Category
  • This Book Will Change Your Life - Gay Zoo Day by the Mike McClelland.

    We are quite happy to have had an early look at Gay Zoo Day by the Mike McClelland which is out so soon. We are also quite happy to let you know that we think it just might change your life. If you let it.

    “Mike McClelland’s writing is like the love affairs he writes so lovingly about: urgent, intimate, and sometimes sordid, yet always attuned to the smaller gestures and details.”

  • This Book Will Change Your Life - Portrait of the Artist as a Bingo Worker by the Lori Jakiela.

    We are quite happy to have had an early look at Portrait of the Artist as a Bingo Worker by the Lori Jakiela which is out so soon. We are also quite happy to let you know that we think it just might change your life. If you let it.

    "I could throw a rock in just about any direction and hit a good writer. The hard part is finding the special ones, the writers who make us laugh, then cry and who make us feel like they're in our heads. Lori Jakiela is one of the special ones, and with Portrait of the Artist as a Bingo Worker, she reminds us why, essay by essay, sentence by sentence. She writes from the heart, she's fearless and funny, and her love for her family and her craft leap off the page."

  • This Book Will Change Your Life - The Expanse Between by the Lee L. Krecklow.

    The Expanse Between by the Lee L. Krecklow got us thinking about mood. There is the mood of the books we read, in this case, dread, and fear, and a lingering sense of disappointment and defeat that washes across the pages. But The Expanse Between is surprisingly thrilling as well, which is not to say we are surprised that we are thrilled to have read it, but that it is a thriller at all. We didn't know that was coming. Or that we would find ourselves so caught up in the trap that was being set for us all along. We were caught up, however, and there is a real thrill in that too. That we also found ourselves full of sadness as we plowed through the last third of the book though is something else. Because that is about mood as well. Now whether we projected some kind of sadness onto the characters in the book or absorbed their suffering and confusion is hard to parse. We assume there is always some kind of push-pull between the reader and those we are reading about, and that a story such as this, which is comprised of damaged parents, violence, the frustration of work that doesn't work, and desperate artists yearning for inspiration can't help but pull us in. It may be that there is a feeling of disappointment and defeat washing over us as well in recent months, okay, let's be clear, there has been, and that the book tapped into it. There is something else though, any of this, all of it, speaks to make what books good, even great. They pull us in, we feel things, the characters hurt, and we hurt, but we can't look away, we need to know what happens next, and then after that. The Expanse Between is such a book, and it is sure to change your life.

  • This Book Will Change Your Life - Whup Jamboree by the Garret Schuelke.

    We are quite happy to have had an early look at Whup Jamboree by the Garret Schuelke which is just out now. We are also quite happy to let you know that we think it just might change your life. If you let it.

    "Garret Schuelke knows the dispossessed. The uncared for. Those who go without. But Schuelke also knows violence and with Whup Jamboree he brings a true lyricism to violence as communication, or more accurately, how we use violence in lieu of our ability to express both our sense of confusion, and our anger, at being left behind."

  • This Book Will Change Your Life - eNJoy: Stories by the Sea by the Glen Binger.

    We are quite happy to have had an early look at eNJoy: Stories by the Sea by the Glen Binger which is just out now. We are also quite happy to let you know that we think it just might change your life. If you let it.

    "Having read Glen Binger's new collection eNJoy I now believe that we can only achieve true happiness when our feet are dangling in the ocean and we have an ice coffee in hand. I also believe that everything one needs to know about girls, pork rolls and the meaning of life can be found on the beaches of the Jersey shore."

  • This Book Will Change Your Life - The Miles Between Me by the Toni Nealie.

    To continue a recent theme of sorts, objectivity has never played much of a role in the expansion of the This Blog Will Change Your Life empire. We serve at the great pleasure of ourselves, what we love, what we want to consume, what we choose to hype, and to use the vernacular, what we think calls for curation. It is also true that despite this practically complete lack of pretense on this matter, we always felt that our long running relationship with Curbside Splendor ought to preclude us from spending much space here commenting on their books. We have enjoyed most all those we read, we were honored to support their releases in any fashion we could and we were always proud of the quality and diversity of those releases. All of which brings us somewhere, though at a minimum, where it brings us is The Miles Between Me by the Toni Nealie. It is an essay collection in the great tradition of Curbside essay collections such as Meaty or Once I Was Cool. It is heavy in theme - family, loss, isolation - because Curbside collections always are - but written with the same passion and intensity as those previous collections, and so much love of word, and world, that their words, and worlds, sing. We want to go a step further though with The Miles Between Me. The book's themes around immigration, displacement, and color and how these themes become intertwined with not only family, loss and isolation, but policy and travel, would have resonated at any time in this country of immigrants, as well as at a time when the world grows only smaller. But this isn't any time, nor for the time being, even the same country. We are something else right now, something that feels so sudden and inexplicable, but isn't, not really, not when we look to history and the swings of the policy pendulum that have accompanied the nation's progress, and endless regressions. And in this way, The Miles Between Me couldn't be more timely, or more saliently bring the language of displacement and distance to the page, and into the ether. Our only hope, is that it will also have an impact on the dialogue surrounding immigration, because it is needed, and writing that doesn't feel subjective at all, just necessary, and right.

  • This Book Will Change Your Life - We Could've Been Happy Here by the Keith Lesmeister.

    We are thinking about objectivity. Not that we pretend to practice that here. No obligation, no need. We read what we want. We try to support the small press community. If we don't like something, or it doesn't require our assistance, we might not consume it at all. Which brings us to We Could've Been Happy Here by the Keith Lesmeister. Or at least Keith Lesmeister himself. To start. We had the great pleasure of meeting Lesmeister the other night. Listening to him read. Meeting his friends. Having some drinks. He's an incredibly decent guy, interesting, a parent, professor and a now the author of a truly splendid debut collection of stories from our friends at Midwestern Gothic. Which to extend the point, objectivity and all, or lack thereof, we do love the Midwestern Gothic. Great books. Great team. Great supporters of writers. And we know we're going to love what they do. But there is still a book to read. A book wrapped in a lot of endlessly positive energy going-in. Can we be objective? Does it matter? Maybe it's a Both... And. It matters, because everything matters, and doesn't at all, because when a book is filled with as much ache as We Could've Been Happy Here, it doesn't matter who wrote it, or published it. There's a current of separation in We Could've Been Happy Here, from family, from society, from self, which oozes across the pages and stories, that is so knowing and real, it feels like truth. And whose to say it isn't a truth? Or something just like it anyway. What we can say, is that We Could've Been Happy Here will change your life, as we suspect Lesmeister's next book will, and the one after that. Again, maybe we're not being objective, but again, we don't have to pretend we have to be. We like what we like and that we believe is its own kind of truth as well.  

  • This Book Will Change Your Life - Searching for John Hughes by the Jason Diamond.

    We could tell you how much we once loved John Hughes in the same way we loved Jim Carroll. That we watched The Breakfast Club in much the same way we read The Basketball Diaries. That it felt alive, electric, funny and sad. That it unpacked some kind of truth for us. That it was knowing and had its own distinct voice. But even then, unlike The Basketball Diaries, which was a singular blow to the heart and head, John Hughes also brought us Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, Some Kind of Wonderful, Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Home Alone, movies we went on dates to and watched in basements, and illustrated a time in our life that somehow John Hughes recognized, understood and captured on screen. So we could do all that. Or, we could tell you how Jason Diamond has created a story that is heartbreaking and charming and full of longing - for place, family, direction, happiness, stability, love and so much more - with his memoir Searching for John Hughes. That even when it travels into territory so far removed from our own, both the abuse and rootlesness he has fought against, and moved past, as well as his dogged efforts to become a journalist and make a living as a writer, the book spoke to us. Because any writer who is Jewish and knows New York and Chicago and John Hughes and drinks and loses people, however they may become lost, is telling stories we know too, and apparently just cannot get enough of. Somehow though, even that's not exactly what we want to say. What we want to say, is something more ineffable, something about life, and the writer's desire to transcribe that, as well as aging, and loss. We are also thinking about Old Records Never Die by the Eric Spitznagel, a book we consumed just a year ago this time. It is also a book about searching, about going on a journey, and trying to understand our youth so we can not only make make sense of our present, but create it whole. We can choose to be on a journey or not. We can choose to try to make sense of who we are and how we've gotten here or ignore it. We can try to become our best selves professionally and personally or we can coast. As soon as we decide we are on a path, however, that we want to understand it, and intend to move forward, than we have no choice, but to be in it, breathing it and living it. And when we are writers we have to write about it. Like Spitznagel, Diamond has decided to write about his journey and invite you into it, and in doing so he just might change your life. If not, he will certainly cause you to pause and to ask yourself, is this my best life, and if the answer is no, am I least trying to make it so, something we believe John Hughes would appreciate, and Jim Carroll as well, storytellers both, who pushed and pushed, until they could do so no more.

  • This Book Will Change Your Life - North and Central by the Bob Hartley.

    Travel. Read. Rinse. Repeat. We have been travel and we have been read and we have been truly excited for North and Central by the Bob Hartley because Tortoise Books has brought us a lot of pleasure going back to The Last Good Halloween by the Giano Cromley and all through Staggerwing by the Alice Kaltman. But it wasn't just that. We rarely read anything from the crime genre. No judgment mind you, just not our jam, and yet we do quite love Beautiful Piece by the Joseph G. Peterson, and when we heard that North and Central seemed to be playing with a similar vibe - Chicago born author riffs on Chicago. blue collar protagonists, a femme fatale, required, a bar, bonus - our interest was only heightened. What we can say, is that we loved it like we loved Beautiful Piece, the texture of characters, the mood, the richness of the storytelling, and to obnoxiously borrow from our riff on Beautiful piece, "the story both soars and grinds towards what will clearly be an ending that can't be good for anyone involved." Which is what we want from our crime novels, right? Of course it is. But still, even with the Tortoise and Beautiful Piece love all afloat, that may not even be what lingers with us the most. What North and Central has created is a sociological study. Yes there's crime, and love, dread, all of those rich characters, but more than anything it is Chicago at a certain time and place. The 1970's, John Wayne Gacy, Disco, and all the layers that come with that. You believe that Hartley knows that world. Not to mention the world of dive bars and those who inhabit them, including the crooked cops, who he is also seems to know so well. And by the end you know it too, even if you also know that it can't end all that well, because crime novels never do. Not exactly anyway.

  • These Books Will Change Your Life - Failure Pie In A Sadness Face and Something To Do With Self-Hate by the Brian Alan Ellis.

    Here is what we have previously told you about the Brian Alan Ellis and who he writes about: "the blue collar, under-employed denizens who haunt grim, dead-end neighborhoods, bars, and couches, as they try to figure out how to get laid, fix there fucked-up relationships, find work, or care for their damaged family members, all of whom exist in some near dank netherworld, that so many of us scurry by on the way to somewhere else." It may not surprise you as it did not us, that in the new short story collection Failure Pie In A Sadness Face and novel Something To Do With Self-Hate by Ellis, both of which are out, or about to be out, now, Ellis returns to the gritty, or more accurately, nasty, drug-riddled, violence-prone, dilapidated domicile dwelling, damaged family, death baiting, gnarly sexual environs of his previous work. But what the Ellis completists such as ourselves are sure to be oxymoronically delighted by is the level of existential dread that has wormed its way into Ellis' latest work. Take this passage from the story "Haunted Alarm Clock" foe example:

    "I figure it's best to just stay in bed gazing into a blemished white ceiling, where things move and take shape. It's not easy to do those things; it's not easy at all-to think, and to move, and to change shape like that. Besides my thoughts are crummy; they eat away at me like cancer, which is what cancer does. And there is a voice. The voice says, "Listen," and I do." (page 8)

    Which is to say that Ellis has always had the gift of story and detail, which we would note yet again, are stories and details so few of us know, or at least tell, but these books represent new layers, efforts to get at what the characters are feeling amidst all of this despair and decay. As Ellis writes In Something To Do With Self-Hate:

    "You borrow life the day you're born. Then you give it back the moment you die.

    A person couldn't keep life forever, even if they wanted to-and who would, especially when there's a shit summer to exist through every year?" (pages 88-89)

    Now, whether this is a kind of maturity as a writer, a conscious effort to dig deeper or these feelings had no choice but to work their way to the surface of Ellis' work, we cannot say, we just know that there is a level of insight and self-awareness happening that speaks to us, and elevates the work. We also know, that we look forward to more of this, the hard questions, the pain, even the sense that there may not be much reason to go on at all. And we definitely know, that stories are stories are stories, but it's when they start to sing, that they are sure to change lives.