Archive for February, 2012

This is not your city by Caitlin Horrocks and Orientation by Daniel Orozco- reviews

February 23, 2012

Part of this is just trying to get caught up a bit, and part of this is wanting to get reviews up for a couple of books that are relatively new releases and for which a positive review could be a bit helpful (even if its from me). This Is Not Your City is by Caitlin Horrocks, and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that her residing in Michigan didn’t help in getting me to pick up her book and read it.

This Is Not Your City already has a list of great reviews, and they’re well-earned. It’s a collection of eleven stories with women confronting extreme situations with what I would call a measured absurdity, such as writing postcards to her disabled child while stuck in her cabin on a cruise ship taken over by pirates. What I find somewhat funny is that the cruise ship hijacked by pirates part is no longer an absurd idea in itself, and that just to move a bit past reality, Horrocks is forced by the actual absurdities of the evening news to have a husband and wife partaking in a constantly evolving fantasy life aboard the cruise ship that is tethered to reality only through the postcards being written to their actual, disabled child.

I think that what I really liked about Horrocks’s collection is that the women characters were the leads, and they weren’t one-dimensional, they weren’t weak, they weren’t  blatantly out of control, even when trying to come to grips with taking a vacation while leaving your disabled kid home. It’s something that I haven’t seen pulled off as adeptly in other collections, and it was rather refreshing.  While I don’t want to paint with a roller here, I still see a tendency for female characters to be inherently weak or vulnerable, and the opposite is true for male characters, and it’s still seen as a strangely revelatory thing when a male character displays such traits. With this collection, the characters have a greater emotional equality.

While I got it out of the library (sorry), here’s a link to This Is Not Your City at Amazon.  There are also links to buy her book from her website that I linked to earlier, including from indiebound, a website that allows you connect with independent bookstores.

The second collection of stories I’ve read lately is Orientation by Daniel Orozco. I want to say the collection if funny, but I’m not sure that’s accurate. The first story is hilarious, as you are escorted around the cubicle office space from hell, complete with serial killers, stigmata sufferers and sexual dysfunctions. From there, though, it moves into a realm that’s closer to horror than humor. Every day, conventional lives ranging from a work crew who paint a bridge to a collection of stories about people in a supermarket to a deposed despot in exile showcase people who are trapped within the confines of the circumstances of their lives, broken only by the near random punctuation of violence – either self-inflicted or bizarrely random.

In the case of The Bridge, even the wrench thrown into the works in the form of a jumper falling past the newest member of the paint crew, is hinted at being part of a larger monotony. Other members of the crew talk about the first jumper each has witnessed, how one witnessed two in one week, etc., and they all treat the new guy with kid gloves but with the expectation that he will grow accustomed to it, and the sight of a person falling  past him to her death will become less traumatic with repetition.

My favorite story of the bunch, outside of Orientation, was probably Officer’s Weep. It’s written as an officer’s police log, documenting a budding romance between cop partners as they go about a night on duty. There is something about the form, and the star seriousness of the form that contradicts some of the content that is smirkingly enjoyable. It’s what you imagine the TV show Cops would be like if it was entertaining and not just a 30 minute human auto accident.

 

Alright, and here’s a link to the book on Amazon.

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Been Busy

February 11, 2012

I haven’t updated this in forever, and I’ve been feeling bad about it. Life has just been awfully full lately. I’ve been trying to get caught up with it, but it keeps pulling away. My new semester started a couple of weeks ago (in week three already!), and it included getting used to an entirely new setup with the classes, and getting all of the students in line with the new setup, and it’s been stressful and hectic and I’ve wanted to seriously hurt people at times, but it’s also been kinda good. Also, the kid’s been having problems at school, and that’s been eating up time. And, apparently, I’m going to be getting married at some point this year. The woman has been bugging me for awhile about it, and I’ve always told her that if she wants to get married she just has to buy a watch and propose. That sounds like an ass thing to say, but I’m also, essentially, a stay at home dad, and I get crap for not wearing the pants in the family, but that’s because I chafe. But  I figure if I’m going to get crap for not being the breadwinner and that I’m playing the wife’s role, then I should get proposed to. Finally, I told her that if she just plans the thing, I’d probably show up for it. It appears she’s actually going to run with it this time.

Also, I’ve applied to grad school to pursue my MFA. Getting everything sorted out and done and turned in stressed the hell out of me. But it’s done. Stressed the hell out of the woman, too, because I nagged her to read everything and correct all of the comma errors and to make everything sound less like crap. She did awesome work, made me look decent.

AND we had been looking for a place to rent, but we’ve sorta given up the ghost on finding a decent place to rent at a decent price and have decided to start looking at houses to just buy and settle down. And, of course, I don’t look at anything practical. I’m in love with the idea of space, especially after having none of it for the past three years. And after finding a couple of places by the lake, I kinda fell in love with the idea of being on the lake. And just now I found a truly crazy ass thing to get. It’s not near the lake, which has become a strangely big problem with it, but it sorta makes up for it with the sheer bitch ass craziness of the idea of it being our house.

My grandmother passed away a few weeks back. It wasn’t exactly unexpected, and she was miserable as and where she was, but it’s starting to hit me a bit more lately – especially as talk of getting married and buying a house has picked up. I’m 31 now. Most people my age have gotten a bit further down the road in getting a family going and settled into their lives. Now, most of the people on my mom’s side of the family have died and never had great grandkids around or nieces or nephews or anything. They didn’t even have the step kid around much. That sounds bad, referring to the kid like that, but it’s not the same. Not for them.

The Woman has decided that it’s not only  a good time to look at moving, but for getting married. We have a date, apparently, now we just need everything else.

The comp courses have been alright, for a change. Still trying to get all of the ducks in a row with the getting the tech and the materials. It’s surprised me how smoothly it’s actually went.  Also, it appears I have more freedom to edit the look of the course and to add materials. With everything else going on, I haven’t had much of an opportunity to look around and find extra materials, but I think the new course setup is much more open to this than the old class setup.

With any luck, I can begin settling back into a schedule and get caught up on some work, like updating this place.