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The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresán

    "Today's electrocuted readers, accustomed to reading quickly and briefly on small screens. And, yes , goodbye to all of them, at least for as long as this book lasts and might last. Unplug from external inputs to nourish yourselves exclusively on internal electricity." The above quote is taken from the opening paragraph of this magnificent, exuberant 550-pager by Argentine author Rodrigo Fresán, a novel for lovers of books and reading, a novel about writing and writers and a plethora of other provocative topics for readers to linger over and luxuriate in. I plan to devote as much time as needed to let the words and sentences tingle my spinal cord and electrify my blood at the pace of five pages a day. Doing the math, I will be ready to post a full review at the end of July.  Until then . . .
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Recoil by Jim Thompson

  "Life is a bucket of shit with a barbed wire handle." This Jim Thompson quote would serve as the perfect epigraph for Recoil . Oklahoma Jim cooks up a simmering fictional stew with Recoil , his 1953 hardboiled crime novel that's a searing indictment of much of American society. That gent in the above photo could be a poster boy for 1950s American affluence and optimism. There he is, all smiles, proud of his new car and house, the head of the household ready to drive off to his high paying job as an oil company junior executive. What's not pictured is what Jim Thompson focuses on in Recoil , things like his oil company creating " a, broad sluggishly moving expanse of greasy sludge and mud and water; the waste from the city's oil field." As one character says sourly, "A little present from the oil companies. They've taken a billion dollars out of this field, and they're taking more every day. But th

The Proof by César Aira

"WANNAFUCK?" Marcia was so startled she didn't understand the question. The above two lines serve as the opening for The Proof , Argentine author César Aira's remarkable novella. Marcia is the tale's main character and our small, chubby, blonde sixteen-year-old is about to have an encounter that will radically shift the direction of her young life. Marcia strolls along an avenue in Buenos Aires three blocks away from Plaza Flores, in an area of the city where teenagers gather en masse. The only reference to Marcia's backstory occurs in connection with a sense of time. "It was only logical that time should become denser when she got there. Outside her story she felt she was gliding along too rapidly, like a body in the ether where there was no resistance. Nor should there be too much resistance or she would be paralyzed, as had happened to her during a rather tragic period of her life that was already vanishing

The Rip-Off by Jim Thompson

  Rip-Off by Jim Thompson tops the list as the pulpiest pulp fiction novel ever written. You want rock 'em sock 'em action? You want crisp dialogue that crackles and pops? Here you go in spades, baby. Jim Thompson hits his main character Britton Rainstar with so many problems, dilemmas, challenges and conflicts, it's as if the author wanted to push the boundaries of crime noir to the point of goofiness, just to see how much he could get away with. Listening to the audio book, I had the distinct feeling Jim Thompson shoved the Rip-Off manuscript in his bottom drawer and intended it to stay there. Thompson died in 1967 and Rip-Off didn't see the light of publication until 1989, twenty-two years after Jim's death. Did someone controlling the Thompson estate want to cash in on another Jim Thompson novel? I wouldn't be shocked - the lure of money can be so tempting. I wonder if Jim Thompson laughed out loud while worki

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

  How many hardboiled detective novels have been written since 1939, the year Raymond Chandler introduced his perceptive, quick-witted LA tough guy, private eye Philip Marlowe? Round to the nearest 10,000. That's hardboiled as in a world of crooked cops, organized crime, double-crossing grifters and every other door in a downtown office reeking of swindle, sex angles or shady business deals. In such a world, it's every citizen for themselves and an honest detective can trust absolutely nobody, frequently not even their client. The Big Sleep takes its rightful place among American literary masterpieces. Give me a feature of what goes into making a great novel, things like character, plot, scene, suspense, dialogue, atmosphere, tone. and I'll point out examples aplenty in The Big Sleep . To focus on one key feature, let's take a gander at a string of Big Sleep character sketches. And as with all seven Raymond Chandler novels

The Sunset Perspective, A Moral Tale by Michael Moorcock

The Sunset Perspective - A Moral Tale takes its place as number five of eleven adventures within the cycle of stories comprising The Lives and Times of Jerry Cornelius . We're given ten short chapters and Michael Moorcock keeps in the spirit of allowing a reader to take on the role of co-creator, filling in the gaps, expanding this Jerry saga with one's own imagination. All of the many news clips and news references are from that most wild 1960s year – 1969, the year of the Woodstock Festival, the year when the United States involvement in Vietnam was at its peak as was public outrage against the war. Sidebar: I myself recall just how wild - I was a college sophomore in 1969. Publishing note: The Sunset Perspective first appeared in a 1971 London avant-garde poetry magazine edited by John Sladek and Pamela Zoline, a poetry magazine with the wickedly satiric title Ronald Reagan: A Magazine of Poetry . Here's a batch of Sunset Perspective tabs in the form of dir

Pop. 1280 by Jim Thompson

  Don't be fooled! Nick Corey might pass himself off as a good-natured hick sheriff intent on doing right but looking ever so slightly deeper we'll detect author Jim Thompson has given us a searing portrait of a man who is the embodiment of cruelty, ruthlessness and sheer evil. According to Stephen Mache, Pop. 1280 offers up “a preposterously upsetting, ridiculously hilarious layer cake of nastiness, a romp through a world of nearly infinite deceit.” And there's cool cat Mark Monday characterizing the novel as “bleak and misanthropic and evilly hilarious.” Whoa, bubba, with this noir classic, Jim Thompson deserves to be celebrated as America's “dimestore Dostoevsky.” For a Texas taste or Oklahoma oomph of what Nick Corey and the other folks in this top dog Thompson tale are all about, I'll mosey on over to Potts County, population 1280, and share the following Pop. movie trailer: DARTH VADER TRICKSTER As soon as Nick Corey opens his mouth, everyone judge