Obsessions and Tragedy: On Gabriel Blackwell’s “Doom Town”

"Doom Town"

There’s something incredibly rewarding about getting to watch a writer evolve in real time. Case in point: Gabriel Blackwell, whose first few books included memorable postmodern riffs on the works of Raymond Chandler and H.P. Lovecraft. Nearly all of Blackwell’s books to date have had some overarching thematic conceit — from the shorter works collected in Correction to the meditation on the film Vertigo in the novel Madeleine E.

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Helen Schulman Humanizes a #metoo Villain in “Lucky Dogs”

"Lucky Dogs" cover


Helen Schulman’s Lucky Dogs beguiles readers with its profane bluntness and spellbinding cast as it explores and exposes the misogyny of the Harvey Weinstein trials. Meredith (a fictionalized Rose McGowan) and the victim of Weinstein (“The Rug,”) writes that during the assault, The Rug’s “pubes got in my mouth. I felt that hair on my tongue for like the next six weeks.” Schulman’s instinct to revel in irreverence is part of what makes Lucky Dogs an electrifying read.

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Very Online, With an Abundance of Menace: On Meghan Lamb’s “Coward”

"Coward" cover

Given the amount of time that we spend in online spaces, it’s not surprising that many writers have sought to replicate the experience of social networks, text messaging, and shitposting in their prose. Finding a way to do it without stumbling along the way is a little more of a challenge. (There’s an early-2000s novel by one of my favorite writers where the evocation of texting felt so dissonant it took me out of the narrative.) And while many of us have been online for years or decades, it feels like it’s taken literature a little bit of time to catch up.

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Two Outcasts and the Mysteries That Bind Them: A Review of Craig Clevenger’s “Mother Howl”

"Mother Howl"

My experience with Craig Clevenger, in a nutshell: I was unfamiliar with the man’s work before this year. In early June, I noticed that Rob Hart recently interviewed Clevenger and, in his introduction to that interview, had a lot of enticing things to say about Clevenger up until this point. I’m generally fond of writing that could be described as Weird Noir, and my interest was piqued. I picked up Clevenger’s Mother Howl at a Barnes & Noble just north of the Bronx the day Cormac McCarthy died and read the book not long afterwards. The first thing I did upon finishing it? I ordered copies of Clevenger’s previous novels.

So, yeah, I liked it.

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Shoot For the Stars: A Review of Matthew Binder’s “Pure Cosmos Club”

"Pure Cosmos Club"

I’ve got a buddy back in Jersey who just bought a house. When I stopped by he was putting in new kitchen appliances and the whole place still smelled like the styrofoam wrap new electronics come in. My buddy is an engineer and makes small but, as I understand it, very fundamental parts for airplanes. He took me out to the backyard and we drank Modelos from the can while his neighbors splashed in a pool. The air smelled delicious. I thought about a rejection email I had received earlier that day and thought: what the hell am I doing with my life? 

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On Norman Mailer’s “A Mysterious Country: The Grace and Fragility of American Democracy”

Norman Mailer cover

“Under all my remarks rests a very unhappy premise. Fascism may be more to the tastes of the ruling powers in America than democracy. That doesn’t mean we’ll become a fascist country tomorrow. There are any number of extensive forces in America that would resist it. There are also huge forces in America that are promoting fascism, one way or another…” So wrote Norman Mailer in The Big Empty (2006), published a year before his death in 2007. He had been pressing the point since his first novel The Naked and the Dead in 1948 when he was twenty-five years old.

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Forget the Sex Pistols, The Clash, etc.: Notes on “Shotgun Seamstress”

"Shotgun Seamstress"

I grew up listening to punk rock, No-Wave, and various types of experimental music in the basement of my parents’ home in New Jersey, where the now old-fashioned stereo system was located: two large speakers leaning against the wall at an angle on bar stools, turntable and heavy receiver mounted on a wooden stand between them. I went to Bleecker Bob’s and Generation records on the lower east side, or a small record shop, Things from England, a few blocks from where I lived in New Jersey, to pick up the latest new wave and punk records. I was thinking of these early experiences when I picked up Shotgun Seamstress

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Short, Sharp Shocks: On Jeremy Haun’s “Haunthology”


The first thing that caught my eye after opening Jeremy Haun’s Haunthology was the list of blurbs. About half of them came from comics creators I admire (Declan Shalvey! James Tynion IV!), while the other half came from horror writers whose work I dig (Laird Barron! John Langan!). Throw in an introduction by Nathan Ballingrud and you have something tailor-made to pique my interest.

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