Reviews in 200 Words

We’ve Moved!

In Fiction on March 27, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Check us out at Ringside Reviews from now on. We’ll get this re-direct figured out eventually…

Shoplifting From American Apparel by Tao Lin

In Fiction, Novella on March 12, 2012 at 7:33 pm

On the back of this book, it says, “The inmate with a mop / held back the inmate / without a mop.” I almost feel like I shouldn’t say anything else about this book, but I will. It has very little to do with inmates; except, as soon as I see that written, I’m thinking that it has everything to do with inmates, and that we’re all always inmates to something, and that the whole world is helping other inmates out, or not. So, maybe that’s exactly what this book can do. Sam and Sheila are boyfriend and girlfriend, sort of. Not a lot happens in this story; in fact, you could read it and say that it’s about nothing. But then you can’t stop thinking about it, so it must be about something. It’s supposed to be semi-autobiographical. And, if you know anything about Lin, you know that he’s constantly being a subtle genius. People understand him. This book reflects an alternative youth culture that tests the mainstream. Sam gets thrown in jail for shoplifting, more than once. He’s vegan. Life is repetitive. Pretty soon you’ll ask yourself what you’ve done today, this week, this year.

-Micah Ling

The Deer Park by Norman Mailer

In Fiction, Novel on February 28, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Mailer proves you don’t have to utter a word to lie to a lover. Plenty, however, is said. We are in Desert D’Or, Mailer’s fictional get-away town for Hollywood’s royalty and wash-ups, set in the fifties. The royalty are haughty, the wash-ups are manic-depressive, all are loquacious; they perform the drama of their every-changing minds as if a civic duty.

There is a story here about the red scare and the blacklist, the politics and corruption of movie making. A story, also, of our narrator’s search for identity, written in prose that reads like Somerset Maugham if he’d had Hemingway’s sexuality. (Both get a nod from Mailer.) Yet what’s most interesting, as always, is what happens in the bedroom.

Eager to love and be loved the characters act with a reckless sensuality that is heartbreakingly human. Couples go to bed drunk, make it and profess love undying while instantaneously savoring details of an ongoing affair; or quarrel heinously then, forgiving everything and nothing, convalesce with tender caresses. All the while their internal ambivalences are captured in knuckle-biting clarity, and we see the common lie is that everyone fucks and everyone loves with one foot planted for escape.

-Ryan Kraemer