Reviews in 200 Words

Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

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

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)

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

Paper Towns by John Green

In Fiction, Novel, Young Adult Literature on November 7, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Have you ever driven beneath the electric, orange glow of streetlights in the middle of the night and felt invincible? The openness of the road both comforted and alienated you as you slowly glided to your destination a light-year away. Can you recall the delightful panic that swept over your body when you found yourself somewhere you shouldn’t have been? Words became whispers while footsteps turned treacherous. And you must remember that whirlwind of a person who carved themselves upon your soul yet dissolved at your touch? Such is the story of Q, the well-raised son of two well-raised therapists, who has the (un)fortunate circumstance of living next to Margo Roth Spiegelman. The perfect girl. Just out of reach. Until she the night she climbs through his window and is suddenly tangible. But what happens when the dawn comes and the fairytale ends and the particles which compose her body disperse into the atmosphere? What will be paper, and what will be reality? Paper Towns is a romp through the last few weeks of a high school education. At its center sits Q, a detective in love, hypnotized by an enigma. And with his incredibly colorful friends, he makes the journey to find the town made of paper and the girl who is not.

-Maddie Eckrich

Girls in Trouble by Douglas Light

In Fiction, Short Stories, Story Collections on October 26, 2011 at 3:50 am

These characters are hungry. They’re creepy and haunting, like a Hitchcock film at times–so many angles–perfectly paced. It’s not horror, though, it’s reality. We’re all constantly in between where we came from and where we’re going. This is full of complication and uncertainty. It’s all the things that come with being a girl; even the superficial things like pantyhose and fashion magazines. But it’s also about being a person–a man or a woman–entering into and exiting out of relationships with other people. Sometimes we want to avoid making predictions because we know that the future certainly brings failure, even doom. But we can never stop making predictions: they keep us alive; they keep us from being shocked (sometimes). Survival mechanisms. There’s a decent amount of food in these stories: eating and drinking–Pop Tarts, cheeseburgers, a vegan cookie, black tea, crabs, butter, wine, Coke, gin and tonic–it’s what we do in between, on the road, when we have time to refuel and recover. It’s what we do through everything else and no matter what: routine. It’s what we do when we’re with someone and when we’re alone. These stories are the cycle of hunger.

-Micah Ling

Douglas Light’s work

Train Dreams by Denis Johnson

In Fiction, Novella on October 17, 2011 at 6:51 pm

These chapters pass like visions – like the fevered hallucinations that infect a logging crew near the beginning of this spectacular, short burst of fiction. These are pieces of a puzzle, which, when completed shows the weathered and indelible portrait of one Robert Granier. Lumberjack. Freight hauler. Railroader just after the turn of the 20th century. He’s a western type with a weary casualness banked against the severity of the time. He’s simple. Honest. Curious about this world and the people in it. He observes and experiences, but rarely interferes. He lives. He’s solid while others evaporate. He’s a husband, a father and later a widow. He’s haunted by curses and she-wolves and the death that’s more constant a companion than the red dog that happens upon his acre one season. And we, in turn, are powerless against the haunting clarity of Johnson’s writing. Like deathbed daydreams we become – for just 120 pages – Grainier. We see his life as memories. Like puffs of smoke belching from a train stack. And we wish, as we all will likely do when the final pages turn on our own novella, that just one more log might be thrown upon the fire.

-Jay Cullis

Four For a Quarter by Michael Martone

In Fiction, Nonfiction on October 11, 2011 at 1:31 am

This is like a Magic Eye poster. Squint or stand back and suddenly you’re blown away (like candles on a cake). Everything fits like a puzzle, with pieces you didn’t know existed. Martone is like a wizard of language. Maybe wizard is the wrong word: it seems offensive; fortune-teller of language? At least that has a “for” in it. It’s like a 7 (or even a 4)-layer dip. It’s like a club sandwich. It’s like a wedding cake. You just can’t believe that it’s so perfectly stacked. But these are more than riddles: they’re more than, “how many 4’s can I fit into this thing?” It’s as tight as Shakespeare’s drama. You won’t get annoyed with 4’s, you’ll realize that, “Holy (four-letter-word), fours really are all around us.” You’ll realize, life is sometimes sad. The world works in a way that has us skipping along not noticing 4’s or anything else. But then something sticks, like the day you broke up–stuck like a photo-booth photo. This is a list that explains everything: the whole history of writing, language, life, loss, an awful lot about nuts, and Susans. It says “Literature/Fiction” on the back of this book, but it’s pretty packed with truth.

-Micah Ling