Daniel has wanted to be a writer ever since he was in elementary school.He has published stories and articles in such magazines as Slipstream, Black Petals, Spindrift, Zygote in my Coffee, and Leading Edge Science Fiction. He has written four books: The Sage and the Scarecrow (a novel), the Lexical Funk (a short story collection), Reejecttion (short story/ essay collection), and The Ghosts of Nagasaki (a novel).
I sit down to write the review of this book. The slightest bit of blackness on the cover slides off and turns into a black pill…hmmmm….
I avoid eating it, but the book slowly grows legs—does its best Bill Cosby impression before turning into a city politician and attempting to steal my shoes. I didn’t know the book would try to do that. I would look at the warning label on the book, but the book is now off to other pursuits.
The book is now my deadbeat roommate—city politics is light on samba, and besides, he shrugs and explains lamely.
It’s the future now, and owe what a future is shall be—or maybe it’s not. It’s hard to tell if waking up after 3 pm constitutes “the future.”
The book looks less like trippy surrealist art and more like accounting...
In offices somewhere boring people talk about sphinxes rolling around in space helmets and riding across rivers on the tips of penises as if they were compact cars with low gas mileage (riding around on giant penises is actually the “greenest” method of travel in the future—at least according to my new accounting book).
Writing books like A Greater Monster is an utterly practical pursuit in this past 3 pm future. I try to formulate eclectic word bombast, but instead end up writing an editorial to Christian Science Monitor that argues for greater oatmeal consumption. My mom shakes her head in worry—“If you can’t write eclectic, electrifying prose, how will you eat? No accounting firm will want you.”
I do what all rebels do in the future…go to business school. Book called Greater Monster, having long given up his quest to be my roommate and/ or be a city politician, follows me to business school. It won’t be like Rodney Dangerfield in Back to School, he explains. Mostly, you just wear a suit and spend the day trying to avoid getting stuff on your tie.
And that’s how you become a rebel in the future.
But I digress…
The gummy black pill, eEye, Sasha—these things—these very potentially real things: constant surveillance, lost love, addiction…they matter the way business school matters, I try to explain to the book.
It’s at this point that he points out I have mustard on my tie…at this rate I’ll fail out very soon.
The bottom line: it’s like modern art, I yell, like a lazy teenager with turrets.
Try again, the book says, I think you mean it’s like contemporary post-modern art.
Modern, contemporary, post-modern, whichever happens in the far off future of past 3 pm.
I try again. Bottom line: It’s like Logan’s Run meets Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Catchy, the book says, and definitely something I can sell to a movie executive. He goes to the closet and shows me a tied up Michael York. Just in case, he explains.
Book named Greater Monster is in a very practical mood today.
I say so—Book named Greater Monster, you’re in a highly practical mood today.
He responds by pointing to my tie and I find that I have chocolate on it now (in addition to the mustard).
At this rate, I’ll never graduate from business school.
Wrap it up, he suggests.
I smile, clean off my tie, untie Michael York, get on the podium and proclaim: This is an age old story—man works at cybertech security company, man takes strange tar-like drug, man becomes lizard in space suit in surrealistic world; book with lizardman in it makes me go to business school, Michael York still in perfect health despite being tied up in closet for a while, the far off future of after 3pm not so bad.
I smile, book named Greater Monster smiles, book review comes to happy conclusion.
Thank you, Michael York.
Five stars! And no, I’m not in business school…yet.
Here is a review of Haruki Murakami's Dance, Dance, Dance,
It's still one of my favorite book reviews from Goodreads. Enjoy!
Stay with me for a moment. I’m writing about a scene happening within a movie within Murakami’s book (two or three degrees of separation, depending on how you count). So I’m reading Dance, Dance, Dance, and there is a scene in the book where the main character is transfixed by a scene within a movie he’s watching. The movie itself is pretty terrible—a film about a high school girl who falls in love with her teacher. But he can’t stop watching the movie. He goes to the same movie theater every day to watch the same movie because of this one scene.
As it turns out, one of the main character’s old middle school friends plays the teacher in the movie and the girlfriend is played by his old girlfriend whom he has been searching for for a while. In the scene, the teacher is sleeping with his girlfriend. Up until this point in the movie we’ve come to find out that one of the teacher’s students is in love with him. She bakes him cookies and shows up at his house to give him the cookies, she walks into his house because the door is open (the main character of the novel wonders why the door would be open). The young girl sees the teacher making love to his girlfriend. She drops the cookies and runs out of the house. The girlfriend turns to the teacher and says: “What was that about?” And that is the scene.
And the main character in Murakami’s book wonders: “What was that about?” Not particularly the action of the girl in the movie dropping the cookies, but the odds that he would see his old middle school friend having sex with his girlfriend in a movie. In some way, that is what Dance, Dance, Dance is about, figuring out what things are about. And like much good postmodern fiction we get a sense that there is something that it’s all about. We get a semblance of order…but only a semblance. In the end, things come together only so that things can tear themselves apart again. As I read this book, I’m tearing myself apart and putting myself back together.
Lots of things happen in the book: the main character, struggling with his life at 34 goes to a hotel which plays no small part in the arrangement of his universe; he meets a Goatman who lives in the shadows of his universe on a mysterious floor of the hotel; the main character helps out a 13-year-old girl struggling with her life; love, Hawaii, and everything in between. And the book encourages you to ask: “What was that all about?” But because the asking happens at so many levels—the girlfriend inside the movie about the young girl walking in on them, the main character about the movie he watches where his junior high school friend is in bed with his ex-girlfriend, the main character about his life, the reader about the book—this question tends to migrate further. And soon, days later, you’re wonder about your life up until this point: What was that all about?
I tear my 28-year-old self apart and re-assemble as a 34 year old looking at myself as 13-year-old. After reading the book, this act seems like the most ordinary thing in the world. What would my 13-year-old self say about my 34-year-old self? Would he think the same thing Yuki thought about the main character? Would I be hip or lame? Would I be tolerable or unbearably boring?
It’s been five days since I finished the book and I can already start to feel its imprint begin to fade. But then nothing really fades. Just as the main character says at one point, it’s hard to know where one thing ends and the next begins. Do I leave my imprint on the book? When others find the book, will they pick up a piece of me with it? Where does the book end and I begin?
I wonder if college students will still read 30 or 40 years from now? I have my doubts. If they do, will they read books like Dance, Dance, Dance? Will they pick up the same worn hardcover copy I did? If they do, I hope there is a page in Dance, Dance, Dance like the magical floor of the Dolphin Hotel? I hope I appear in a sheep suit with words of mystery and portent great changes in their life.
“And when I think of books and how they should be read, I think of people leaving them places, strangers picking them up, reading them, and then leaving them again…books are like strangers; they’re for strangers; they shouldn’t be treated as sentimental objects, just straw dogs…” Or, in the case of Murakami, perhaps they ought to be treated like wayward magical sheep men. But one of the things a Murakami book encourages you to do is to treat books sentimentally, or at least the time you spend with Murakami’s characters. After all, they reach out to readers in ways that are in equal parts intimate and casual.
What was that all about? It was about Murakami and me. He wrote a book so commonplace, so ordinary and unusual that everyday life becomes surreal—the book’s nonchalance couldn’t be anything but overplanned. It was about him and me and the place we shared in time. Not a floor of the Dolphin hotel, but not a series of dead pages either. Something lived and living…it runs deep in the fabric of the universe and continues to tie things together.
The following is a short interview with Libby Heily.
Libby is the author of an excellent book entitled "Tough Girl"
You can read my review of that book here:
What does being an indie author mean to you?
Hmmm. Let's see. It means doing a lot of work and research and learning about book promotion and finding your audience. It also means putting out work that you're proud of and not compromising.
Being indie, I can explore and experiment and I have no one to answer to other than my readers. Right now, I'm taking a chance by publishing my first ever serial, "Our Beloved Dictator." It's a darkly comedic somewhat satirical story that will take place over the course of 26 weeks. Each episode is roughly 1000 words. The story follows George, a hapless twenty-something, as he encounters a dictatorship in a small town in VA but it also branches off into the lives of the people living in the town. I think of it as story set up like a flak cloud. I don't think I could do publish my own serial on my website if I were with a big publishing house.
What’s your favorite sentence or paragraph from one of your books? What does it mean to you?
I'm not sure about favorite, but the first sentence that came to mind is from Tough Girl. Tough Girl is the name of Reggie's imaginary friend who is a sci-fi hero and comes from an extremely rough background. When anther character references her he says, "Tough Girl. It's not a name, it's a warning."
The reason I like that sentence is because it's actually about Reggie. When it's said about TG, the warning part is meant to say that she's such a badass, you better watch your back. When it's the tagline of the novel, it means that Reggie is in trouble and people need to look out for her.
What advice would you give other indie authors starting out?
Write as much as you can and put your work out for critique. Learn to write and write well. Read a ton. Start googling book promotion now, because it takes a long time to learn.
What are your writing quirks and habits?
I keep tons of notebooks. Every project has it's notebook and I take notes, sketch out scenes and plan the plot. I am addicted to notebooks.
What's children's cartoon best represents your personality?
I get told all the time that I'm either Peppermint Patty from the Peanuts (I'm a tomboy) or Daria from Daria–I'm sarcastic and generally underwhelmed.
How do you see the indie scene in 50 years time?
I think it depends on the tech. My guess, we'll see a rise of small pockets of readers that are incredibly devoted to certain authors. It might be possible to have several hundred incredibly loyal fans with only a handful of writers really being well known.
Thank you Libby for letting me interview you.
Full Disclosure: I am friend and coworker of Gavin’s. The review below is my unbiased review of the book (as far as is possible given that I am a friend and coworker of the author).
More than any other element, I was impressed by this novel’s ability to build a world. This world is a tapestry of technological marvels, intricate political and family relationship, religious elements, and intrigue. As the book moves forward, these elements grow into an ever more elaborate web. At no point in the book did I feel the author wasn’t a master of his world, and I anticipate that this world will only grow as the author writes more volumes.
At several moments in the book, I was taken back to my high school days when I would read the works of Frank Herbert or Timothy Zahn. I’ve never read any “Games of Thrones” but my sense is that this book would have a lot in common with those books as well. Another book I was reminded of while reading McAllister’s work was Steven Pressfield’s “Gates of Fire.” Much like that book, this book is interested in the aspects of an honor-bound society. Though technological advances, alien enemies, and other aspects make this squarely SF, the book is written in a way that draws heavily from classical honor-based societies (you will find much in common between the Pirassi and the Lacedaemonians / Spartans). I’m sure there is also plenty in this book to appeal to those who love to read Homeric poems in translation.
You see Pirassi society not from one vantage point, but rather from the vantage point of many different characters. Not all of the characters and elements work to the same degree. The authors intervenes into the lives of minor characters for short periods. My best guess is that the author is building up a world that can sustain multiple volumes and that can turn minor characters in earlier books into major characters in later books. If indeed the author is “playing the long game” (I could just ask him, but instead choose to read and make up my own mind), then he has created rich material for future books and spinoffs. If, however, the author will shift the focus of his next books or opt for a shorter series, then perhaps fewer characters would have worked better.
One quibble I had with the book was the prose. In parts of the book, language is thoroughly “Pirassized” -- metaphors and descriptions refer to the larger Pirassi world, even if that world is foreign to the reader. In other parts of the book, these elements are not used and instead the reader is left with typical military SF action scenes and writings. Since the Pirassi world seems fully formed in the author’s head, I was wondering why the prose seemed grounded in the tropes of standard military SF.
Creating an entire world and its prose style is not an easy thing to do. If I can be crass and draw an example from TV, my favorite show “Farscape” took about a season and a half to develop the languages and references of its own world. Many early viewers might have thought that vasts parts of it were “dren,” but they would have “frilled” themselves by giving up on it too soon. Fully Pirassizing the prose is risky -- it might alienate some readers, especially new readers. However, if the author is going to use romantic language, I don’t think he can go half-way with the language. Create a romanticized Pirassi style!
In short, the writer has established a rich world to play with over many volumes. For over four hundred pages I was engaged and enjoyed myself. What will happen to the fragile Pirassi culture and society? Only future volumes will tell.
Hey everyone, this is part of a series I'm doing of micro-interviews with Indy authors on Goodreads. I feel it's a good opportunity to learn from other authors and share experiences.
Not too long ago, I had the pleasure of reading The Rebel's Sketchbook. I hope you'll check out the book or one of Rupert's other works.
"What does being an Indy author mean to you?"
It means realising that not having a literary agent breathing down my neck is a good opportunity to provide an alternative voice to the traditionally published spectrum of books. The literary marketplace has made dissent almost impossible, but now indie authors can shake things up if they want to and show that there's a readership for this sort of book. I'm trying to take full advantage of this by pissing off the powerful as much as I can; but there are millions of possibilities to shake things up through storytelling. The first step is realising that you have a greater degree of creative freedom than being some publishing house's latest gimp on a leash.
However, it also means building a lively community and helping other indie authors to get out there as far as possible. All we need is one decent representative of the indie scene to break on through to the other side with a remarkable book and it'll be a new day for us all. From the quality I've read over the last couple of years -the stuff that not many readers are bothering with right now- I'm confident this will eventually happen. It's slow burning but don't lose faith. Someone is going to break through.
"What’s your favorite sentence or paragraph from one of your books? What does it mean to you?"
Great question! It's probably the following from my debut novel Spark:
"This is what a life working for large corporations does to people. The workplace is a place not to be you; it’s a place to be the corporate you. The you that doesn’t really exist. We all see this corporate you and pretend that it’s a normal part of life. But we know that something isn’t quite right. We know that the real you is slowly fading away like old wallpaper. The corporate you is a myth; just like Icarus. And yet we are powerless against it. All of us are powerless against the wrath of the corporate world."
It's the essence of what I'm trying to say with pretty much all of my stories. The system we're wallowing under is often absurd and soul destroying. So I try to call it out.
"What advice would you give other indy authors starting out?"
Don't listen to me is the first line of advice I give to everyone. Like everyone; I just guess. However, if you trust my guesses then I'd say to abandon the standard storytelling template created by the industry and put out something as original and as brilliant and as beautiful and as devastating as you possibly can. Even if you're writing for a genre, do something new with it. Swim against the tide because those waves aren't as strong as they think they are.
"Have you ever had a pure "writerly moment"? If so, describe it."
Yes! Writing Spark was an enlightening process which allowed me to discover a style which suits me down to the ground. Like most people who get into this game, I'd been writing stories for years, experimenting with style and whatnot, and looking back I was writing stories the safe way. Then I found myself writing in the conversational first-person voice with an emphasis on dark humour as a weapon against the established order, and something just clicked. I can only describe it as a feeling of absolute liberation and as if I wasn't writing for my own ego; I was writing to reassure other people that they're not going completely nuts. I can now take on all the themes I care for. Shit boy bands? Done. Police brutality? Done. Your cunt of a boss? Done. Hacktivism? Done. Gnome fetishes? Done. Donald Trump's poetic hairdon't? Still to do. And on and on it goes...
"What question would you like to see in future interviews?"
What's children's cartoon best represents your personality? Only joshing. A good question might be: how do you see the indie scene in 50 years time? To which I'd reply: it's going to be the norm in publishing. Editors and artists will still be needed but the rest of them can take a swing. The indie revolution is taking writing back from the establishment and with so much talent out there they've got good reason to be worried.
That's it for this Indy interview. Thanks Rupert.
His feeble mind was only good for groping memories like vague shapes in the dark. His body was a withered portrait on the wall of some long forgotten castle. The writer sat down to write a simple love letter to a book he had known in his younger years. Now in the grips of his fever he remembered more and more of them. Back when his tastes in literature had been robust, he had loved a book called “The General and His Labyrinth.” The first time, alone in his room as he grew into a stupor over the labyrinth of his disappointments and his dreams. The second time as he was gripped by a virulent pragmatism known to men twice his age. Then, he had been in his thirties. Now he was an old man close to death.
With his arthritic hand he wrote the first line of his love letter trying to recall the pride and ambition of a younger man.
“The book was a testimony to the power of an author to love his subject more than life itself.”
The sentence came out of his pen hopeful. Yet, the vagueness of his prose and its inability to reach beyond simple sentiment sent the writer into a deep malaise. He stood up from his chair with what little strength was left. His pride prevented him from asking for help and on his way to his bed he almost fell over.
When Jose Palacios came into the bedroom, he saw the writer in his bed seized by fever.
“Yes, your highness.”
Although he was a simple writer and the servant was a figment of his imagination, the servant insisted on calling him “highness.”
“Highness...highness. You mean ‘lowness.’ Debased. Fraud.”
“Are you at work on another one of your love letters?”
“The desire comes and goes. I sit down to write a simple sentence and when the thing comes out it lies limp on the page and dies, stillbirth and dead.”
In all the years of his unremarkable life, the only remarkable thing about him was how many great literary loves he had had -- a greater accomplishment than even his own literary victories.
A decade before the writer had tried to make a proper accounting of his literary loves and write letters to each of them. After countless hours of scribbling on sheets of various quality and color, the writer had finally given up, burned all the letters, and declared the task hopeless, proclaiming simply, “There are too many! They run in my memory like one long dream.” Over the years, he had climbed into his chair and tried to compose a letter here and there. Not even Jose Palacios knew what had happened to them.
Now, in the twilight of his existence, the feeble writer had fits and starts of work that were equal measures desperate and ineffective. The rest of his time was spent fighting the debasements of time.
If Jose Palacios had been a writer himself he would have thought the writer’s constant constipation symbolic. He ameliorated the writer’s congenial constipation with enemas of immediate but devastating effect. Each time, like a church chime at noon, the writer would exclaim, “Just like my first novel. One big disgusting explosive mess.”
After Jose Palacios had administered the enema, changed his clothes, and cleaned the bedsores on his emaciated body, he placed the writer in his chair, in front of his paper and pencil.
“One more try,” Jose Palacios said. “It’s good for the soul. Good or bad, you will write for love of your literary works.”
There had been so many: X-Men comics in the flower of his youth; science fiction novels about Star Trek and Star Wars in the crude days of his adolescence; the mature yet neglected pages of such books as “The Grapes of Wrath,” in his rebellious years; the more mature loves of young adulthood...
He continued writing for several hours, as if he were in a clairvoyant trance, hardly stopping for the attacks of coughing. When his arthritic hand finally stopped moving he dictated for several more hours in weak hums that barely registered as words to Jose Palacios. When Jose Palacios finally ran out of paper, he had to take to writing on the walls. The walls turned black with ink. Finally, when the old writer’s voice was about to give out, he finished his letter in the only way he felt appropriate. The writer stood up with what little strength he had left, walked to Jose Palacios, and found the place on the wall where the writing had stopped, he curled up into ball next to it, and entered a deep sleep.
Jose Palacios took a blanket from the closet and covered the writer, not knowing whether he would wake. He retired into his quarters to resume his count of the writer’s literary loves and conquests.
Some months later, after the writer had died for the final time. The government ordered that all accounts of the writer’s literary conquests, love of words, or even his existence be destroyed. Thus, the letter and the house with walls tainted with literary scandal were destroyed.
Only in a small village where Jose Palacios lived under an assumed name did the tale of the writer’s many conquests resurface. And like the good servant he had been, Jose Palacios made sure that each literary love, including the “General and his Labyrinth” was accounted for.
This is the first in a series of posts where I'll interview Indy authors about their works and motivations. These interviews will be relatively short. If you have questions you would like me to ask, please contact me on Goodreads.
The first author is Jennifer Rainey, the author of "These Hellish Happenings." I had the pleasure of reviewing her book not too long ago.
What does being an Indy author mean to you?
To me, it means freedom--the freedom to have your own schedule and your own rules. When you're trying to get picked up by an agent or a big publisher, there are so many little rules and little quirks. You can really play by your own rules as an indie.
What’s your favorite sentence or paragraph from one of your books? What does it mean to you?
Oh golly, there are so many that mean a lot to me! It's like trying to pick a favorite child! It's not a specific line, but I have always been very happy with the descriptions of the ghosts in my last novel, The Beldam's Eye. I have always loved ghosts and ghost stories, and so I worked very hard to paint clear portraits of these spirits, whether they're supposed to sad, humorous or terrifying. Fortunately, I've had readers tell me that the scenes with the ghosts are some of their favorite parts of the book.
What advice would you give other indy authors starting out?
KEEP WRITING. It is so easy to get swept up in the promotional tidal wave that comes with indie publishing. I definitely fell victim to that myself in the beginning. I took a long break from writing and publishing, and now that I'm back at it, I kind of feel like I've gone too far in the other direction--I don't want to promote at all! But keep in mind that one of the greatest things you can do to sell more books is to write more books.
What question would you like to see in future interviews for the blog?
I love hearing about writers' habits or quirks. We're all so different. I have very specific music that I'll listen to while working on each project, and I must have a cup of tea, too.
For my current work-in-progress I've been listening to nothing but the music of Punch Brothers, Woodkid and Fleet Foxes. So it's a lot of offbeat folk music, which might seem a bit strange considering the book is a paranormal tale set in the 1890s, but it works!
A special thanks to Jennifer Rainey.
If there are any fellow indies reading this post: What are your writing quirks or habits?
I take myself to the middle of the park where the families and couples are starting to make their way back to their cars and homes. I stop near the entrance of the park and find myself waiting for something. A superreal something tells me that this is the right thing to do.
Before long, the flow of people coming down the park steps thickens. They finish their packed dinners, tell their kids they can have one more go on the swings, and then they’re walking down the steps toward me. It’s only a matter of time before I see them.
Their logic, simple and superreal, makes it that much easier for me to follow. A pair of high heels at first, some sneakers there, a pair of red sandals of all things. One person, one pair of red shoes, and I follow them until the voice in my head says stop. Then I follow another. Red shoes to red shoes. Red shoes stop, and I wait for another pair to come along. This is stupid, the voice of reason tells me. This randomness will get you nowhere but lost. But my better self knows that really lost is better than simply lost and that if a vision could take me here—to a place as vague and surreal as Nagasaki―it must have greater plans for me.
You can read the full excerpt here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/382484-ghosts-of-nagasaki--novel-excerpt-3--red-shoes
The following is an excerpt from an extended book review of Lester Goran’s book “Bing Crosby’s Last Song.” The book review is written more like a creative essay / short story than a book review.
The review is part of my new book -- ReejecttIIon -- A Number 2. You can purchase a copy here: http://www.amazon.com/ReejecttIIon-number-two-Daniel-Clausen-ebook/dp/B01CF3MK4I/
I tell Lester as I sit in his bar that Boyce Racklin reminds me of my dad. He couldn’t stop helping people. He was a saint, a folk hero -- but to his family, he was always a more ambiguous character. Too much of a do-gooder to do himself very much good.
Lester sees right through me. “You’re writing this damn slop to avoid writing about your dad, aren’t you?”
And my mom. But that’s not the point.
The story of how Boyce Racklin became the mythologized “Right” Racklin is on page 14 of the book.
“Don’t worry,” I tell Lester, “I won’t give it away. But I can’t help the feeling that this is my dad you’re writing about. One Christmas I find all the toys in my house gone. It turned out that my dad had donated them all to some children who had no gifts for Christmas. The kids got gifts and I got robbed.”
Lester doesn’t seem amused.
Fathers and legacies. Was Boyce Racklin a hero up until the end? Did he jump into the river to save some girl or was it a suicide? That’s the question.
“A million indignities follow the man or woman who gives himself to the poor,” I tell Lester. He still doesn’t seem amused. He also seems unimpressed with the rate of my drinking.
“I thought you were going to write this review essay about me. Here you are talking about yourself.”
“I learned from the best,” I quip and get what has to be, at best, my second or third smile of the night.
“I want to change venues,” I tell him.
“I want to go to Gotsubo in Nagasaki. My old hangout.”
He remains quiet. Who knows if he can even exist in a place beside some conjuring of his old haunts in Oakland. Perhaps there is no place for him where his spirit can rest other than the places he created for himself in his fiction.
My center grows cold and heavy. In Nagasaki, the winter months move on slowly. With my cast iron heart planted firmly in my chest, I find that simple tasks have now become difficult: getting out of bed, grooming myself, getting ready for work. The heater has been on the fritz—that, or the Welshman and I are simply too stupid to read the Japanese on the remote and can’t figure out how to turn it on. After fiddling with the remote for the millionth time, I set the thing down and forget about it. I crawl into the warmth of my comforter and futon mattress.
And our lives? What can I say? The parade of nomihodais and merriment continues, except that people find themselves going home earlier and dancing less in the streets. The cold, wet rain makes sure of that. My students continue to struggle obsessively with tenses, articles, and the various contradictions and disappointments of their lives in ways that are in equal measures heroic and unnerving. I find that old adage about people leading lives of quiet desperation hangs over my classroom more often than I’d like.
Then there are the ghosts. More of them now, some are not ghosts at all, but visions of old professors and friends. Others are full-fledged spirits, union-certified and struggling to make their quotas in haunting. They show up, hang around my classes, stare at me, or on occasion try to scare me as I’m coming out of the tub. Most of the time, however, I find them just lounging around on coffee break.
Debra comes around now more than ever. The sweet woman that she is, when she’s not creeping around corners or jumping out of dark spaces, she finds the time to do a bit of knitting and sewing, fixing a little tear here or putting on a new button there. And the everydayness of it all makes the weight in my heart space a bit more unbearable.
Every once in a while I try to talk to her. I try to say, “Hey Debra,” or “How’s the afterlife treating you?” or “You don’t look half bad for a woman who’s spent some time in the afterworld.” But I falter. I find there is nothing in the back of my throat that can make its way out. And so she stays, and the ghosts stay, and my center grows heavier.
You can purchase a copy of Ghosts of Nagasaki here: http://www.amazon.com/Ghosts-Nagasaki-Daniel-Clausen/dp/1478314478/
Full disclosure: There is no way I can give this book a fair review. Harry and I have written a book together called “ReejecttIIon -- A Number 2.”
As advertised in the title of the book, you will meet hustlers, you will experience hassles, and hash will make up a great part of your journey. Whether true purification is reached in the course of this journey is another question. I tend to think of true purification as something rather elusive. For Harry, though, the course to purification should have exotic locales, check marks next to items on one’s F***it list, and experiences with the devil in its/his/her many shapes and forms. Is this true purification? From experience, I can tell you that travels and writing are only part of the process of purification...
The C.S. Lewis quote at the beginning of the book makes the personal challenge a little more clear: Harry must avoid the twin pitfalls of becoming a base materialist (with no belief in the magic of the world) or a unskeptical magician (who becomes too enamored with the devil). This is what Harry thinks his challenge is. Maybe he’s right. But there are others. He still has to charm the reviewers. He still has to learn the being an indy writer and being an Egyptian merchant are similar occupations. (“You buy this book, yes? It will make you attractive to the ladies!”)
Harry / you must also avoid the pitfall of becoming absorbed in oneself and becoming one with the pain of heartbreak. For a travel book about Egypt, there are large stretches of time where the book is about Harry and his overwhelming pain. Egypt is the the thing that pulls Harry out of himself, but also forces Harry back into himself. In a world of hustlers and hassles, why expose oneself to the world -- where hassles and hustles are smaller versions of the intense pain of heartbreak?
The minor heartbreaks of hustlers and hassles make up a great deal of the events of the book. However, so do moments of joy and respite. The book is about one person’s life in a certain place and time, and these events are simply and beautifully told.
There are, however, bigger villains in the book. These villains are some of the most captivating elements of the book.
One of these villains is the “Great Father.” A hustler whose clutches Harry happens to fall into early in the book when he decides to have coffee with a local hustler named Abdullah. Abdullah takes Harry from one place to another until finally Abdullah delivers him into the perfume shop of the “Great Father” -- a place that for Harry embodies evil.
Something is wrong. Very wrong. The mood has suddenly become dark. Much too dark for a book review. The reviewer suddenly isn’t his co-writer friend that he thought he knew so well but instead a great bear of a man, with a designer T-shirt, trendy jeans and Reebok trainers. Casual. Cool. But also a hustler with dark eyes that try so swallow him up and turn himself inward. Into his own loathing and fear.
Somehow, Harry finds himself back in the perfume shop of the Great Father.
“Harry,” the Great Father says. “We meet again. Last time, you left so quickly. It is destiny that you have found me here in this book review. You have experienced a great tragedy in your life, yes?”
Harry looks at the Great Father skeptically, looks him straight in his devil-black eyes. Everyone has had a personal tragedy. He is just fishing. Why is he here again? How did he get into this book review?
“You are lost in a great darkness.”
“No, mate. Not again. I won’t do this. It was shitty enough the first time.”
“You have written a book. This book has many problems. One, it stands in the shadow of other great travel books about Egypt. You just go around smoking weed. Your book is lazy. Like a lazy pot smoking book. Also, you don’t make sexy time in the book, even though your readers want to hear about sexual conquests. Blah, blah heart-ache, blah blah where is my girl? Then you go and smoke weed like lazy man. This is okay, I have a perfume that will make your book better….also you will take a tour with me in the desert. This tour will help cleanse your soul. And there is a man that lives in a small town I know who can ghost-write a better book. Very cheap. You will be Harry, the great adventurer and lady’s man of Egypt. The perfumes and the trip. Only LE 16,000.”
“Wait, I came here for a book review.”
“Yes, I know. Book review. No problem. First you buy the perfumes to cleanse your book of slow pacing. Then we find the great ghost-writer of the desert. He helps make a real protagonist who can woo ladies and ride a motorbike everywhere. Doesn’t need to get in argument with 20 taxi drivers in the course of 250-pages. Makes the book less repetitive. No need to name the book ‘How to Look Foolish and Stupid while arguing with Egyptian Taxi Driver.’”
“You thought the book was repetitive?”
“Yes, like lazy pot-smoking book.”
Harry is starting to lose his grip. Stay focused, Harry, get what you want. “La, la, la, I came here for just book review.”
“No, la, la, la, Harry. Your are a true Egyptian now. We will sit together and meditate. We will cleanse the spirit and find the truth about your book. Repeat after me, ‘The throat chakra’s connected to the third-eye. The third-eye chakra’s connected to the hip bone. The hip bone’s connected to the weak character development. The weak character development is connected to the pot addiction…’”
“Okay, wait, now, you’re just putting me on.”
The great father sprays Harry with perfume. Some of it gets into Harry’s eyes. For a moment, he is blinded. He struggles to get his eyes into focus. For a moment, the great father becomes Daniel Clausen laughing a hideously in slow motion with devil horns on his head. Then his eyes refocus and he sees the Great Father again.
“Harry, you must repeat. This incantation must be repeated exactly as I say it.”
Harry somehow finds himself repeating the incantation. “The throat chakra’s connected to the third-eye. The third-eye chakra’s connected to the hip bone. The hip bone’s connected to the weak character development. The weak character development’s connected to the pot addiction…” The entire time he’s thinking: don’t give him more than LE200, don’t give him more than LE200.
But the entire time that Harry’s chanting he sees his money disappearing from his pocket. His vision blurs and he sees Daniel Clausen laughing a villainous exaggerated laugh in slow motion, counting the Egyptian money. Then the Great Father comes back, “Keep chanting...must buy all 16 perfumes...trip to the desert...the third eye chakra’s connected to the hip bone….”
Harry wakes up in his room in London. It’s another rainy day in London. It must have been a dream. There was no review with the Great Father attempting to get his revenge. In the end only LE200 was paid for one bottle of perfume and a meditation. He had not been had.
He walks in his living room and finds perfume bottles everywhere. The Great Father is also sleeping on his couch. On his book shelf he sees his book. Although, this is not the sensitive tale of self-discover he had written. He picks it up.
“The Great Harry of Egypt” it reads. He is riding a motorcycle up a pyramid with a sword in his hand. Two ladies are hanging on to Harry from the back of his motorcycle.
The Great Father doesn’t open his eyes, but he says, “I tried to give book away with bottles of perfume, but no one wanted it. But it’s okay, Harry. Today you will drive taxi and bring me more customers. We will sell your book and my perfumes, eh, Harry. Or should I call you Abdullah?”
From a laptop somewhere far away, Daniel Clausen laughs a slow-motion villainous laugh.
Harry and I sit down for a coffee in London. It has been about three months since he has managed to get the Great Father out of his apartment and found a suitable method for disposing of the new versions of his novel.
“Well, I have to admit,” Harry says. “I felt powerful riding the motorcycle up the pyramid. And working for the Great Father has given me a new respect for how to hustle in this crazy world.”
“See,” I say. “This review wasn’t all bad.”
“Yeah, but what did you really think of the book?”
“I already told the reader earlier. The book was very good. I finished it in four days on top of my busy work schedule and felt the better for it. I take the piss out of all the books I like.”
“Well, that’s a relief.”
“Take care, Harry. I’m off on my next book reviewing adventure.”
And with those words, I proceed on to the adventure of reviewing Neuromancer!
Thanks everyone for your support with past books.
My newest book, a collaboration with Harry Whitewolf, is now out!
Here’s the blurb:
By reading ReejecttIIon, it’s likely you’ll discover: colorful short stories, funny flash fiction, hilarious cartoons, riveting reviews, wondrous anagrams and other assorted skits and titbits of under-achieving literary genius.
If you’re lucky, you might come across sci-fi tales about the privatization of words, horror stories about hair and ruminations on indie writing. It’s also possible that you’ll find commentary on the hazards of greedy literary agents and stories about washed up movie directors who receive financial backing from space aliens.
Publisher’s Meekly calls it: “a thought-provoking fable about technological hubris and the hazards of bioengineering.” (*This may or may not be referring to Jurassic Park and not ReejecttIIon.)
Reader’s Indigestion says: “this book quietly stands as one of the most powerful statements of the Civil Rights movement.” (*This may or may not actually refer to To Kill a Mockingbird and not ReejecttIIon.)
But why not read this seriously comical scattergun book and see what you can discover about ReejecttIIon for yourself?
And here are the links you’re surely itching to click on:
You can also start reading ReejecttIIon here:
She stands there, beautiful and captivating, the uncertain center of our universe. Her black eyes, deep wells of mystery and terror, enchant and endanger our lives. With orange hair, long legs, and an amazingly slender body, she sports a miniskirt so mini its existence is questionable.
We who stand in proximity to her are three. Me, your protagonist for the evening, aloof, yet also slowly becoming a scientist with grand ideas on how to solve the puzzle of the girl’s existence at our particular point in space and time. Bill, the enigmatic used CD store owner who is slowly becoming more uneducated, and, errrrr, horny. And Travis, the nonchalant hippie, who somehow found himself a reserve National Guardsman; he’s 28, working in a coffee shop and loving life -- I find that slowly, his face is turning stern, and his standard issue coffee shop uniform is starting to fill with general’s stars. I could give you theories.
I could give you science, strings, atoms, or a more plausible explanation about how the convergence of genres has brought about her existence. I could give you that, but it’s too early for insights of any kind of depth, and the short of it goes something like this -- I brought her from the future into my coffee shop with a cappuccino machine.
I haven’t made any special modifications to it, either in a mad scientist way or in any kind of Han Solo way. It’s not my cappuccino machine; it belongs to the coffee shop where I work. You know the kind, one of those corporate jobs, not the big one whose name everyone knows, and whose copyright I’m sure I’d be infringing on if I said their name, but one of those others that attempts to copy them: Call Me Ishmael Coffee.
Slowly though, her deep black eyes take me, my other coworker, and the patrons of our fine establishment back to a simpler time. Our mass-produced paper cups turn porcelain, our hairstyles more greasy, our “Thank You for Not Smoking” sign slowly turns into “Enjoy Joe’s Tobacco” complete with a smoking cowboy. My place of employment starts to fill with cigarette smoke. Our coffee shop is slowly becoming a '50s diner.
You can finish reading this story (and read other great stories) absolutely free on goodreads right here: https://www.goodreads.com/reader/63995-the-lexical-funk?return_to=%2Fbook%2Fshow%2F2927664-the-lexical-funk
[The following is an excerpt from an extended book review of Lester Goran’s book “Bing Crosby’s Last Song.” The book review is written more like a creative essay / short story than a book review. If you are interested in reading the entire review, you can email me at daniellclausen [at] gmail [dot] com ]
“So, what is this book?” Lester asks me. “In your opinion?”
“What’s it to me or what’s it to the people who will read it because of this thing I’m writing now?”
“Either. Both. None. Have a drink and forget the question or answer it, but do what you will quickly before I die again.”
“It’s what you say about Oakland in the middle of the book when you...I mean Daly, the main character, gets back from Connecticut. You’re glad to be home, but you realize how wrong it is at the same time...Oakland is right. Oakland is wrong. Oakland is home. Your book is right. Your books is wrong, but to you, it’s your last song, so you had to write it in a way that would bring closure and would almost seem like home. It’s Sinatra’s “I did it my way!” Who knew you would live for another fifteen years. It was like the fates tempting you to write another book, half finished, and then you would pass away. It’s cruel, but whatever it was, it had to be home.”
Suddenly, Lester stands up. He seems happy and alive with drink. He pulls a picture out of his pocket. It’s a picture of him and Daly Racklin together. Lester looks young, almost a kid, and Daly looks older -- kind of like what Lester looked like when I met him in 2002.
“It’s not that I did it my way. It’s that there was a story about this guy and there was only one way to really tell it. Right or wrong, that was the way the story went. It was a song that was there to sing. No more, no less.”
This book is called the “Rebel’s Sketchbook.” Is this book subversive? Is this book rebellious? I think it’s just a lot of fun. Also, it’s not entirely mean, either. There is no aftertaste of nastiness to the book (except for the story “Eat Nasty”). Most of the characters in the book are just archetypes anyway, so there is no problem when bad things happen to them.
Here is my very controversial take on why the book is good (one the author is free to argue with): The book is good because it is not subversive. When it is, it’s subversive in a light-hearted tongue-in-cheek sort of way that avoids the excesses of internet trolls, pundits, or conservatives who have adopted the form (but not the substance) of the 60s radical movements. In other words, it avoids the stupid subversiveness of the creatures of the age of phony outrage -- an age where people are outraged by everything, call themselves mavericks, but don’t need to have any coherent agenda.
The establishment in this book doesn’t seem particularly real or threatening. It just seems ridiculous. Reality is inherently silly; thus, the philosophy is more Douglas Adams than Frankfurt School (Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse).
The book’s dedication reads: “Dedicated to all the rebels who long to be free…”
I never saw “freedom” as anything more than the personal search for freedom. For me this is a good thing, because typically large scale emancipation projects have usually ended in people trying to put other people in chains of a different sort.
Things that made me think he could write more good work: Rupert has an excellent sense of pacing, easy beats that offset dialogue nicely, and good comedic timing. In other words, he has a prose style that is evolved and carries stories easily from one scene to the next.
Something that might disappoint: There isn’t a coherent ideology that underpins these stories. Many of the stories have a light touch -- they are funny, they are dark, they have style and at times grace. But that’s about it. Also, some of the stories have endings that just seem to end for the end of it...for ends sake.
Things that surprised me: Stories narrated from the perspective of inanimate objects.
Things that made me guffaw: Really, not laugh, but guffaw -- the clever use of a penis as a plot device (guffaw!); mentions of the Fingerbang Twins; politicians acting like idiots; hints and winks at Monty Python.
Things that made me think: “Sentenced” was one of the smartest stories in the book. Again, like the other stories, nothing in it made me want to rebel; but I thought it had a very smart take on social media. It was also a gripping and suspenseful mystery.
In the end...the book was a lot of fun and a very easy read. Cheers!