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Currently showing posts tagged Ghost County

  • 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.

  • 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?