THE ABSENT - out now!


Out Now - For sale on Amazon and other onlne book sellers


Out Now


My first book of poetry available through Amazon and other online booksellers

Monday, July 29, 2013


One could guess without knowing for sure that SCAR LOVER was later in Harry Crews writing career  How? By the gushing sentiment present in the last 30 pages or so and by the happy ending.

That is not to say this is not a very strange book filled with the usual Crews eccentrics and grotesque situations.  Pete Butcher is shunned by what’s left of his family after he accidentally hits his brother in the head with a hammer as a child making him an idiot and later indirectly causing his parents to die in a car crash when they had to go out to get something.

While working unloading boxcars, he meets George a Rasta from Jamaica who is covered with scars.  Around the same time, he also makes friends with a girl who lives across the street and her weird family and an eccentric 85 year old man who lives in the same boardinghouse and who is obsessed with showing how fit he is and going to the zoo to look at the Yaks.

I enjoyed the first 2/3’s of this book but after that it doesn’t really go anywhere.  The enjoyable parts are funny in the ridiculous Crews way.  In fact, despite the very redneck nature of his settings and characters, Crews approaches narrative like a British writer effortlessly inserting nonsensical wildly funny encounters, dialogue etc.

But by the end sentimentality has swamped the story especially the love story between Pete and the neighbor girl.  I hope this isn’t true of all of his later books as I plan on working my way through his whole bibliography.

Monday, July 15, 2013


What THE LIAR shares with the other Thomas Savage book I’ve read his masterpiece THE POWER OF THE DOG (which I wrote about here   ) is unpredictability.  I had no idea where it was going but unlike the stinging, powerful ending of DOG, THE LIAR chooses a far less dramatic tableau in which the behavior of its main character, Hal Sawyer, makes total sense from a psychological perspective.

To say Hal doesn’t live up to his potential is an understatement.  Content to cruise by on his good looks, the unspoken theme here is his laziness and his belief that a good front is actually equal to accomplishment.  Hal is raised by his strict, slightly crazy mother after his father and later his stepfather dies, marries a spoiled rich ranch heiress who leaves him pretty quickly but not before becoming pregnant.

Although Hal doesn’t meet his son face to face until the end of the book when he is grown up and got a family of his own, he does communicate with him by letter sending presents at holidays and making up stories about his success when he is in fact barely treading water as a salesman.  When they finally do meet at the end, it doesn’t take much to see through Hal’s front.

Ironically his son does find success as a novelist and wealth too and has a good relationship with his young son and a good but slightly strained one with his wife.  The vision of a father he never knew but idolizes at some level has kept him going at times.

The end is not a disappointment.  Rather we are left with the thought that luck plays more of a part in where we go in life than we realize.  Hal, in addition, never seeks to take advantage of opportunities.  At one point, he is scouted by a Hollywood studio but does not do well in his screen test and that’s that.  If that was me I would have continued chasing that possible goal!

Deceptively simple yet amazingly complex, I’m left with a book full of malnourished characters, short of emotion they need, who traffic in dreams.  Some work hard and achieve them others like Hal are content with the facade.    

Sunday, July 7, 2013


Recently heard two cds by artists whose past work I’ve enjoyed but who haven’t recorded in awhile.

Martin Rossiter was the lead singer of my favorite band of the 90’s Gene.  When they broke up in the early 2000’s, my most immediate thought after what a shame was the hope for a Rossiter solo album.  Well, it’s taken ten years but THE DEFENESTRATION OF ST MARTIN is a good enough record that the wait seems worthwhile.

Rossiter has chosen to present this collection of songs in stripped down voice and piano arrangements.  This can be dangerous as the nakedness of the songs can expose the weakness of the material but the good news is the melodies and the lyrics are so strong they make you not notice the absence of drums or guitars.  If anything, Rossiter’s voice, always a strength when he was in Gene, is even better now. He hangs on every word of each song, maximizing volume and tone for emotional power.

With songs like “I Want to Choose When I Sleep Alone” and “My Heart’s Designed for Pumping Blood” Rossiter is still mining Morrissey as an influence but musically he has taken an original, deeply satisfying turn whether motivated by artistic impulses or a limited recording budget.  A very welcome return.  I wrote about Gene before here

Electric Soft Parade’s first new album in six years IDIOTS also finds them going in a different direction.  Their 2002 debut HOLES IN THE WALL was one of the best records of that year a successful merging of guitar based Brit pop and the less conventional Radiohead psychodrama  style.  Fabulous catchy songs were the key.  Their second album THE AMERICAN ADVENTURE was a bit of a flop as they tried to rock out a bit and aimed for something less organic but also less thought out.  The third NO NEED TO BE DOWNHEARTED was a partial return to form – good songs but extremely simple arrangements.

Now after a number of side projects the White brothers, the core of ESP, have returned with a record that sounds like a cross between The Smiths, Aztec Camera, The Housemartins, The Trashcan Sinatras, and newer bands like the Crookes.  Shimmery Rickenbacker guitars lend the proceedings a pretty summery feel.  Songs are sweet love songs or odes to other pleasant feelings with nice clear harmonies and well crafted wordplay.  It sounds like a completely different band most of the time but this is probably their most accessible record so far.

I think “Brother, You Must Walk Your Path Alone” could be the single of the year.    


Friday, July 5, 2013


Helen Bevington was known in her lifetime primarily for her poetry which I’ve never cared for  as I found it drab, ordinary, not particularly original.

However, she also wrote a series of memoirs which are top notch especially CHARLIE SMITH’S GIRL, the first volume, which is one of the best books I’ve read in the last four or five years.

Bevington writes in a clear and simple, fresh-faced style like Sherwood Anderson but without Anderson’s bitterness or sense of loss.  To her, the past has lessons contained within it.  It is a source of knowledge not regret.  Poverty is a condition of the time not a permanent scar.

CHARLIE SMITH’S GIRL is about Bevington’s childhood wherein she is shuttled, after her parent’s divorce, between her irresponsible yet charming father and her hard-working, dour mother.  Neither is a complete person and Bevington does a fantastic job detailing this.  By the end of the book, I knew her parents, what they looked like, how they spoke, how they dressed even….I could picture them in my head.

Bevington has a way of playing out a scene so it visual for the reader and makes it more interesting.  Many examples of this but one of the most striking is towards the end of the book where Bevington and her roommates are taught to wrestle by their landlord who fears they may be the victim of burglars and/or rapists.

I also feel that this not a self-indulgent memoir written just as a spillage of random facts about someone’s life, a gesture of narcissism.  GIRL reads more like a novel which one could argue it is.  It has the same structure of plot, denouement, resolution, character development etc.

And it also contains one of the best closing paragraphs of any book I’ve ever read.

“My mother and my father – one was strong and brave and indomitable, and one withdrew in utter despair.  Neither of them ever discovered how to be happy.  There must be a third way.  I am not sure but I think there must be a third way.”


Thursday, July 4, 2013


Nothing new about racism of course but now that it is less blatantly shown the strategy for indulging in it has changed.  What I’ve noticed….

1.) The reaction to Paula Deen’s comments under deposition as well as her plans to hold a slavery themed wedding and her brother’s comments to African-Americans at the restaurant she owns showed an attempt, part of an ongoing process, to separate racism from present day America and in a sense excuse it by defining it as from another time the way we excuse Columbus’s genocide and slavery and a whole host of historical evils.  However, we are only 50 years removed from major civil rights legislation.  The excuse that Deen is from another time in the South and is allowed to use language of this nature is just bullshit.  When’s the cutoff then? If we consider 1964 year zero for race relations in the USA then what of lingering racist language, attitudes, and actions?  If we are in a post-racial society then those who use racist language and indulge in racist actions should be doubly punished.  The Food Channel was right to give Deen the boot.  The Supreme Court was wrong to gut the Voting Rights Act.  Literacy tests and Poll Taxes are not that far in the past.  Limiting minority voting is an old Republican trick.  Republicans only win office when voter turn-out is low.

2.) Under the aegis of fighting crime, a lot of injustices have been done and are still being done to the African American community (and Hispanics as well).  Despotic midget Michael Bloomberg has now all but admitted that the stop and frisk program is race based.  African-American are given much longer prison sentences than white counterparts and more likely to be thrown in jail for bogus crimes.  Police brutality is still a big problem for African Americans.  Police are more likely to use deadly force against African Americans because they know they can get away with it.  There is not much regard for those who live in poorer areas especially if they are non-white.  Trayvon Martin’s body lay in the morgue for two days before anyone thought to call his parents.  A lot of these problems would be solved by a Federal Anti-Racial Profiling Bill which is something I strongly support.  Also decriminalizing marijuana and other drugs and getting rid of corporate for profit prisons (relying on constantly being filled up with prisoners) as well as strong Federal financial penalties on local prosecutor offices who knowingly convict innocent men of capital crimes by hiding evidence, manipulating witnesses etc. would go a long way

3.) Terrorism and the issue of immigration also provide cover for racists.  The line between xenophobia and racism is thin and often it is only a matter of semantics.  The way Arabs, Indians or anyone with a funny name is mocked on television shows like The Simpsons and in movies where the villains are Muslim terrorists creates a climate of ugliness.  Hatred of foreigners is one of the few acceptable prejudices left in the USA.  A way to marginalize anyone who isn’t white as the white majority gets closer demographically to being a white minority in America. The controversial Arizona Immigration Bill gives police the right to stop anyone who looks like an immigrant (i.e. brown people) and ask them for identification.  That is both unconstitutional and unacceptable in a country with a rule of law like America.

Racism in America in 2013 is sneakier and either excuses itself as part of ancient history or under the guise of crimefighting.  The good news is (as shown by the Paula Deen episode) that the light of day embarrasses and demolishes the racist.  In present day America, exposing and otherwise calling out the racist often solves the problem and one should not hesitate to do this when confronted with a bigot (this goes for homophobia too).

Monday, July 1, 2013


SUPER DE LUXE by Attic Lights

Produced by a member of Teenage Fanclub, this Scottish group’s second album has a passing resemblance to that band but most of the time substitutes sweetness for grunge.  It’s much less heavier affair than any of the Fanclub’s records and slightly less memorable although there are plenty of great hooks here and it’s the musical equivalent of eating one potato chip in that I find myself listening to it a lot after the initial listen. 


SUCHNESS by We Are Loud Whispers

There are only so many musical options when it comes to framing quietness.  Whispery vocals (better if they are female), rippling synthesizers, processed beats, and the odd acoustic guitar all work.  This duo’s debut has all of these – At its best it’s lovely and haunting at its worst boring and inconsequential luckily most of the time it’s closer to lovely and haunting.