Reviews

Exit Rostov by Henry Virgin initially reminded me of Paul Auster’s masterpiece, Leviathan. It is a tale of a missing friend and one man’s journey to find him at any cost. As the narrative expanded it felt more like a romantic elegy… Set against the background of post-Soviet Russia, it gives the reader a glimpse of a time in history that many have forgotten about, including myself. It also cuts a swath across Russian history and the many stories and incidents that shaped its development through the centuries… What I loved most about Henry’s book was the integration of media: photos, poems and paintings that gave the narrative additional depth, placing the reader in the visual field of all the main events and tracing the narrator’s profound journey through love and war. March 13, 2021

Despite its slimness, Elizabeth Aldrich’s poetry and prose in Ruthless Little Things is heavy with a dark and sultry flavour. Smoke is in the air, but a sadness pulses throughout; a grasping toward something real and warm. A book with enormous heart, albeit with a knife in it. True to her Libra nature, Ruthless Little Things doesn’t drown you or overindulge. Everything is crystal clear and balanced, nothing is wasted. The sweat and smell of youth lives here, the feeling of reckless abandon… while walking that thin line between life and death, laughing all the way. I read the second half of this book today in a rare state of silence and rest, and I realized how much it reminded me of Kathy Acker’s Blood in Guts in High School, drawn from real life, pain and sorrow. I hope one day this book joins the pantheon of great LA novels of the past by the likes of Fante, Bukowski, Ellis and others. The great swoon I felt as I finished it was like imagining the sun dipping into the Pacific…a beautiful scene, but it will be dark again soon enough. February 14, 2021

Snuff Memories by David Roden is a multitude of various dangers, coagulated in a thick broth that brings to mind Cronenberg body horror, bleak sci-fi landscapes and philosophical eroticism. This is a sensually dark book that evokes Giger-like bodies fornicating in sleek, stainless steel pleasure rooms where the question of identity and gender are blurred. The flow of these vignettes are perfectly balanced with lurid details and poetic flair. I felt strangely comfortable in this zone David created, though as each section ended I fully expected to wale up in a state of bio-mechanical ooze as a displaced body ready for execution. There is much to be digested here, re-read, re-thought and ultimately re-animated in one’s mind. This is a work that is demanding but extremely entertaining. A book that smiles at you as you’re being dissected. David has crafted something unique and frightening and sure to be nightmare fuel for a generation to come. February 9, 2021

From the very opening of Rituals Performed in the Absence of Ganymede it becomes apparent that Corrao has hit a new level of inventiveness. We are taken further into abstract, strange realms. The corpses that inhabited his previous book, “Gut Text,” have been reanimated into Deleuzean assemblages that at once grow, wither and transform, only this time they are treated with a touch of the esoteric and arcane, blending philosophy, the occult and varying points of view. There is much digest here, but the text does not come off as lofty or pedantic. Quite the opposite in fact, where all the various experiments blend seamlessly to give a the reader a unique experience. Corrao has sharpened his literary sword and in doing so excelled yet again. 11:11 Press is proving once more that they’re producing challenging and engaging work. A great way to start the New Year from the ashes of the last. January 14, 2021

A rare kind of combinational alchemy is achieved in Chris’s Kelso’s Dregs Trilogy. I knew from its first pages that I was in for a whirlwind of dark pleasure and sharp prose. Everything feels essential here… Murder, mayhem, our rediscovery as a society of the occult forces that swirl around us, and inclusion of visual storytelling create something unique and fresh, even as we choke on its transgressions and its wonderful weirdness. Chris takes us to that shadowy underbelly. Even as we sit and watch these scenes unfold a part of us is not disturbed by what we are witnessing, likely because we know in our souls that these events happen everyday in the forgotten corners of our cities and towns, waiting for us to gobble up for our amusement.This is definitely worth a read for people who love experimentation, grit and variety in their writing. Certainly a book I’ll return to again when I want to feel the grotesque plaque of our collective unconscious hit me full in the face. One of my favourites of the year. December 20, 2020

Under the Sign of the Labyrinth by Christina Tudor-Sideri is a book carved from the flesh, and this is no surprise given the obsession this reflective essay has with the body. How it harbours our memories and emotions, scars and pain…This slender volume is deceptive about where it will take you, moving from deep philosophical insights to memories of the elemental forces and how they bred superstition. The landscapes that Christina describes is ethereally familiar to me but at the same time unknown and dark… Stylistically, not a word is wasted and the sentences flow naturally with grace and intelligence, dipped in melancholic shades. To say I was anxious to read this book is an understatement as I knew from Christina’s previous work that we would be receiving a balm for our souls. November 14, 2020

First, A Place, A Feeling, Something He Said To You by Alexandra Naughton was a soul wrenching read. It made me pause, it made me numb, it made me angry. The subject matter is often horrific and difficult to read, but necessary…Writing about trauma and abuse can be a daunting task, but here it is done with bravery and a resolve to heal and be human again. At times so jarring I had to set it down to catch my breath. A book I will not forget, and one everyone should read. Razor sharp and real. Incredible. September 23, 2020

I’m From Nowhere by Lindsay Lerman is a perfectly cut gem of a book. A character study of a woman dealing with the dimensions of grief, but also with her own existential questions concerning life, love and meaning. Well crafted…A quiet tension runs through these pages, but also fantasy, memory,and from my view, a sense of hope. Like Mercé Rodoreda’s Time of the Doves, this book gives us deep insight into the modern female experience, and does so with grace and style. June 30, 2020

Tractatus Pneumatologico Philosophicus by Graham Freestone is a timely book. As a self-described mystic, I’ve been waiting for a treatise that examines the often dicey world that is called “magick” in all its modes and shapes. Graham succeeds in looking at our spacio-temporal world through a different lens, and through a thorough investigation gives the reader much to ponder in regard to magick and synchronicity and its relation to philosophical inquiry. I look forward to more of these publications. July 31, 2020

My late friend, Will Bernardara, used to rave about Amygdalatropolis by B.R. Yeager, and I can see in its pages a high water mark for inventiveness. Like Bernardara’s own “America”, Amygdalatropolis carves out its own space… I felt unsettled, trapped but ultimately sucked into the hermetic world of /1404er/ and the fibre optic orgy that is his world. This book evokes a whole range of thought and emotional density. So much so that at times I had to question my own sanity. A smart, challenging read. July 10, 2020

In Information Blossoms, Ryan Bry has produced a collection of poetry that is a mosaic of emotions and impressions. I feel that Ryan is a kind of whimsical Allen Ginsberg, delighting the reader with an overflowing of gems that have swelled from a stewing pot of memories, experiences and sometimes general zaniness. This was a fun and rewarding read from a poet who seems to be equally jester and sage. Give into his fruitful imagination if you haven’t already done so and laugh in the rain with him. April 7, 2020

To begin, Confidence Man by Anthony Dragonetti was one of the most honest books I’ve read in some time. It’s honest because it’s true and it comes from the heart, like all good literature should. There is no pretension here, no mask…As the collection progressed I saw shades of wry humor, but also a sadness that permeated the pages that made moments of reading difficult, in particular Funhouse and several others. It’s nostalgia is not one of sun filled days, but rather of the darker nights of the soul. April 15, 2020

Faceless in Nippon by Dale Brett was a somber, slow burn of a book, soaked in all the imagined vistas of Japan, coupled with the narrator’s lived experience in a foreign, mesmerizing world. The language hits the brain…like a double hit of codeine washed down with Asahi Super Dry and often blazing before touching the heart with crushing ennui and lost love. Equal parts Bladerunner and Eno’s Plateux of Mirror, reflecting a gentle soul’s journey in the midst of exile. Read it and slowly dissolve. July 30, 2020

From the first pages of Carrie Lorig’s Blood Barn I knew that what I was about to read was a work of true sincerity, and composed from the very depths of the self. Any sincere work cannot be analyzed, only felt. I felt a sense of growth and overcoming in this book, coupled with a great use of space and color to artistically articulate what I felt was a struggle with the body and its identity, as well as its pain. Honestly, I can also say that I cannot know the struggles described here. Yet I felt privileged to gain some insight into what it means to heal, and the always active process of doing so which demands so much of us. Through the multiple modes of expression Carrie uses here, Blood Barn articulates these demands perfectly. December 29, 2019

I finished Grant Maierhofer’s Peripatet last night, and the first thing I would like to say about this book of “ambient literature” is how fast I flew through its pages. Unique and wondrous. Sad and strange. What I loved about this work was how brutally honest it felt. Whether it was about life, the function of art or the failure of it, I was swept up in its power. It’s the kind of book I can talk about in terms of feelings rather than ideas, though there are plenty of great ideas. Often I felt saddened, other times exhilarated, caught in a web of apparently disparate elements that all seemed to hang together in a mosaic of, dare I say, awesomeness. This is the kind of book that I will proudly display with the others on my shelf. Thank you Grant for continuing my belief in the transcendent nature of art, even if in our darkest moments we believe it achieves nothing. Peripatet is the axe for my frozen sea…a rare and engaging work. That is all. October 15, 2019

The brief, subtle poems of Sophie Essex’s Some Pink Star evoke a myriad of images that oscillate between the cerebral and the erotic, leaving a trail of strange wonderment. The opening poem “Titian Blue” opens with a blast of air and ends in primal lust. As the collection unfolds, the contrasts heighten with such lines as “in immaculate summer heat” juxtaposed with ” each fist a readjustment”. Every poem a mirror of something equally beautiful and possibly dark and exciting, leaving the reader nicely unsettled. At other times, like a wisp of smoke, the poems seem to disappear without warning and the traces of the images linger in the mind before surrendering to the void before coming up for one final breath. These poems are alive with erotic tension, venom and dream-like quality. In short, this collection by Miss Essex proves that the relationship between art and experience is alive and well within her pages. July 5, 2019

Radia, a chapbook which weighs so little is deceptive, due to the fact that its contents have the density of a neutron star. The pull of its gravity is immense and I was reminded immediately how poetry can mesmerizing. From the first poem “Undertow” we’re taken into what I felt was the not so distant future where consciousness has achieved a final fragmentation, summoning up images of a strange past where we collectively saw the failing of the light. But the light still flickers in our minds. Perhaps that is what is meant in “Shameless Sun” by the line “a colourway cognitive hiss” where the last wisps of beauty flit through our minds. But Radia also embraces this flitting beauty in such lines as “amid the blue of day’s ornamental music.” The cadences of these brief poems reminded me of the best of Ginsberg and the flights of fancy in Kerouac’s “Old Angel Midnight” where there is a hypnotic rhythm that brings you deeper into the poem itself, bathing you in the juxtaposition of images. As Khomutoff points out in the poem “Anthem of the Heart”, “a poet must enact the shadowplay of grammar” and this is certainly accomplished here. This collection is all too brief, but one I will go back to time and again when I need a reminder of the beauty of poetry. August 1, 2019

As I entered the pages of Mike Corrao’s Gut Text, the first thing that became apparent to me was that I was interacting with a living, breathing text. A text that was born out of the ashes of Beckett’s Unnamable. Instead of a slow disintegration, we see the corpse having its muscles, bones and nerves reattached, trying once again to become aware and interact with the world. As the voice YY says in the book: “empty cavities are damp and often the birthplaces of new ecologies.” Yet, as this self awareness grows we see a kind of chaos ensue and the space in which this new consciousness resides becomes erratic. These new signs of life emanating from this fresh body quickly becomes choked in the following pages. Through the dreamscapes and labyrinths of this text we see the multiple voices interweave and take on new forms, rising and falling, struggling to actualize with a deep wish to be whole and corporeal and expand beyond themselves. The great joy of reading Gut Text comes literally from one’s own “gut”…a feeling of growth coming from deep within as questions of identity, space and consciousness fuel our existential angst as voices shift and fade. Gut Text hypnotizes us as we stare into its mirror. July 21, 2019

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