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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

Seeing Stars by Simon Armitage

In Poetry on February 20, 2012 at 4:18 pm

You know waking up from dreams–not necessarily good or bad–and having that, “Wow, I didn’t know my imagination was capable of that,” feeling? Like, the kind of dreams that are reassuring just in their magnitude–their absolute creativity. These prose poems are like that. Over and over. A collection of all of the information you’ve gathered and not known where to store. But, important stuff: true stuff. They play out like tiny films. Actually, some of them, like, “The Cuckoo” and “Upon Unloading the Dishwasher” could probably be feature-length films. Someone get to work on that. Some of them are jarring, like, “Michael,” which sets forth a theory that the first thing you steal (as a child) predicts what you’ll be later in life. I stole a pack of gum when I was like 5, and then ended up taking it back. Huh. These are the things that Armitage will have you thinking about. Plus he’s British, so he can get away with using “poppycock” in poems. Every poet is jealous of that. But be sure of this: Armitage, for all of his silliness, can knock the wind out of you–can swell your eyes with tears–just like that.

-Micah Ling

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

In Fiction, Young Adult Literature on January 30, 2012 at 11:21 pm

Let it be known: there’s nothing pretty about cancer. We find hope in the hearts of its victims, in their battles, their narratives. Hope for survivors, for the spectacle of life as aprocess with which we are all intimately involved. As main character Hazel Grace’s father notes, “the universe just wants to be noticed.” And how we wish for it to notice us back. You’ll read this book in a sitting or two—one afternoon if you’re voracious for heart-wrenching sadness and side-splitting humor. Though the narrative is fictional, it reads like a memoir and you become wholeheartedly invested in the characters and their families as though they were sharing the air with you—your lungs struggling alongside Hazel’s. Read this book quickly and lend it to a friend; it’s the kind of read that’s meant to be shared. Against the unforgiving, unrelenting ailment of cancer, there is still life to be lived, experiences to enjoy, and awkward teenage sex to have. Indeed, The Fault is not in ourselves, but In Our Stars. But stars do not have ultimate authority over our lives and choices, and it is in ourselves which we must find purpose, passion, and happiness.

-Eric Ellis

Radio Golf by August Wilson

In Fiction on January 23, 2012 at 8:39 pm

This is August Wilson’s last play in his impressive cycle of ten, documenting life in twentieth century America, particularly for African Americans. If you’ve never read a play, read this play. It’s a reflection, or perhaps a reaction, to A Raisin in the Sun. (Read that, too). And go watch that Whole Foods parking lot bit. This is, too often, gentrification. A word that’s not necessarily “dirty,” but can be. We’re in Pittsburg, and Harmond Wilks just inherited a real estate agency from his father; and he’s running for office: to be the first black mayor. His wife and friends have big plans: big ideas. But, like most people in the world, (and maybe especially politicians), there’s a past. How can there not be? The kind of past that shouldn’t really be difficult to move on from; but somehow these things tend to grow, and reflect something worse than what is really there. It’s the nineties in this play–that seems significant to remember. It’s not the sixties. But then, it’s 2012 now, and this play might force you to take a look around your own neighborhood; ask yourself some key questions about what needs to be “improved.”

-Micah Ling

(If you’re in the Indianapolis area, this play is being performed at the IRT)

Covet by Lynnell Edwards

In Poetry on January 10, 2012 at 1:43 am

Covet is a verb. It’s active. Here, in these poems, it’s also a constant choice. And then, you realize that most emotions–most reactions–are choices. Choose to be angry, or don’t. Choose to be content, or don’t. All of these decisions–all of this action–surrounds us, circling, like wild animals. But sometimes, like love or hunger, it seems like the decision is out of our hands. We covet even when we don’t want to. Like hearing old time music and wanting to be right in the middle of it. We don’t want some things to end, even when they have to, like children at certain ages, and seasons. Letting go of things that must change is horrible and grand at once. It’s so fitting that there’s a catalogue here, from an antique show. A preservation of stuff–the life of stuff that goes on. Stuff that has another life. Several more lives. That’s how we hang onto what we don’t want to lose. Memories. Dishes and tools and prisms: all that outlive us. Lost slipper of light / now dulled. Flat / in the dark box, to hang / in celebration, it refracts / dazzle of dance: choose / me   choose me

-Micah Ling

Of Jibaros and Hillbillies by Ricardo Nazario y Colon

In Poetry on January 2, 2012 at 5:34 pm

People and place are as tied together as any two things can be. If you doubt that, drive across the country. Observe region and language and food. Better yet, go to an entirely different nation. Places make people. Places make different shades, different sounds and tastes and manners. And then, of course, places mingle. People move. New versions of words are made: new recipes become familiar. These poems are bold in how well they mingle. They’re hilarious and angry. What is poetry without anger? Not much. Read these out loud: amp them up–try the voices on. Somehow these poems trace it all back: a whole history of heat and laughter. Back so far that it’s all connected. At the end, it seems vitally important that we do know why we eat the things we eat; why we sound the way we do. Why we blame and take issue with certain things. This is deeply human–it allows for emotion and the mantras that keep us alive: that keep us tied to where we’re from. These poems are stories of people who have endured a decent amount of uneasiness. Meet them: be with them. See that we are not being judged, / for this carnal dance. 

-Micah Ling

Brown by Richard Rodriguez

In Nonfiction on December 19, 2011 at 10:24 pm

Brown is a study. It is less of a narrative than it is an image of refracted light, an examination of angles. Not to offend Rodriguez—associating him immediately with an artistic movement pioneered by a Spaniard may concern the author. This concern stems from the tendency, which he argues is particularly American, to evaluate and categorize people by race and color. Brown champions a refreshingly poetic approach to conservative values of individualism and liberty—a kind of thoughtfulness that may disorient rather than provoke those of a more liberal compulsion. Rodriguez’s writing can be acrobatic, and his mind can wander from Toqueville to Nixon, Lucille Ball to Castro, Ralph Lauren to Thoreau, capturing their significance pertaining to the American discussion on race. Do Hispanics exist? The answer is more complex than you might imagine, and it is just this uncertainty, this ambivalence, this mixture of feeling to which the book’s title playfully alludes. This is fine writing, and the author has his experience to thank, whether the memories are of a trip to his blonde friend’s affluent prep school or simply standing in line for a burrito in a Chinese neighborhood. This slipperiness of identity is the point: you can’t pin him down.

-Chris Noel

Lush Life by Richard Price

In Fiction, Novel on December 5, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Book Punch has enjoyed its collaboration with the students in the creative writing program at Butler University. It’s exciting to end this semester with the book that started Book Punch back in March, 2009. Check out the original punch here.

You’re a slick-talking, cock-walking gangster, aren’t you? Spent time in the joint? No? Shit, we’ll be here all day if we have to. And you may wanna stick around. Richard Price’s novel Lush Life makes your life look like a cakewalk through Blowjob Valley. Reading it won’t make you an expert though—it won’t make you tougher, stand up straighter on the walk back to your car alone at night (just far enough away from the last streetlight). Though authentic and authoritative, this work is only a snapshot of life on the Lower-East-Side. Manhattan, man. Enough exposition and imagery to paint the sidewalk with your brain. Drive past: sex shop, tea shop, synagogue, corner. Boulangerie, bar, hat boutique, corner. Bar, school, bar school, People’s park, corner. You can see it all. You’ll read Lush Life as though it were happening right outside your window, certain you heard gunfire. Always up to no good—never knows best. Deadbolt the door. Even use the latch no one’s touched in God knows how long. Just in case. There’s a world of crime out there and Price is kicking down your door, bringing it right to you à la flambé.

-Eric Ellis