As many of you know, whenever I’m quiet I’m busy. Lately I’ve been very quiet because I’ve been very busy with my biggest project to date: a collection of essays on True Detective Season 1. I’m still at work on the final pieces of the manuscript, but the book will be coming out this summer from the good folks at Sequart publishing.
Much like my essays already available on Sequart’s site, the book will focus on the genre elements as well as literature, film, musical and comics influences at work in the first season. Adam & Mark Stewart are contributing a excellent piece focusing exclusively on the comics influences and I’ve written a musical appendix listing all of the songs used in the show along with a brief analysis of how they contribute to the scenes in which they appear. Miguel Rodriguez of the Horrible Imaginings Film Festival and podcast also contributed some intriguing film suggestions for our related readings/ viewings appendix.
Stay tuned for more news and a release date!
My poem, “An Evening in Two Stanzas,” is up at the minutiae. They’re a new journal focusing on micro poetry, flash fiction and short essays. You can check it out here: http://theminutiae.blog.com/2012/06/04/melissa-milazzo-an-evening-in-two-stanzas/
Title: Armageddon in Retrospect
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
I’m always wary of any posthumously published works by my favorite authors. That’s why I approached Armageddon in Retrospect, a collection of Kurt Vonnegut’s essays and short stories, with caution. Being a great writer isn’t just knowing what words to leave in a story, it’s knowing which words should be left out. If Vonnegut chose not to publish these works while he was alive, he must have felt that they were not his best. Part of me prefers to honor the body of work that Vonnegut chose to show us, not what he left on the cutting room floor. Still, there’s much to be learned about the craft of writing by seeing less polished pieces from talented authors. It’s a fine line to walk, but I think Armageddon in Retrospect does it well.
The book contains both fiction and non-fiction pieces like speeches and letters. The non-fiction in Armageddon is classic Vonnegut: a dose of rueful humor to sweeten the moral outrage. His speeches seem like the ramblings of an old man, circular and humorous. By the time he’s ready to make his point Vonnegut has touched your humanity, opened your heart just enough to feel what he’s saying rather than just hear it.
The best piece in the book is the letter that Vonnegut wrote to his family in 1945 after escaping a German prison camp. It is amazing. Vonnegut takes only two pages to talk about his experience, covering all the facts up to where he is at the moment. It’s one of the most efficient pieces of communication I have ever seen. More than that, it appears to be the birth of his use of refrain. When describing the death of some of his fellow soldiers Vonnegut says, “Many men died from shock. . . after ten days of starvation, thirst an exposure. But I didn’t.” The “but not me” refrain runs throughout his letter home, screaming his survivor’s guilt without ever addressing the topic directly.
Most of the short stories in the collection are from early in Vonnegut’s career. He had not yet developed his trademark humor or learned to employ speculative fiction elements (like time travel) in to his work. Vonnegut’s anger in these early pieces is raw and often barely disguised by plot. These stories are not the easiest things to read. Still, they offer hope to struggling writers. If Vonnegut started out like this, it’s possible to keep working, to keep searching until you develop a style that allows you to tell even the most complicated of stories.
Ultimately, I enjoyed Armageddon and recommend it to all Vonnegut fans. I enjoyed Armageddon – now how many people can say that?
I have a new short story up at http://gloaminggap.com/2011/09/of-wolves-and-men/
It’s just a simple story about a mother trying to teach her boys some important life lessons. Those lessons are very different in a town like Gloaming Gap. Check it out!
Picking up the Ghost is cool new novel set to publish later this year. It’s written by Tone Milazzo, a man who, through a series of coincidences and misadventures, happens to be married to me. Of course, this in no way colors my glowing recommendation of his book. Really. Check it out. It’s awesome.
In addition to writing the book, Tone has created a website to promote the book. It’s pretty common these days to hand out a chapter or two online, but Tone prefers to make potential readers work for it, or even better, suffer for it. So if you visit his website the first chapter is free, but to unlock the next three you’ll have to solve a series of puzzles. Visit the site now and you’ll be able to say you knew about Picking Up the Ghost before it was even published. Get on it:
Read Write Rhyme is one year old today! I’ll forgo the traditional 1st birthday festivities (but I might smash a little cake in my hair later, just for fun). I’ll just use the occasion to thank everyone for reading and sharing my posts. Thank you, super cool people!
I’ll be back to posting new material next month, but for now I’d like to share a few of the very first entries on this site. Ah, nostalgia…
Snake Woman in La Yerma
Five Unsexy Sex Dreams (possibly NSFW)
Why my mother calls me at work
1. To complain that my father does not like sweet potatoes.
2. To wish me happy birthday, then argue with me when I inform her it is not my birthday.
3. To ask me if I’m at work.
4. To tell me that my father was lost in the Grand Canyon for about 30 hours, but they found him and everything is fine now.
5. To inform me that someone I never met has died.
6. To ask if internet shopping is “on the up and up.”
7. To tell me that fiber is very important and that people often become constipated when they travel.
8. To ask if I know an affordable “computerologist” who can “fix her internet.”
9. To demand a suggestion for her book club that “does not have obscenity, violence, magic, dying animals, cancer or more than 300 pages.”
Author: Cherie Priest
Dreadnought is the third installment in Cherie Priest’s popular Clockwork Century series. The series is textbook steam punk, set in a world where the civil war raged on for another 20 years, where oil was discovered decades ahead of schedule and where zombifying poison gasses occasionally seep out of the ground in the Pacific Northwest.
Nurse Mercy Lynch is busy tending war wounded in a Virginia hospital when she learns of both her husband’s death and her estranged father’s dying wish to see her one last time. Mercy sets forth on a cross country trip by boat, dirigible, and trains, most notably the Union war-engine, the Dreadnought. Cherie Priest gives the reader many fearsome descriptions of the titular engine. For all the legend surrounding it, the Dreadnought seems to provide Mercy and her fellow passengers little protection. In fact, it seems to make them more of a target for raiders, spies and the Southern army.
While I realize that Dreadn0ught is a work of fiction, fantasy fiction at that, I was bothered by the key historical revision of this world: the South voluntarily freed their slaves and offered them land, just the same as white settlers. This revision doesn’t sit quite right with me. It treads the line of diminishing the cultural and historical impact of the real event and glosses over the cruelties perpetrated on an enslaved people. It’s damn convenient for Priest, who dodges the hurdle of creating sympathetic, pro-slavery Southern characters. In the world of Dreadn0ught, no one seems to know what the Civil War is about anymore, they just fight and steer clear of unpleasant political ideals.
Historical quibbles aside, Priest’s previous books have been real page turners, filled with well-drawn characters, engaging locations and actual conflict. Dreadnought is missing many of the ingredients that made the previous books in the series a success, leaving it a story with a lot of machines and gunsmoke, but not much impact.
Title: The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals: The Evil Monkey Dialogues
Author: Ann VanderMeer and Jeff VanderMeer
The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals is a charmingly illustrated, pocket-sized bestiary. The selection of animals presented is eclectic and includes everything from the Mongolian Death Worm to E.T. Each animal is first described, then discussed by Ann VanderMeer and “The Evil Monkey” (her husband Jeff’s blogging alter-ego). The discussions are mostly humorous, but also quite informative. I was surprised to find that by the end of the book I was getting good at figuring out which animals were Kosher and which were not. Should I ever find myself throwing a dinner party in Narnia, I now feel confident that I could plan a menu to accommodate all my guests!