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  • These Books Will Change Your Life - Free Boat by the John Reed and The Vig Of Love by the Bill Yarrow.

    We were thinking about how subjective these posts are. They are not quite review, but not quite blurb, both of which we take seriously when asked to produce them. It's just that they're not that. They are conversational, but not a full-on riff either. We want to capture what these books mean to us, and how we experience them. It's just that outside of the occasional Philip K. Dick or Gillian Flynn read, we almost always know the writers involved, we are happy we do and our commentary, whatever it is, is clearly influenced by that. We have no great desire to critique here. This, cheesiness aside, is a place of celebration, of words and reading and the authors we love. So, we are subjective and biased and unabashed about it, and this was on our mind as we dug into Free Boat by the John Reed and The Vig Of Love by the Bill Yarrow. Both of these writers are friends, of a kind, we rarely get to see them outside of literary events and conferences,  and yet, they are more than acquaintances and seeing them whenever we do see them always makes us happy. What especially got us thinking about all of this subjectivity however, is how much the reading of these collections remind us of the authors themselves, and what we have clearly projected onto them, projections which are influenced by years of these (primarily quick) interactions.

    And so it is, that when we read Free Boat, a collection of love poems and sonnets, lies apparently, and something that feels like it might be memoir - the story of a man in love, and murder, strippers and mug shots, family history - and as we find ourselves caught-up in its massive swirl of weirdness and handsomely crafted language, we are further reminded not only how much Reed's work has always reminded us of Girl Talk, and that he himself has always felt so handsome and weird and refined to us, and given all of this we are subsequently not surprised when we read Reed in seeking to describe the poems in the book says, "I suppose there's just no getting around the fact they're all about me." And so it is too however, that in The Vig Of Love we think, this is the Yarrow we think we know, a refined man (also) of refined language, who is harboring, or is it managing, a swirl of emotion, and history, love and lust, a longing mixed with family history, geography, pop culture and change, and the belief that life is endlessly twisting and morphing, and that love is too, with age and time and our crazy, endless emotions, all captured here so beautifully in so many ways, though no less or more so than in "The Sober Boat" when he writes:

    "on a hopeless boat
    in a sea of sameness
    the belief that change will come
    sustains us."

    Indeed it will, might, we don't know. We write our words, we fall in love, we change lives, even as our lives are changed, and we remain hopeful, ever hopeful.

  • This Book Will Change Your Life - June by the Miranda Beverly-Whittemore.

    In a way, we would like to just get down to business. June by the Miranda Beverly-Whittemore is a page-turning delight, a shapeshifting tale that is both ghost story and mystery, bouncing along multiple time lines and unfolding with layers of suspense, humor, rich characterizations and celebrity. Also, we highly recommend it. Easy, that. But the business is something else entirely. We had the thrill once of participating in a panel with Beverly-Whittemore, and she too is a delight, thoughtful, humorous and all business as well. As memory serves us, and we do wonder how much we've created this idea in our head, Beverly-Whittemore spoke to her desire to write a best-selling novel, an effort which started with her previous book Bittersweet. And so she has, twice now. It almost feels miraculous. A best seller is a sort of miracle anyway, but consciously writing one? Wonderbar. That leads to the question however, of how one does so? Beverly-Whittemore didn't spill many secrets that day, and we hope we may get her to come onto This Podcast Will Change Your Life someday and spill at least some of it to us. But in the interim, we have been pondering what it is that makes for a bestseller, and in doing so, we will preface this by saying that skill is not one of the factors. Beverly-Whittemore writes the fuck out of June, but a lot of people can write the fuck out of the page. Maybe not all as well as Beverly-Whittemore, but still, a best seller is something else entirely. So, with that in mind, and June fresh in our minds, what might comprise the formula? One thought we have is that any best seller is served well by reflecting a certain epic sweep of time, years pass, time is crossed, people change. And people must change, there must be growth, risk and fear. There must be conflict, and there always must be love, but conflict, something that causes a break, confusion, brings that mystery, and solving all of that. Big. Triumph helps as well though. Overcoming something may be key, but doing so triumphantly, with growth and health intact is imperative. We all aspire to that in some fashion and to be able to project ourselves onto the page and see ourselves in said triumph is as aspirational as it comes. Sex and violence help, and ghosts, always, this is where the excitement comes, in the right dose, and when it is just enought to grab our attention, it's a must. Celebrity helps, we love it, we are drawn to it, and if said celebrities feel familiar, along with their scandals, all the better. Nostalgia too, also big, which if we learned anything from Mad Men, we should have at least learned that. The characters have to be likeable too, even at their worst, and when all is said and done, and even if we are crying in the end, which we of course were not, allergies we suspect, we have to smile. June accomplishes all of this, and does it well. Also, and this seems necessary, it certainly doesn't matter if you do somehow know everything that makes a best seller a thing, you still have to be able to bring it all together, itself a miracle of gift and craft, and while we don't how consciously Beverly-Whittemore thought about any of it, we are curious, we want to talk, and as always we want to change lives, ours, yours, whomevers.

  • These Books Will Change Your Life - Because I Wanted To Write You A Pop Song by the Kara Vernor and I Am Barbarella by the Beth Gilstrap.

    Travel. Read. Planes. Layovers. Read. Read. Read. We have been reading all week and we are riffing on all things read - please feel free to look here and here, assuming that's your jam - and today we are all about the quite stellar Because I Wanted To Write You A Pop Song by the Kara Vernor and I Am Barbarella by the Beth Gilstrap. Both are collections about relationships, with family, friends and lovers, new and old, and people trying to either get out of said relationships, make sense of them, repair them, or at least repair oneself in relation to them, or all of the above. I Am Barbarella is comprised of a number of intertwining pieces about those living on the edge of something, success, insight, love, sobriety, living on the fringe, small town and working class, and battling loss, so much loss, that they can never quite escape it, and don't really seem inclined to. Gilstrap's great strength is in fact just how lived-in these characters feel. She is not author as observer, and somewhere far off and commentating on them. She is author as embedded reporter, grounded, and in it. And while there are many stories in the collection that absolutely slayed us, we can say that "Getting By With Sound" may have hit us the hardest, leaving us to wipe away tears, and glance out of the airplane window, as opposed to uncomfortably making eye contact with the people in our row.


    The pieces in Because I Wanted To Write You A Pop Song are more a series of explosions, less intersecting and embedded, and more impressionistic, resulting in a lingering vibe that borders on the hallucinatory. Not to stretch what may feel like an obvious comparison too far, but the stories feel like pop songs, small gems of ideas spun into narratives that are primarily short, fast and full of jabs, which leave the reader's head spinning. Again, there are many stories here that left our head spinning, if not outright crushed - and we should probably note here, that Vernor's stories also tread more in the realm of violence, at least the threat of it, than those of Gilstrap's - but "Bonus Round" in particular left a mark. Though how couldn't a story that starts with the line "And then one day your molestor turns up as a contestant on Wheel of Fortune," not do so? We should add here, that you don't need travel to read these collections, you just need to read them, and sooner than later. We would also add, that they are sure to change your lives as well, though of course you already know that.

  • This Book Will Change Your Life - Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick.

    We suppose it's meta and obnoxious to state that when This Blog Will Share Your Life's curator at large Ben Tanzer wrote his novel Orphans he saw it as an homage to The Martian Chronicles and Death of a Salesman as chanelled by Philip K. Dick. What is more obnoxious, possibly, definitely, is that said curator, from here on known as "us" and as needed, "we," had never up to that point read anything by Philip K. Dick and still hadn't when Orphans was published. It occurred to us then as we began to write, then edit, Foundlings, the follow-up to Orphans, that we might just finally need to read some actual Philip K. Dick for inspiration and guidance, as well as for any proper, and further, channelling that might follow therein. We chose Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? for its focus on what we believed was it focus on androids and those who have both conflicted relationships with them and conflicted feelings about them. While we found that, as well as the expected bounty hunters and dystopia, we didn't know that Mars factored into the story, much less musings on marriage, affairs and how anyone makes anything work. And while we could tell you how much we loved the book, how we couldn't put it down or how it is rich in detail and imagination, we suspect you already know all of that. What we really didn't expect, however is that the book, like Orphans, and yes that comparison is surely obnoxious, is also a rumination on work and how we even begin to make the act of work itself work. Further, there is the following line about Deckard the bounty hunter, and primary protagonist, which not only caught us off-guard, but caused us pause: "...he found himself shaking. But I had to do it, he said to himself...I have to get my confidence, my faith in myself, and my abilities, back. Or I won't keep my job." Suffice to say that we have spent much of the last six to eight months in a similar headspace, work fucked, confidence undermined, swagger lacking. We want to get past that, and we intend to. We are doing so now. But to say being in this headspace has been unexpected and weird for us, much less that we dove into this book at this very time, after sitting on it for months, seeking, and expecting, something much different, has been an odd, yet pleasant surprise, leaving us to wonder if we were supposed to pick it up now and not sooner, which is very much not the kind thing we generally believe in. Still, this is where we are, this is when we picked it up, this is what Dick does and if the book hasn't in fact changed our lives, it has certainly spoken to us about just how fucked things can be until they're not. 

  • These Books Will Change Your Life - Aviary by the Seth Berg and Bradford Wolfenden II, Ghost County by the John McCarthy and A Child of Storm by the Michael J. Wilson.

    We know that we once read somewhere that given America's relative youth and lack of history it is this country's natural wonders that are it's great art. We always loved this thought in the same way that we loved how someone once said to us that pop culture was this generation's trees in terms of shorthand and vernacular. It's what we know. We couldn't help but muse on both of these sentiments as we found ourselves reading in a more or less succession - Aviary by the Seth Berg and Bradford Wolfenden II, Ghost County by the John McCarthy and A Child Of Storm by the Michael J. Wilson. All traffic in nature in their own ways and all traffic in America as well, some slice of it anyway, a feeling that may be exacerbated for us by the fact that we are reading in writing in Jerusalem this week, a place that is all history all of the time, and not America, historically or otherwise. 

    Aviary is presented to us as a collaboration between two poets with one voice emerging, which we dig, but we also dig the collection for its inventive word play, use of color, joy, and yes, nature. We could, should, add here, that we are already great fans of the Seth Berg, whose whole vibe is one inventive word play and joy, and that we even had a hand in publishing some of these pieces previously. That said, anyone, or anyone's, who want to hit us with phrasing such as "slimer on rye," "buttery fuchsia winter," "Side-mouth Son House double-talk," "flamingo starburst mint" and "Esophageal dust collectors," will always have our love.

    Ghost County is something else entirely, the joy being found in the cracks, caught somewhere on the edge of decrepit midwest highways and in between the love and violence that infuse these beautiful, aching poems. Another word we might use is haunting and no line is more haunting to us than the following one:

    "We will walk and tell
    no one that we are broken
    down outside a village

    in rural Dakota, a name
    I would give to our child
    if we were given that luck,
    but I only have pockets

    full of closed fists."

    These poems are all about closed fists and the desire to open them, and open oneself to the world, if things could just be a little less fucked. It's just that they won't be.


    A Child of Storm speaks less to what's fucked, though Wilson's 9/11 poems near the end might upend that argument, and more about how things get lost. The great majority of the poems are about Nikola Tesla who we know just enough about to know that he worked with electricity, alternating currents specifically, and that somewhere along the way he became mostly obscure and lost to the vagaries of time and popularity. In this way these poems are a love letter to Tesla, and what gets lost, and in this way, all ways, they are quite moving. There are also lines we just love, though none more than "The earth is a workable solution" and "What circus is America?"

    What indeed?

  • This Book Will Change Your Life - Sirens by the Joshua Mohr.

    After five novels the Joshua Mohr is back with the memoir Sirens. In eloquently exploring Mohr's congenital heart condition, the surgery that follows, Mohr's battle with sobriety and the newfound grounding he has found with his wife and young daughter, Sirens could easily be perceived as a memoir on addiction, though as Mohr told us in an upcoming episode of This Podcast Will Change Your Life, he sees it more as a memoir on relapse. Which we get. The battle and inevitability of relapse is as much part of the junkie's narrative as one's long sought and hoped for sobriety itself. Still, while we well embrace Mohr's take on his quite gripping, when not harrowing, when not entertaining, when not triumphant memoir, and yes we get it, it his memoir, we couldn't help but feel that this story is something else as well, a tale about how one survives, day by day, and moment by moment, as they fight to be sober, and build another life, a creative one, filled with love, and promise, where the pull of getting high never quite goes away and might even be missed. We should say too, that for Mohr the act of creation was something he was well engaged in long before he became sober, but it is also an act that allows him to stay sober, providing him with focus, and a way to organize his day, and day by day, and moment by moment at that. One final thought, or so, for now, but we have also had the great pleasure of reading Mohr's most auspicious debut Some Things That Meant The World To Me, as well as his most excellent fourth novel Fight Song, and the first he wrote sober, and it is no stretch to say - and Mohr speaks to this in that forthcoming podcast - that Sirens and Some Things That Meant The World To Me, are in fact two ends of a conversation. We get that too, and from our perspective, Fight Song is the bridge between them. In fact, when riffing on Fight Song, we wrote about the books, "both are quite trippy and full of searching characters who don't see that the answers they seek lie somewhere within." In Sirens, Mohr looks within, and we are all the better for it.

  • This Book Will Change Your Life - Lightwood by the Steph Post.

    We have been guilty here of comparing books we love to other books we love and authors to other authors we love and then feeling guilty of how lazy that feels. We have also been something else, not guilty, but what, we don't know, though it is about only realizing that there are books we love, and that will of course change your life, because someone really wants us to read them, and then we are pleasantly surprised to have read something that rocks in the most unexpected way possible. Lightwood by the Steph Post is something else entirely however. We never read crime fiction and never read enough about rural America or working class Americans. It's not a conscious decision, which is something we are also guilty of, not being a conscious enough of seeking out this kind of work. But this is where Steph Post comes in. She in no way has to represent the voice of crime, small town America or the south, unless she wants to, but for us, she is all of that. And after consuming Post's twisty, wonderful, and yes, nasty debut A Tree Born Crooked, we couldn't wait to see what came next, and what comes next was more of all that - family, crime, sex, sweat, garages, blood, back roads, dirt, heat, tank tops, grease, alcohol, boobs, diners and cigarettes. No one else we read does any of that quite like she does. Always pushing and churning all at once, everyone filled with conflict, loyalty or rage, or all of it all at once, because that's what crime novels are, the push and pull of doing the right thing, while constantly trying to define what the right thing is. We could tell you more about the plot itself, its turns and fuck-you's, the half-ass, but still violent motorcycle gang, the family led by the viscious paterfamilias, happy to tear it all asunder, the holy roller church members and their deranged Bible quoting minister, the damaged heroine, because there has to be one you would marry at jump. Maybe we are in fact doing that now, that plot thing, but we'll stop there, and say this: just go and read it, you will be propelled from the start, awash in words and heat, and your life will be changed, as has ours, and will be again, and again after that certainly, as the Steph Post continues to bring her terribly unique voice to a genre she may yet make all her own.

  • This Book Will Change Your Life - Patricide by the D. Foy.

    It's possible that binging on Westworld even as we barrelled our way through Patricide by the D. Foy is what has us so stuck on story. How even as we try to tell our story, and claim it, we repeat patterns, healthy and unhealthy, making the same mistakes again and again, wandering, sometimes plundering over and over into the same fucked-up relationships with the same fucked-up people, even as the settings and people themselves change, again and again. We search for answers that themselves are stuck in loops, that repeat and repeat, as we try to make sense of how we got from there to here. Our stories are further complicated by our families of origin. They create the foundation of who we are to become. How we parented and not, and the decisions they make, and don't, their mistakes and limitations, their goodness too, when it is present. But they are Gods to us, until we see how flawed they are and that the very foundations they stand on are as unsteady as those standing upon them. Then there is the violence. Not that everyone experiences abuse and anger, emotional and physical, verbal, or neglect. A lack of love and connection. But when we do, it lingers, another layer to make sense of, another pattern to not repeat. And as with Westworld, it is this world that D. Foy knows so well. The patterns and layers of family and how they smother us, wrapping their violent and neglectful arms around our lives and challenging us to punch our way free. Until we do, and until we have to ask, how do we live now, what is left, how do I build on this, and find, balance, and peace, a voice? How do we become healthy? How does that even fucking work? That D. Foy's characters know the answers lie in doing the work, but that the work is itself an endless series of patterns - rejuvenation, loss, confusion, balance - and that he writes their stories in such a propulsive manner, always pushing, fighting and plundering their way to some modicum of knowledge and acceptance is a truly rare thing. That it also feels so American - we are born of violence, we fight through it, we keep doing the work, we stumble, we get lost, we repeat, but we are always moving forward, searching, grasping for a future we now can be better - at a time when we are asking ourselves what that means, feels like a gift. D. Foy is just at the beginning of something, and while what that something is, and will become, remains to be written, it, and he, are certain to change our lives along the way.

  • This Book Will Change Your Life - Bruja by the Wendy C. Ortiz.

    What's the old canard about loving someone for their mind? Or their art? Not that we think the latter is even a thing. Still, in terms of the former, what is the thinking, that it must not be true, this love, or at least not for those reasons? That there is something else lurking there, a story we need to tell ourselves about something otherwise inexplicable to us? Which to be honest, inexplicability, isn't the worst way to approach the new Wendy C. Ortiz joint Bruja, a dreamoir, that leads us through the glistening shards of Ortiz' dreams. It is a journey through her mind, you see that, and her art, there you go, both of which are among the elements that we love so much in Ortiz's growing ouvre, a terribly pretentious word for sure. And yet, Ortiz is in the midst of not just inviting us into whatever is evolving about her, but creating a uniquely separate body of work from much of what has preceded it. We've said before that whatever Ortiz is in fact up to, it feels akin to performance, life as work, a guided, albeit twisty as fuck, tour through Ortiz's life, starting with Excavation, moving on to Hollywood Notebook and now Bruja. Fragments. Angles. Dark corners. Though light too. A life both burning and intense. As well as an unceasing exploration of all that is Ortiz's experience and how she has processed it then, and now, in the moment, and from a far. It is My Struggle, meets Naked Lunch, but while it is not a life without struggle, it is not beholden to it either. It is all search, and process, a Rashomonesque take on one's life so far by the very person narrating and capturing it. It is also sure to change Ortiz's life, or her path anyway, as much as it is yours, the reader, and companion on the trip. 

  • This Book Will Change Your Life - Just Kids by Patti Smith.

    Is the act of wanting to create art inherently political or does the work itself have to be political in intent? A question no doubt influenced by the current political climate, though well worth asking regardless. Said differently, is the mere idea that one might make a life revolving around the creation of art so radical as to be political? Is this decision, one that is such an affront to societal expectations for structure and stability that the mere desire to even want such a life is a repudiation of what we are otherwise taught to do and be? Or is the artist merely in on a secret otherwise guarded by the republic - you are allowed to create, we have room for the artist, and while we won't let you know this, if you figure it out, we will ask you to suffer first, with no guarantee of success or happiness, but if you are willing to suffer, and put in the time, searching for rhythm and voice, the hours melding with the hunger, the joys sporadic, albeit spectacular, then go with God. Now, maybe none of this exists anywhere but inside our heads, and maybe none of this has to do with the current political climate, as much as our personal climate, one where work hasn't been working so well, and the desire to create all of the time, which includes creating a lifestyle that allows for this creation in the first place, is where we're at, have been at and want to be at. And so it is, that Just Kids by Patti Smith has been staring at us for at least the last year plus, and we have finally chosen to pick it up when we needed to do so, something we think Patti Smith would appreciate. It is also true however, that the personal is always political and we are wondering how we are supposed to be living now, when so much isn't going as planned, but the need to be a creative force of some kind is unrelenting? We are also wondering how Patti Smith and by extension her fellow kid Robert Mapplethorpe did it. How anyone does it? Hungry. Lacking for money, shelter and any signs that something great even awaited them at all beyond the belief that greatness was somehow awaiting them. We've never lived like that, and maybe we never could, but if Just Kids has shown us anything, it's that this is a real option, and a choice, to be someone, find something, seek out kindred spirits who will push you, love you, support you, and make you believe that you are here to create based on the mere fact that they believe in you. Which may not be political in the slightest, but it is sure to change one's life - theirs, ours, yours, everyone's - and in Smith's hands, and words, beautifully, lovingly, and poetically at that.