internet and Social Media Humor, as well as Puns and Wordplay.  The author’s name is Lily Luverton – an appropriate porn star-esque pen name, appropriate for the content inside. Sits approximately 6 x 9 inches, with a matte pink cover and passable quality paper on the inside. The font choice sucks, I’ll be honest.   I folded the front cover back while reading and was pretty surprised at the fact that the glued spine didn’t shit the bed and rip off. Huzzah!

Content

This is an adult chapbook; definitely not meant for those under the age of 18. It consists entirely of sex and shit humor – which is my bag, entirely, but may not be yours. If not, steer clear.  The poems are all very short – shorter than most micro poetry – so it makes for a quick read.

Review

2When I opened the book, I immediately went to the Table of Contents and found this little gem which made me cackle like a fucking lunatic.

After seeing this, I was actually pretty excited to break into the rest of the book, thinking it was going to be right up my alley.  Like I said above, the poems are very short – shorter than most micro poetry – so it made for an incredibly quick read.

3The three pages are glorious! The poems are constructed in a way that lulls you into safety, and then the last line is so unexpected you can’t help but laugh. It’s authentic in that it’s plain to see that there was some effort made when constructing the poems, that there is a point in creating them the way they were created.

The next five pages are meh.  The intentionality that is present in the first three pages begins to ebb, rather quickly, and everything turns to shit. The next 100 or so pages is filler; packed with writing that tries too hard to be funny, shocking, and disgusting. You can feel the author straining to meet these markers, and it stops being authentic or funny.

I’m pretty well aware that the writer’s intention is to make it a shitty book of poetry (as the title implies) but the sad fact is this: it could have been something REALLY good and honestly funny. And it isn’t. And I am so incredibly sad over that because I thought I’d found my literary soul mate. Lily, Lily, why did you let me down?

Is it worth the $12 and shipping time? Nah.