Posts tagged ‘reviews’

February 1, 2011

Music Review: Warpaint’s The Fool

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Warpaint
The Fool

Rough-Trade Records, 2010

It’s a struggle to get a sense of how LA hipster-garage outfit Warpaint pull off such a provocative offering on their first full-length record, The Fool, released in October. The Fool does nothing less than hypnotise with a blinding trip-factor of layered, reverb-drenched guitar harmonies and rhythm structures so intricate and entrancing there are points when even the most straight-edge scenester will worry about being slipped a hit of acid.

Albeit Fool and Warpaint’s other release, 2009’s mass-hailed EP Exquisite Corpse, were produced by ex-Chili Pepper John Frusciante, which explains the clean, surfy approach, but there’s more to dropping distortion that makes this band so admirable.

Warpaint’s sound is an eclectic mash-up of influences unbelievably encompassing a pop-music past that is misconstrued and re-sorted into a Picasso-esque offering. Yes, Warpaint hits the epitome of what post-modern rock and post-punk represents right now much more than all their LA and London buddies, who only tend to recycle what the last guys did.

The mark of this prophet is in influence. “Undertow”, Fool’s poppiest tune, has distinct shades of sixties, Luv’d Ones style girl-garage with a foundation of traditional chords and psychedelic vocals. (Somehow, the song even makes a two-word Nirvana reference, right?)

Elsewhere more influences bleed through the facade, favourably on “Baby” and “Shadows” which obliquely play on Johnny Thunders’s near-folk but drearily alt-acoustic style. You can just see Emily Kokal strumming away in a manly fedora as a 70’s tranny-punk inverse. Nerds rejoice, these and countless other oldschool markings, embedded deep in Fool and barred only by slight mocking flair, impress beyond belief.

But aside from being clear rock ‘n’ roll high school grads, Warpaint has a stark sense of originality. With nine five minute-plus songs that spread over two LPs, Fool subdues your stream of thought with convoluted leads and complex rhythms rooted firmly in bass-laden foundation. The sharp-toothed guitar tone is the most unique approach in the LA alt-cum-indie scene yet.

Almost to downplay its freshness, numerous areas of Fool – notably on tracks like “Undertow” and “Set Your Arms Down” – are radio friendly. But, like on every track, the near indefinable Warpaint-ness eventually illumines. “Composure” wittily hints at an overwhelming clash with familiarity; Kokal proclaims “How can I keep my composure? “ amidst guitar leads so reverberated, the panicky thought mirrors the sound, emphasizing the disconnect from structure.

It’s tough not to envision the women of Warpaint – Theresa Wayman, Jenny Lee Lindberg, Stella Mozgawa and Kokal – as a cliquey gang, locked up in a members-only clubhouse, working away at their very own Rumours amidst scattered records, ashtrays and herbal tea. Obsessively concerned with reinventing, there isn’t a moment on Fool where you will say, Nah, I’ve heard that before. I can butter it up to no end but Fool is what modern music needs to be catchy, knowledgeable, but above all, new.

John Coleman

January 8, 2011

Book Review: This Book Is Overdue by Marilyn Johnson

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THIS BOOK IS OVERDUE: HOW LIBRARIANS AND CYBRARIANS CAN SAVE US ALL
by Marilyn Johnson

Harper Perennial
January 2011 (paperback), $14.99, 304 pages)

I’ve often wondered what would happen to libraries in a world with instant online access, so I selected This Book Is Overdue with high expectations. Marilyn Johnson begins with a brief historical example and an explanation of how librarians have helped libraries (and, especially, their patrons) adapt to this ever-changing online environment.

The first few chapters are full of stories from librarians illustrating their invaluable knowledge that a computer alone cannot provide, from helping the unemployed create resumes (usually people who have never even heard of resumes) to making themselves available to answer questions 24/7 through web blogs. The chapter, “Big Brother and the Holdout Company,” was extremely disturbing. I didn’t know about the gag-order on librarians during the debates on the U.S.A. Patriot Act until I read this book. If you value your privacy and you live in the U.S, you will find this chapter relevant to your life. Similarly, the chapter “Gotham City” was a fascinating revelation into information about librarians not known outside the field.

Another chapter, “How to Change the World” showed how some librarians use technology to improve the quality of life in less-fortunate countries. Though interesting, this chapter didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the book because it was focused mostly on available technology – not unlike an infomercial. I almost felt like I was reading another book entirely.

After that, the author seemed to wander away from the direction she established in the beginning. She spends several chapters making a big deal about librarians who don’t look like the stereotype: blue hair, tattoos, using obscenities, etc. Had Johnson stuck to the transitional experiences of librarians, especially in regard to the modernization of libraries and librarians’ personal dedication to sharing knowledge, instead of sensationalizing the career by discussing topics like librarians who enjoy swearing, I wouldn’t think this book was such a huge disservice to librarians and library science.

I want to make sure people understand that my review is not a reflection of my opinion of librarians (I worked in a library for nearly five years). Unfortunately, This Book is Overdue lacked a serious focus, and strayed from the product description. Instead, if you love libraries, Library: An Unquiet History is a better choice.

– review by Ursula K. Raphael

December 14, 2010

Book Review: The Matter with Morris by David Bergen

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THE MATTER WITH MORRIS
by David Bergen

Harper Collins
(September 2010, CAN $29.99, 254 pages)

A link is drawn between Morris Schutt, fifty-one year old writer and main character of David Bergen’s Giller Prize-nominated novel The Matter With Morris, and Haggai, whom Bergen’s third person narrator tells us is “a less than minor prophet [. . .] who in the Bible gets two chapters.” The image of Haggai – a silenced prophet – is a lot like Morris. Once a syndicated columnist read by people worldwide, he loses his writing contract when his thoughts turn sour. Wouldn’t yours after your son dies at war?

Indeed, the matter with Morris and the Schutt family is the death of their son and brother Martin while serving in the Canadian army in Afghanistan. The fallen infantryman haunts this text; his absence tears apart a modern family along with their aging home. Solemnly, Morris and his wife, Lucille, part by way of a death they never expected. And Morris holds squalid relations with his daughters: Meredith, a working class mother with a grudge toward her selfish father, and Libby, a distant teen too smart to be trapped by adulthood’s hypocrisy. In a touchingly realist depiction of the new millennium as war era, the Schutts are today’s army family strewn by tragedy.

Living alone in a condo, Morris is patted down by moral anguish. Museless and desperate, he focuses on his life’s worst moment: a father-son huff, daring Martin to join the army. To boot, Martin was killed accidentally by one of his own men. For Morris, it’s just as well as pulling the trigger himself.

Mentally and spiritually unhealthy, Morris copes through self-destruction. Most pertinent of all, he is hooked on a woman’s touch and hires prostitutes to relieve his inner tension. There is also Ursula, an American reader of Morris’s column who, too, lost her son to war (in Iraq). Ursula and Morris become intimate pen pals, and eventually meet. Contemplating his choices in a hotel room as Ursula sleeps, Morris yearns for the solace he is searching for. Eventually, he does declare a breaking point. Things will change, he will get his family back, even if it takes some extreme measures.

Bergen admits in Morris’s afterword to borrowing ample inspiration from Cicero, Plato, Socrates and Bellows when creating Morris’s deep philosophical rhetoric. For some readers, his pondering of freedom, humanism and rabid individualism may seem pretentious, constantly lathered on without letting the last big question settle. However, I empathise with the abstractness needed to make sense of this character’s gall-filled world.

This empathy solidifies in many scenes that war parents and families can relish in. “[Morris] had heard of the Highway of Heroes near Toronto,” Bergen writes in sardonic prose, “he wondered how it was that he had come to live in a place where a fallen soldier was driven ignominiously past warehouses and big box stores.” Revenge is also offered through Morris’s habitual letter writing, one to the Prime Minister and another to the company who manufactured the gun that killed Martin. Morris notes the absurdity of sending a letter that will never be read, nodding at Bergen’s apostrophe technique and the simple closure the act offers.

Aside from lashing outward, Morris’s hurt drives hard toward nihilistic tendencies too. His son’s death causes him so much despair, loneliness, inadequacy, guilt, and scepticism, it’s no wonder he contemplates suicide more than once. His existential traits, borrowed from Kafka and Kierkegaard, lead him to declare solitude and to have feelings of despair and worthlessness. Don’t worry Morris, we hear your story, along with the 152 lonely Canadian fathers that live it every day. It’s the bleak story of modern global politics and its disastrous impact on the family. And, it’s something Bergen obviously wants us to consider.

John Coleman

December 13, 2010

Book Review: The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman

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THE COOKBOOK COLLECTOR
by Allegra Goodman

The Dial Press
(July 2010, $26, 416 pages)

I waited several weeks for my turn to throw myself into The Cookbook Collector because the wait-list at my library was that long. Was it NPR’s palavering reviews which bestowed the crown upon Allegra Goodman’s not-so-humble head as the modern-day Jane Austen? An honor Goodman neither accepted nor declined, she just side-stepped by stating she had many, many influences and inspirations, not just Jane Austen.

Hmmmm, not too modest for such high praise, I thought but I didn’t want to begin in the wrong frame of mind. I wanted The Cookbook Collector to be great. It was important for me as a Janeite and because 2010 was the summer of Franzenfeud, when Jonathan Franzen reigned supreme. There was a dire need of a strong female novelist to knock Jonathan Franzen out of his Ivory Tower. Alas, Ms. Goodman comes up decidedly short.

The Cookbook Collector is a confusing ramble into the decline of the shallow and greedy days of the Dot Com boom. The central characters, Emily and Jessamine, are sisters with opposite personalities and lifestyles around which this story — no, make that multiple stories or, better yet, multiples of multiple stories — revolve. Emily is a smart, reserved and successful CEO of a start-up on the brink of becoming incredibly successful while making her incredibly rich. Jessamine is the artistic, philosophic and free-thinking perpetual student/vegan who makes the reader wonder if she’s about to wander right off the pages of the novel in pursuit of a butterfly. Emily is focused and driven; Jess is scattered and flighty.

Their stories take the reader back and forth from West Coast to East Coast on a wild roller coaster ride of an IPO and up to the top of a protected Red Wood tree. Enter an array of characters, each with their own subplot: Emily’s ruthless and brilliant fiancee CEO, Jonathan, who just needs a set of jagged teeth and some fins to complete his image; Jessamine’s sanctimonious tree-hugging beaus; their father and his second family, Hassidic Bialystok Jews (also bi-coastal!); software programmers and their messy affairs; their dead mother who wrote the girls birthday letters until their 25th birthdays; a woman with a valuable cookbook collection looking to make a sale; and George Friedman, the bookstore owner and collector of valuables, he’s also a jaded Microsoft millionaire that delights in perpetually jabbing Jess with his wry insights into her chaotic life and loser boyfriends. The story shoots between Yorick’s, an antiquarian bookstore where Jess works at an hourly rate while Emily is prepared to rake in millions as CEO of her wildly successful company Veritech.

If that’s not confusing enough, throw in the Dot Com crash and 9/11, mix it with love, loss, more love, more loss, some misunderstandings, inconceivable connections that neatly wrap up all the loose ends and a happy ending for one, a sad new beginning for the other. Unfortunately, this is no modern Sense and Sensibility. It’s a distracting and predictable yarn that reaches far and wide but lacks heart and soul that allows the reader any satisfaction in its boring and overwrought finish.

The Cookbook Collector is loaded with inconsistencies that yanked me right out of the story. For example, the birthday letters from the sisters’ dead mother, an artistic woman, are written on the computer. This was designed to add depth to the story but was actually one of several events that brought my reading to a screeching halt. The time frame for the story was 1999. Was Microsoft Word around 20 years before the story took place? Wouldn’t a woman writing birthday letters for her daughters to read after her death prefer the touch of handwritten letter? Then there was George Friedman, the wealthy proprietor of Yorick’s antique bookstore. Curmudgeonly and jaded at the ripe old age of 39, he had lived through the hippy days of the 60s and 70s then landed a job at a little company known as Microsoft… wait a minute… a hippy in the 60’s? He was just born if he was 39 years old in 1999! Emily’s fiancee Jonathan owned one of the first Blackberrys, which sent me off to Google the history of the Blackberry. This is the first novel I’ve ever made the effort to factually verify.

It is also one of a very few novels I’ve continued to read after giving up on it out of sheer spite, which was probably a good thing for the author. Allegra Goodman had passages of stunning writing scattered throughout The Cookbook Collector but those brief and rare interludes simply hinted at her potential and provided nothing to improve her story. I bestow upon Ms. Goodman a quote from Jane Austen regarding The Cookbook Collector: “Commonplace nonsense but scarcely any wit.”

Sweetman

November 22, 2010

Music Review: Fucked Up – Year of the Ox

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FUCKED UP
Year of the Ox

Merge Records, 2010

We all know bands grow up, but it’s usually into whiny commercial whores. That’s why it’s so great to watch Fucked Up somehow, with increasing severity, undercut punk’s simplistic ethos with every release. Indeed, they do it again on their latest, Year Of The Ox, the fourth instalment in their Zodiac themed singles line which has led the band in some of their most audibly absurd travels. At times wholly off the cusp in any sense of hardcore punk, Fucked Up’s past five years, since their debut full-length record Hidden World and acclaimed follow-up The Chemistry of Common Life, showcases a band with an itching experimental side waiting to let loose.

On Ox, the title track “Year Of The Ox” opens with an eerie violin and cello build-up, donated by Toronto orchestra ensemble New Strings Old Puppets, that foreshadows the song’s bass line and classical elements. Tension rises for just over a minute before the band kicks in. Damian Abraham immediately spits out bludgeoning vocals in time with the guitar section’s stomping yet gentle hook that prevails as the thirteen minute song’s main riff.

A slight change in that hook switches up progression five minutes in. When the formula returns after a quick bridge, Abraham’s throat lashings assume an authoritative air while New Strings returns for an epic orchestral bridge. The guitar takes a backseat to elevating classical monstrosity reminiscent of Hidden World’s opener “Crusades” but much more ampler. Zola Jesus’s Nika Rosa Danilova dawns her voice in the latter half of the tune, offering mystical vocal swells amidst the now gritty, palm muted guitar line.

“Ox” mixes the grandiose with the gutter. If Abraham stopped wrenching his guts, then Fucked Up would have to be labelled something other than punk or hardcore. The difference in styles begs the question, can punk be classically epic? Perhaps this is a question that will never be answered by the troupe, but this song’s rule bending consciousness displays how punk doesn’t always have to laugh at itself, but can be seriously measured for all signs of integrity. Fucked Up proves punk is real music, and even an academy-trained ear can recognise that.

The single’s B-side is another eye opener. Unlike previous Year Of’s backed with a couple two-minute punk standards, Ox flips over to the twelve minute “Solomon’s Song” that uniquely features a saxophone line lent by Aerin Fogel of the Bitters. The bluesy intro leads to another low-mid tempo drum beat while a high-pitch guitar lead cycles over distant power chords. The song gets trippy as psychedelic delay effects are laid on the guitars during the choruses. When Abraham rests during the many, almost unnoticed, bridges, the band is a marvel. Bassist Sandy wraths the bass strings during this nearly twelve-minute track that offers low pitch punches, spacey bell rings and tremolo feedback jetting out from hidden crevices, and Fogel wailing on the sax for a broad five-minute outro.

Year Of The Ox is monumental in mapping the evolution of Fucked Up from being an abrasive streetcore band to the scene’s forerunning innovators. Long time fans know they’re still thrashing and crashing, but to an obviously more intricate, grown-up style.

– review by John Coleman

November 18, 2010

Book Review: Inside the Mirrors by Jason R. Davis

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INSIDE THE MIRRORS
by Jason R. Davis

CreateSpace
(December 2009, $13.99, 386 pages)

Inside The Mirrors by Jason R. Davis reminded me of classic horror: scary without excessive gore. This story crawls into your head and makes you leave the light on after you’re done reading. The plot centers on Rob Alleto, a Chicago cop who believes that moving to a small town would lead to a safer environment for himself and his family. When an evil spirit attempts to possess Rob’s neighbors through their mirrors, he discovers that there are things far worse than street criminals. As more people fall under the control of the “Winago,” all the plants and animals begin to die and even the buildings appear dilapidated overnight. Rob soon wishes he had never left Chicago.

The prologue grabbed my attention immediately with a man unexpectedly falling off a silo, but my interest began to fade with the drawn out raid on a meth lab. I understand that the author was trying to give us some background on Rob’s injuries and his decision to leave Chicago, but when I’m expecting horror, I don’t want to feel like I’m reading something from the crime genre.

Quickly after the raid, the story picks up pace with Rob in the hospital thinking about his upcoming move to a small town where he will work as a deputy. His wife, Robyn, along with their son, Jake, take care of packing for the move so the family can leave immediately after Rob is released from the hospital. The first chapter ended with a frightening surprise that hooked me for the rest of the book (sorry, anything more would be a major spoiler).

The following chapter switched point of view to two boys, Aaron and Josh, as they ventured into an abandoned house where a family murder took place. Only someone like Davis, with his great knowledge of horror, could write with terrifying suspense, one where you’re screaming at the characters, “don’t go into the house!”

The next jump in point of view is to a homeless drifter, Coolidge, who sees a grotesque dead man appear out of nowhere. The dead man tells him to go home and continues to stalk and torment Coolidge until the drifter ends up in the same small town that Rob has moved to, which is when the various viewpoints begin to converge in the town of Standard.

Davis, the Director of the Chicago Horror Film Festival, self-published this debut novel and the final copies are riddled with typos. However, the raw editing doesn’t disrupt the flow of the story. Once all the major characters are in place, Davis takes his readers on a thrill ride through hell in the disguise of small town drama. The harder Rob tries to make sense of everything, the faster his life falls apart around him. Lots of people die, and a major sacrifice is needed to stop the Winago from overwhelming the entire town. When you’re done reading this book, you won’t want to linger in front of your mirror.

You can find out more about this new author, and his many ongoing horror projects, here.

-Ursula K. Raphael

 

photo: Elliott Pics

November 2, 2010

Book Review: What Is Left the Daughter by Howard Norman

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WHAT IS LEFT THE DAUGHTER
by Howard Norman

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
(October 2010, US$25.00, 256 pages)

At the beginning of Howard Norman’s What Is Left The Daughter, Wyatt Hillyer, a teenage boy recently orphaned by double parent suicides, embarks on an apprenticeship to his uncle Donald as a toboggan maker. Odd, but these two scenarios are more closely knit than you may think. They set up the depressing chain of events that this World War Two era novel follows.

Written as a letter to Wyatt’s long-lost daughter Marlais, this novel’s most striking trait is its focus on tragedy-touched characters. The fatal theme flourishes quickly, once Wyatt is moved from Halifax to Middle Economy, Nova Scotia, a small town in the maritime province where his aunt and uncle live. Here, Wyatt reunites with Tilda, his adopted cousin whom he secretly loves. Also in her late teens, Tilda decides to become a professional mourner – yes, she weeps alongside deceased loners whom no one else will pity. In diverse representation, Wyatt isn’t the only one full-up on sadness. The man Tilda eventually marries is Hans Mohring, a German exchange student of philology at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

And then there is Tilda’s father, Wyatt’s toboggan-making mentor Donald, overcome with paranoia caused by German U-boat attacks off Canada’s east coast. Donald withdraws from the family, gives up the sleigh racket, and starts bunking alone in his work shed like a soldier. On her last night in town before travelling to Newfoundland on a family visit, Wyatt’s aunt Constance, Donald’s wife, breaks the shield and sleeps with Donald between walls tacked up with war stories from the newspaper.

Things climax when a German torpedo takes out a ferry with Constance onboard. With this, Donald’s hate for Hitler peaks; his paranoia proves its worth. He even goes as far as smashing his beloved Beethoven and Bach gramophone records, the ones that always got caught in the last groove before the needle could lift: a broken record repeating its last note over and over again, like the newspaper and radio reports Donald couldn’t ignore.

In one last, foul move, Donald tricks Wyatt into inviting Tilda’s German husband, Hans, to their house, apparently to make peace. Instead, Donald’s rage overpowers wit when he kills Hans with a steel toboggan runner. Daughter takes on a small town, court drama feel for a couple chapters. Donald gets life in prison for the murder; Wyatt receives a couple years for his involvement.

Upon his release, Wyatt slowly becomes part of Tilda’s life again and one night they conceive a child: Marlais. However, Wyatt is once again abandoned when Tilda moves to Denmark with Marlais, and until the point that the book is written—March 27, 1967—Wyatt goes without seeing his daughter for nearly thirty years. The story ends with Wyatt encountering more death (from both important characters and not), old friends, and living his life as a dedicated gaffer at the Halifax Harbour.

Daughter is a bleak and empathetic story, dissolved slightly with pockets of classic, uppity, home front war era scenes. To Norman’s credit, there are many unforeseen right turns that follow constant tragic foreshadowing. From page one, death is on the mind, and the avenues in which the theme is experimented with are not obviously revealed. Like any wartime novel, Daughter does have flavours of stories told once before. Hitler’s encroach on Middle Economy, even though he and his troops are distant, is represented only by a foreign sit-in. When it’s revealed that there are Nazis posing as RMC soldiers roaming around Nova Scotia and that a friend of Wyatt’s was attacked by them, you start to sympathize with Donald, the unabashed defender of reasonable revenge. Although he sacrificed an innocent bystander, he had the right intention. I guess that’s the worth of any good war novel: breaking down misconceptions loaded with controversial politics.

John Coleman

October 31, 2010

Book Review: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse by Bud Hanzel and John Olson

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THE DO-IT-YOURSELF GUIDE TO SURVIVING THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE
by Bud Hanzel and John Olson

Hanson Press, Inc.
(August 2010, $14.95, 160 pages)

The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse by Bud Hanzel and John Olson and illustrated by Mark Stegbauer, comes with a guarantee of “double your money back” if you do not survive the zombie apocalypse after reading the book. From here on out, the tone is set. The humor of this guide is one of the few things that sets it apart of from the many others that have been published in the past few years, though I’m still waiting for someone to write one for kids! If you look past the funny cartoons and the hilarious sarcasm, you will find that this book has actual info that could be used in a zombie apocalypse.

The ZTA (Zombie Transforming Agent) is a blanket description for all possible sources of infection, and the introduction into the hot topics commonly found in zombie forums/websites:

• Varying speeds of the undead
• Effects of climate/environment on “zombie un-life expectancy”
• Whether or not the person’s spirit is trapped in the body of the zombie

I’ve read so many zombie survival guides that much of the information wasn’t new to me, and some of it actually struck me as bad advice. For instance, police stations and firehouses were recommended as places to go. However, zombiephiles know that a rescue station with even one infected person on the inside can quickly become a death trap. However, I did like the idea of a warehouse club store as opposed to the famous mall idea. And, unlike Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide, there were excellent pictures of assorted weapons for those who lack the familiarity.

After all the zombie info, “the plan” follows. If you disagree with any part of the plan, you are directed to Appendix E for a detailed explanation of the consequences. I found the section describing the many types of crosshair candidates (those people likely to get killed due to stupidity in a zombie outbreak) extremely amusing, as well as realistic. Stegbauer’s artistic talent and comic book-like illustrations really shined in the Do’s and Don’ts section.
My absolute favorite parts of this guide were Appendixes C and D. The former is a “shovel blade cookbook” complete with a list of staples and preparation tips. The latter is a wide-ranging list of references to increase your survival knowledge.

The major oversight of this guide is the lack of survival tips for parents (“save the babysitter” did NOT cut it); some parents can’t even manage a trip to the grocery store or a domestic flight, so they need all the help they can get in an outbreak. I wish someone would write one specifically for parents, or even one for the kids of zombiephiles, but – at the very least – a separate section should have been written on that particular aspect.

All things considered, this guide is definitely worth adding to your zombie genre collection.

Ursula K. Raphael

October 28, 2010

Book Review: Darwin’s Dreams by Sean Hoade

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DARWIN’S DREAMS
by Sean Hoade

May December Publications LLC
(September 2010, $12.95, 200 pages)

Religion and science have struggled to coexist throughout history, especially when Charles Darwin introduced his theories of evolution and natural selection. To this day, creationism and evolution continue to be the topic of great debate, which makes Darwin’s Dreams a poignant novel illustrating the inception of Darwin’s famous theory.

Darwin’s Dreams is a fictional story based on the real voyage of the HMS Beagle from December 1831 to October 1836. This was actually the second survey expedition of the Beagle under the command of Captain Robert FitzRoy. During this time in history, command of a ship could lead to overwhelming stress and despair, as in the suicide of FitzRoy’s own uncle. In addition to his personal need for a traveling companion, FitzRoy felt the expedition would benefit from the addition of a geologist. After being turned down by two others, FitzRoy’s superior, Captain Beaufort, received recommendations for the young Charles Darwin.

Hoade begins his vision of this historical endeavor with the first meeting between FitzRoy and Darwin while the Beagle is docked in Plymouth, England in 1831. During this conversation, FitzRoy warns Darwin, “Whatever you put into your head, the spirals of vertigo will whip into the most vivid images while you sleep.” This excellent foreshadowing by Hoade sets the premise for the novel; the author creatively uses dreams to convey the thoughts and emotions that Darwin experiences on his journey, both on the Beagle, and afterwards, when Darwin writes about his overseas experiences. Hoade uses the interlude dreams to divide the chapters, propelling the reader forward from 1832 in Brazil to the Down House in 1865, and laying out the path that eventually leads to the publication of The Origin of Species.

Hoade demonstrates the depth of his philosophical background by deftly describing famous writings of well-known philosophers and scientists, such as Gottfried Leibniz and William Paley, and through his interpretation of Charles Darwin’s subconscious. The visions Darwin experiences while he sleeps illustrate, not only what he has been reading, but also the reasoning behind his deductions and the influence of the great thinkers. Anyone familiar with classic writings of philosophy will recognize the works that Hoade incorporates into the story of Darwin’s inner struggle between science and religion. Some of my favorite dream interludes were The Ark, with an interesting explanation of mythological creatures and dinosaurs, and The Hindoos, who are able to literally see the connection between every living soul through “mesmerization.”

In addition to Darwin’s Dreams, Sean Hoade is the author of the noir-thriller, Ain’t that America. Hoade teaches English and creative writing and his short stories, poems and cartoons have been published internationally. He is currently at work on a graphic novel, teaching an online writing class, and making waves in the zombie community with his horror shorts. He loves to receive email from his readers.

Ursula K. Raphael

October 21, 2010

Book Review: The Talented Miss Highsmith by Joan Schenkar

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THE TALENTED MISS HIGHSMITH: THE SECRET LIFE AND SERIOUS ART OF PATRICIA HIGHSMITH
by Joan Schenkar

St. Martin’s Press
(December 2009, $40, 704 pages)

Before you think you are going to settle down for a glimpse at what made Patricia Highsmith tick, prepare for a chronologically challenged, confusing and often repetitive narrative of the ins and outs of obsessions, ruminations, ideas and idylls that gave Highsmith’s novels like The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train their stylized edginess and cold calculation.

Patricia Highsmith the Writer was a woman to admire: she wrote in a straightforward yet brutal manner that pulls the reader right into the hard heart and cold soul of her protagonists. It is thrilling to become immersed in Highsmith’s novels because she had a grip on bad that made it so good. While difficult to categorize her in a specific genre, she was a pioneer. Highsmith may be best known for her Ripley novels but her body of work includes twenty-two novels, eight short story collections, a suspense writers instruction guide and a book for children. She published a ground-breaking lesbian novel The Price of Salt under the pseudonym Claire Morgan in 1952.

Patricia Highsmith the Woman was, quite possibly, someone best avoided. Labeled a psychopath and a “black cloud,” she was a raging alcoholic for most of her literary life. In many ways her art imitated her life – or at least the dark recesses of her psyche. She believed life didn’t make sense without a crime in it. In her one of her many self-observations she stated, “If I were to relax and become human, I could not bear my life.” A talented but flawed Miss Highsmith, indeed.

Joan Schenkar tasks the reader mightily as Highsmith’s biographer. She forgoes the traditional chronological approach and instead groups the book into Highsmith’s themes/obsessions: How to Begin, A Simple Act of Forgery, La Mamma, Les Girls, Alter Ego, Greek Games. Nine divided parts jump into different times and places in Highsmith’s life. It is a meandering wander, a hippy Christmas that is difficult to follow and makes for unsettled reading. Schenkar’s method is the polar opposite of her subject; Miss Highsmith kept detailed lists, diagrams, maps and charts throughout her life. Schenkar’s unusual style does allow one to flip through the book without really missing a beat. Unfortunately, it is a beat that resonates with an uneven repetition of themes regarding Patricia Highsmith’s internal drives, which were apparently fueled by alcohol and cigarettes. There were women – many women – and occasionally a few men, in addition to her racist attitudes and actions, her aversion to comfort, avoidance of truth, self-history revision when convenient and an intense desire for privacy. Ah yes, and the collection of three-hundred snails Highsmith kept as pets. Highsmith loved snails because of their ambiguous shell and difficult gender identification. When bored at a dinner party, as she often was because she disliked food, Highsmith would pull a snail out of her purse or bra and play with it on the table cloth.

The eight years Schenkar spent perusing 18 diaries, 38 cahiers (writer’s notebooks) and 8,000 pages of her unpublished work sit uneasily in nearly 700 pages. Patricia Highsmith’s personal thoughts and opinions are not pleasant places to linger, despite her talent. It is disturbing to see her age ungracefully from svelt sphinx to a craggy, hunched gargoyle. Phobias and fantasies become more prominent in her later years. After reading her biography, it can be safely said that one of Highsmith’s most admirable qualities of character is that she wrote about her demons rather than acting upon them.

Sweetman

October 19, 2010

Book Review: The Countess by Rebecca Johns

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THE COUNTESS
by Rebecca Johns

Crown
(October 2010, $25, 304 pages)

The Countess opens with a passage from the Brothers Grimm tale Snow White, which serves as a bit of foreshadowing of Bathory’s jealous rages. The story begins with a letter Reverend Zacharias writes to a colleague that describes his failed attempts to convince the countess to repent of her crimes. He also mentions his discovery of personal letters written by Erzsebet Bathory to her only son, Pal. The story of her life is told through these letters, and paints a less dramatic picture of her activities than any other Bathory novel I have read.

Erzsebet has been sealed away in a tower in her own castle, with only a small space through which to pass her food and drink and take away her chamber pot. To pass the time, she writes to her son about her life, hoping to enlighten Pal to the dangers around him. She shares a story about a horrific punishment her father carried out against a gypsy while she was a young girl. She moves through stories of her arranged marriage, her affair, and the death of her husband.

I was halfway through the book when I wondered if there would be any mention of the crimes that inspired all the legends that surround her name. Eventually, she does use severe punishment for her servants, justifying her actions by explaining how lazy and insolent they had been, “rutting” with stable boys and stealing from the household. However, aside from the extreme and brutal beatings, usually with a whip, the punishments are not described in much detail and are hardly mentioned.

The transitions from one chapter of her life to the next are separated by accounts of what is happening to her in the tower as she writes to her son. What she says and does elicits little sympathy, however, as she sounds very much like someone who is self-centered and living in her own little world. Even though she speaks a great deal about her relationships with those around her, she gives very little consideration to their thoughts and feelings. If someone does something she doesn’t approve of, Erzsebet assumes it is a personal attack on her happiness. The more she accuses others of being jealous and malicious, the more she appears to be a sadistic and cold-hearted woman.

I thought this was the blandest account of Bathory that I have ever read; every scene seemed to lack any real emotion, which was unusual, considering that Bathory is telling her own story. I’m not sure if the author’s intention was to portray Bathory as a different sort of monster than the usual bloody tales. Despite her unlikeable character and her atrocious attitude towards others, this novel is worth reading at least once if you are interested in a new perspective of the life of Countess Bathory. Readers will either love it or hate it – there’s no middle ground with this book.

However, don’t mistake my disliking of the character’s attitude for a disliking of the author’s writing style. Rebecca Johns has vastly improved her story-telling since her debut novel, Icebergs. Johns also maintains a blog called Illiterati, featuring an exclusive interview with the deceased Bathory.

Ursula K. Raphael

October 12, 2010

Book Review: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Undead by Don Borchert

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THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER AND THE UNDEAD
by Don Borchert

Tor Books
(August 2010, $13.99, 304 pages)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain is about a young boy growing up in a small town along the Mississippi River. It’s also the latest novel to be zombified. I’ve amassed so many mash-ups of classical literature and zombie fiction that if future archaeologists ever found my collection…well, the historians would have a field day with the discovery…probably the psychologists too. Some novel hybrids are just the originals with zombies jammed in, while others offer a spectacular blending of genres. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Undead falls somewhere in the middle.

Don Borchert’s take on this classic started out rather boring. The editor’s note, written from the world of the Zum, was extremely hokey, completely unnecessary, and did more harm than good. If a story is interesting, it should not need an explanation of the plot in advance. Read the editor’s note at your own risk; you have been warned.

In the first half of the book, the story follows the original pretty closely with a few minor changes, tailored to fit in the Zum – the name of the zombies that have overrun the United States. For instance, instead of being required to paint the fence white, Aunt Polly tells Tom to sharpen the tops of the fence posts. There was very little mention of Zum, which is a let-down when “undead” is in the title. More attention is given to descriptions of the survival modifications to the village that Tom lives in than the Zum or the infection.

I kept finding excuses to put the book down, and, truthfully, I only continued reading because this book was a gift. I also have a policy of only reviewing books that I’ve read from beginning to end. I was shocked at the difference in the narrative once “Injun Joe” made his entrance into the story: more Zum scenes, plenty of action, and lots of surprises. This novel is the perfect example of why people should read the entire book before they form an opinion. (Or you could just start on page 95.)

Before reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Undead, Zombiephiles should know:

1) most Zum are mindless shamblers, but there are a few thinking-Zum
2) source of infection is unknown and can be spread to animals
3) headshots don’t necessarily work; burning bodies is necessary

If you like mash-ups between genres or anything to do with zombies, it’s worth reading at least once. If Don Borchert decides to try his hand at The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, I hope he works in more Zum hunting.

Ursula K. Raphael

October 10, 2010

Book Review: Henry VIII: Wolfman by A.E. Moorat

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HENRY VIII: WOLFMAN
by A.E. Moorat

Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
(July 2010, $9.55, 416 pages)

Once upon a time, I was offered the chance to review Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter, A.E. Moorat’s first novel. I almost passed on it because I was a little wary of historical fiction mash-ups, but I knew it had zombies in it, so I figured it was worth reading at least once. In the novel, Queen Victoria fights the evil clan of Baal with the help of the Royal Protektor, Maggie Brown. Most of England is completely ignorant of the demonic dangers, so the Royal battles are suppose to be kept secret.

It turned out to be one of the best novels I have ever read. I was expecting a mix of Brian Keene & Phillipa Gregory; instead, Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter was more like “Army of Darkness” meets “The Mighty Boosh”: a very entertaining fantasy-adventure, but not quite horror. The novel made me a Moorat fan, so I was very excited to read the next novel.

In Henry VIII Wolfman, the King also deals with the clan of Baal but the novel is very different from Queen Victoria. In an extremely long and elaborate flashback between the prologue and epilogue, mainly told from Henry’s point of view, Henry VIII: Wolfman is an alternative historical account from a universe completely different from the believable, behind-the-scenes story of real historical events in Queen Victoria. Even though I didn’t find Wolfman nearly as amusing as Moorat’s first novel, it was a great psychological-horror story about a king struggling with a major life change while trying to save his people.

In the prologue, Henry has transformed into a werewolf and has devoured the Queen, though which wife is not specified. He then remembers everything that led up to the moment described in the prologue: Henry is beginning to get fat, he’s in the Palace of Greenwich and Anne Boleyn catches his eye. There are also hints at a romantic interest with Jane Seymour, who turns out to be quite the noble woman.

Henry’s major problems begin when a wolfen cell, led by a werewolf Malchek and tired of being the lowest rung on the ladder among the Baal descendants, uses King Henry as a pawn by infecting him with lycan blood. The king tries to hide this turn of events from everyone at court. Meanwhile, Sir Thomas More is falsely accused of being a werewolf by fake witchfinders and, due to court politics, Thomas Boleyn and the Duke of Norfolk refuse to come to his aid. Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, who is searching for More, is desperate to find a reason for the Pope to declare war on the Wolfen, despite the treaty signed at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520, or else convince the King to abandon his quest for revenge.

The best parts of this story, for me, were the witchfinders, Hob and Agatha. These two reminded me of the entertaining Lord Quimby and his man-servant Perkins in Queen Victoria. I wish there had been more of their humor in this novel. I wasn’t sure what type of mash-up the author was trying to write aside from the obvious twist on Henry’s reign. I am still a fan of Moorat, though I’m hoping he will finally give Lord Quimby and Perkins from a spin-off novel of their own.

Ursula K. Raphael

October 2, 2010

Book Review: Frankenstein’s Monster by Susan Heyboer O’Keefe

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FRANKSTEIN’S MONSTER: A NOVEL
by Susan Heyboer O’Keefe

Three Rivers Press
(October 2010, $15, 352 pages)

If you’ve ever read the original story Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, or loved movies like “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein” and “The Bride,” you need to read this novel. I couldn’t pass up a chance to read this sequel; it picks up where Shelley wrote, “borne away by the waves, and lost in darkness and distance,” revealing what happened after Dr. Frankenstein died on the ship.

Frankenstein’s Monster: A Novel, by Susan Heyboer O’Keefe, begins with a detailed journal entry by Captain Robert Walton. He addresses this particular entry to “Margaret,” who is later revealed to be Walton’s sister. He describes the friendship & brotherly feelings he had for Victor Frankenstein and explains why he feels obligated to hunt down the monster that Frankenstein failed to kill: when Walton had found the monster standing over Frankenstein’s body, he realized he realized Frankenstein’s ramblings were not those of a madman after all. Walton immediately gives chase across the ice, planning to kill the monster so he may return to his quest to reach the North Pole. Instead, he loses a finger to the monster, and barely survives the encounter himself.

The story then switches to the monster’s point-of-view and is also written in journal format, with location and date at the start of each entry. Walton has tracked him to Rome, so the monster flees to Venice where he finds companionship with a beggar, Lucio, and a mute woman, Mirabella. O’Keefe does an excellent job of evoking sympathy for the monster, sharing his most intimate thoughts in his journal, with bits of poetry and quotations from the many books that he reads. Despite his acts of violence, I am reluctant to refer to him as “the monster,” but he doesn’t take a name for himself until later in the story, eventually adopting the name Victor Hartmann.

When Walton destroys Victor’s meager life in Venice, he becomes the novel’s obvious villain. Victor blames himself for putting his friends in harm’s way; having been hunted down repeatedly by Walton over the past ten years, Victor feels he should have realized Walton would never give up his obsession. Victor finds out that Walton has family in northern England and plots his revenge, not unlike what he did to Frankenstein’s family in the first book.

After finding Walton’s family, Victor also finds his journal, which reveals Walton’s twisted view of the events over the past ten years. While Victor writes his own journal entries, he includes passages from Walton’s journal as well. Walton’s words highlight his madness; Walton’s sister, Margaret, and her daughter, Lily, contrast sharply with Victor’s ideals of what it is to be human and their characters hint at a sickness that runs in the family.

I was crying by the end of the novel; the epilogue (a personal letter from one of the characters) was a superb finish to a tragic tale of a life that wasn’t wanted. A reader’s guide is also included at the back of the book.
This novel is the first one Susan Heyboer O’Keefe has written for an adult audience; previously she has written several children’s books, and has been nominated for numerous literary awards. You can read more about the author here.

– Ursula K. Raphael

September 30, 2010

THIS Reads: Should Reading Cause Stress?

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BY LACEY N. DUNHAM

I’m not going to lie. I’ve been really, really stressed about reading during the past month and half. As fall and winter book releases have piled up on my living room table, the stack now looks a bit like the leaning tower of Pisa, lumbering over the number of calendar days in which I have to read them. It’s not unusual, I think, for lovers of books to be overwhelmed with more books than time. For me, the added pressure of that awful word – deadline – zaps a bit of the pleasure out of reading, which is too bad, because I love reading. However, I shrug all responsibility for the tilted ratio of books-to-sanity from my shoulders. If publishers wouldn’t pile on all their top titles in the fall, maybe I wouldn’t be freaking out right now.

So what’s on my table?

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
This is probably the only book I’ve picked up for pure pleasure in the last month and it’s one hell of a ride. Mitchell’s talent as a writer far exceeds that of almost any other living writer. In Cloud Atlas, his chameleon skin at adapting to a plethora of voices, styles, and genres is revealed in the shimmer of this postmodern novel. Plus, James Woods has a small crush on Mitchell and if James Woods is in love, then you know Mitchell’s the real deal.

Deadline: 30 days, because the Library of Congress says so. And, unlike their poorly funded public counterpart, the Library of Congress does not fuck around.

 

 


Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women
by Rebecca Traister
Even though I live in DC, I’m not a policy wonk. Thankfully, Traister’s look at the women of the 2008 election is a pleasing mix of the political and the personal, which means I loved this book way more than I loved living through the pain of waking at 3am to take the Metro to the National Mall, wade through the muck of DC planning ineptitude, stand in the cold for 7 hours to wait for Obama’s inauguration, and then walking 6 miles home because the tourists couldn’t figure out how to cram–really cram–themselves into the Metro train cars. Which is to say, for anyone who has an interest in feminist politics, women in politics, or presidential politics, Traister’s book is one of the best to emerge from the post-election political publishing binge.

Deadline: Done and done, thanks to Traister’s superb reading at Politics & Prose Bookstore and Coffeehouse last Monday.

 

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
The movie opened to a limited release last Friday and will be in wide release soon. I thought I should read the book before the film poisons my mind. Unfortunately, I haven’t even cracked it open since I hunted it from my bookshelves six weeks ago and I saw the movie this past weekend.

Deadline: Ideally, I would have read this before seeing the film. Now, I’ll probably read the book the next time I’m laid up with the flu, which, in DC, usually hits around February.

 

Sunset Park by Paul Auster
An ARC of Auster’s forthcoming novel (due in November) dropped into my hands. A very nice review editor at a very nice online literary and cultural magazine asked if I would read and review. This was in July. He said, “Have the review to me September-ish.” Bad idea. I work on firm deadlines. September-ish means, to me, anytime prior to 11:59pm on September 30th. So have I read this yet? No. In fairness, up until that point I hadn’t read any Auster (gasp! but I’m not a New Yorker, so calm down) so I had to quickly plow through the main points of his backlist before reaching for his latest. The New York Trilogy blew my mind as a postmodern novel that questioned the very claim of the author and the veracity of fiction – until I read Cloud Atlas. Then The New York Trilogy became the ugly sister: still related but a lot less likely to become high school class president or prom queen.

Deadline: September-ish. But I give myself bonus points for having started it this weekend.

 


Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
A writer friend of mine recently admonished me for never having read McCarthy’s The Road. I told him every woman I knew who had read the book hated it, while every guy I knew loved it. As a biological female, I just assumed it wasn’t worth my time. My friend argued that McCarthy is one of the best living American writers and promised to bring me a novel I would love: Blood Meridian. I asked for a deadline (I can’t help it); he said August 31 and I agreed. In mid-August, I asked for an extension. He said, “end of September, I guess?” the slight questioning tone of the sentence placing it firmly after “September-ish” and sometime before the Apocalypse. Therefore, Friend is never getting his book back, at least not anytime soon.

Deadline: I’ll take him out for beers and see who remembers anything about deadlines then.

 

Room by Emma Donoghue, C by Tom McCarthy, and The Widower’s Tale by Julia Glass

I borrowed both the Man Booker Nominated Room and C from friends because, okay, I admit: I’m not immune to the influence of judges on prize committees. I would have never read Wolf Hall if it hadn’t won the Booker last year. So wow me over judges!

I have my own copy of The Widower’s Tale because I love Julia Glass. Her novel is not nominated for any awards (yet) but Three Junes did win the National Book Award. I’m always impressed by Glass’s ability to write from multiple perspectives in her family dramas without condescending to the reader or her characters.

Deadline: Waiting for flu season (Glass) and the announcement of the Man Booker Prize winner (Donoghue and McCarthy).

September 25, 2010

September/October 2010 Issue Is Here!

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We can’t believe it’s true!

Head over and read our newly published September/October 2010 issue!

September 22, 2010

Oversung and Underpraised: Overrated and Underrated Canadian Writers

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BY JOHN COLEMAN

The National Post recently ran two pieces in its literary section, The Afterword, entitled Don’t Believe The Hype: 10 Overrated Canadian Authors, and, the next day, Flying Under The Radar: 10 Underrated Canadian Authors. The articles were penned by critics Alex Good and Steven W. Beattie.

In response to the articles, I would like to play devil’s advocate. Albeit I agree with some of Good and Beattie’s slams on big time CanLit monopolisers (I won’t sour you with my opinions), I feel that more than a few toes were stomped on in the more than pretentious analytical/critical slice of opinion. Below I reflect on what they think of CanLit today.

First off, the word Overrated. It’s no doubt that Yann Martel made the list, especially since his recent novel, Beatrice and Virgil, got almost all negative, and really negative, reviews. Yes guys, you saw the headlines too, thanks for the recap. Also on their hitlist are Douglas Coupland for being too much like Kurt Vonnegut; Michael Ondaatje for romanticising the new millennium in a cliché manner; and Anne Michaels and Jane Urquhart, more or less for having top sales.

If I may interject with one opinion, Joseph Boyden should not be on the overrated list. Good and Beattie knock Boyden’s two novels Three Day Road and Through Black Spruce for being stylistically and interpretively off the mark. Missed, however, is an acknowledgment of Boyden’s attempt to slash the colonial view of Native culture. Maybe if more than a handful of Native authors would be accepted into the scene, Boyden could be ruled out for bad writing. Until then, I praise any NativeLit authors, Boyden included, who truly represent Native culture in literature – a form, I remind, absent until the nineteen-eighties.

To give Good and Beattie some credit, they publicise writers who a lot of people don’t, although should, know in their Underrated list. And I agree, if it weren’t for corporate publishing labels worried most about the bottom line, there would be a chance for amazing writers currently dwarfed by Coupland, Michaels, Munro and Atwood. Almost all in the Underrated list were praised for stylistic mastering and pushing unconventional form, such as Sharon English, Clark Blaise, and Ray Smith. These authors, among others, are highlighted on the list for the average daily newspaper reader.

Enough about my take, what do you think? Is one of your favourites deemed overrated? Does an unsung writer you know fit the role of an underrated CanLit author? Are we just becoming too snobby? Or, is commercial literature an oxymoron – should it be chastised for ruining smaller writers’ chances? Leave a comment and have your say; one voice can’t speak for all of us.

September 14, 2010

Book Review: Bloodborn by Nathan Long

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BLOODBORN
(Ulrike the Vampire – Warhammer)
by Nathan Long

Games Workshop
May 2010, $8.99, 416 pages)

Nathan Long has written three Warhammer novels featuring the Blackhearts (a group of criminals turned soldiers), and has taken over the Gotrek and Felix series, starting with Orcslayer. Long also wrote the short story, “None So Blind,” about an invasion by High Elves from Ulthuan on a mission to attack and take revenge on Malekith, Witch King of the Dark Elves, that can be found in the Warhammer anthology, Invasion.

In the Gotrek & Felix series, Ulrika Magdova was Felix’s former love interest. She was a Kislevite noble, daughter to Ivan Straghov, the March Warden of the Border, who fought against the Chaos hordes in the north. Before Ulrika was turned into a vampire, she traveled with Gotrek, Felix, and Max Schreiber during an expedition to Karag Dum. After, she was kidnapped by Krieger in Sylvania and from him received the “blood kiss.” In Manslayer, she wanted to get back together with Felix, but their differences were too great.

Bloodborn takes place between her last appearance in Vampireslayer and her return in Manslayer. Ulrika has only been a vampire for a couple of weeks and is having a terrible time controlling her urge to feed. The story begins with her running naked in a forest, about to feed on a victim, when her mistress, Countess Gabriella, and her blood-swain, Rodrik, stop her. The Countess takes Ulrika back to her castle, and continues her attempts to teach Ulrika not only to control her hunger, but to control how much blood she takes when she is allowed to feed.

Before the Countess is able to fully train Ulrika in the Lahmian ways, the vampire queen instructs Gabriella to help her sisters in Nuln. Two of the six sisters have been ripped apart by an unknown assailant. The corpses were left in public areas with their claws and fangs extended, causing a panic among the human population and attracting the wrath of the witch hunters.

Once Gabriella and Ulrika arrive in Nuln, it is obvious that internal politics between the sisters is going to impede the investigation into the deaths. When it is clear the Gabriella’s sisters are too paranoid to trust one another, suspecting each other of the murders, Ulrika is ordered to spy on them. While searching for clues, Ulrika comes face to face with a witch hunter named Templar Friedrich Holmann, who does not realize that she is a vampire. They eventually agree to hunt together, which furthers complicates Ulrika’s situation with her mistress and the other vampire sisters.

I think Nathan Long did a great job of writing a strong, female character as a tragic heroine. With all the clawing, sword-fighting, and ghoul attacks, these vampires were far from the fops that are usually found in vampire tales. In fact, this particular novel was more horror than fantasy. There were just enough flashbacks to tie this book into the Gotrek & Felix series without it being necessary to have actually read the other Warhammer books. Even though this is just the first in an Ulrika series (the next one will be Bloodforged ), I still thought the ending was a bit too abrupt: an element of the story, a mysterious voice, was never revealed. Everything else was wrapped up into Ulrika’s training with the Countess.

I love both the Gotrek & Felix series and the spin-off Thanquol & Boneripper series, but if you don’t have time to catch up or backtrack the Warhammer timeline (by reading, for example, Gotrek & Felix: The First Omnibus (Warhammer), you can learn more about the characters in Ulrika’s world in the collection Death & Dishonour, which includes vampires, witch hunters, and more. You can visit Nathan Long’s blog here.

~Ursula K. Raphael

September 13, 2010

Old School Book Review: The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

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THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY
by Patricia Highsmith

W. W. Norton & Company
(June 2008, Originally pub. 1955, $13.95, 273 pages)

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith is a book that stays with me. I’ve read it twice. Knowing the plot twists and secrets the second time around did very little to take away the tension and suspense of this psychological thriller.

Tom Ripley is a 23-year-old living in New York City in the 1950s. He is liar and and a schemer with vague aspirations for better life. In Tom’s vision, better equals wealthy and includes every aspect of the lives of his affluent associates, including their sneering opinions of Ripley himself. He clings to people who barely tolerate his presence – a fact of which he’s well aware, yet he chooses to expose himself to disdain and contempt rather than seek out a more welcoming circle of companions. Funny, this is exactly what I believed The Great Gatsby might have thought of the clingy Nick had Fitzgerald gave him a voice!

Tom Ripley is not above any means of gaining a foothold to his vision of betterment. He extorts random people by impersonating an agent of the IRS and although his endeavor does not bring in any great sum of money, it is more of a glimpse into what Ripley is capable of doing. By targeting unassuming, run-of-the-mill, hard working people most likely to quickly pay a small fee to the IRS, Highsmith brilliantly portrays Ripley as clever, calculating and completely amoral. He knows the difference between right and wrong but he is utterly indifferent to either. This makes for a fascinating protagonist.

Ripley’s fortune takes an interesting turn at an opportune time. He is hired by wealthy ship builder, Herbert Greenleaf, with the mission to persuade Greenleaf’s son, Richard “Dickie” Greenleaf, to return to the proverbial helm of his father’s ship-building empire. Dickie’s life of ease in Mongibello, Italy displeases his wealthy father, who believes Dickie’s bohemian lifestyle is counterproductive to the heir of a shipbuilding magnate. Ripley, while only a mere acquaintance of Dickie’s, sees this opportunity as a new beginning and quite possibly the better life of his dreams.

Ripley, loaded with good intentions and bank-rolled by Herbert Greenleaf, finds Dickie in Mongibello in the company of Marge Sherwood, a sometimes friend, sometimes lover. Ripley’s envy and desire for a life he can never achieve resurface as the bottom quickly falls out of his well-intentioned goodie basket.

Patricia Highsmith

Highsmith takes the reader on a dark roller-coaster ride of deception, jealousy, deceit and murder, followed by evasion, more deceit, and more murder. Rather than chilling, senseless violence, Highsmith carefully crafts a mesmerizing tale of pursuit and near-miss as Ripley manages to stay just ahead of capture. He is crafty and calm even when in a panic. For the reader, the result is riveting.

In getting into the eerily empty room that is Tom Ripley’s conscience, I never thought I could sympathize with such a cold and calculating character, yet I was captivated. The story spirals horrifically and the building tension was incredible. I read this book well into the wee hours of the night because I simply could not put it down! It electrified me. There is not one fiber of my being that sympathizes with someone who harms others yet I could not bear the thought of Ripley’s failure. Wow!

Written in the 1950′s, Highsmith exquisitely captures the sense of time and place in New York City and of the enviable life of a wealthy American abroad. She describes in lovely detail the nuances that made life so wonderful for those Ripley admired that it made me want to go back and live there too. Her writing is elegant and clear, simple yet with the depth of distinction to deprive the reader from a restful night’s sleep. Sweetman’s advice: You must read this book!

~Sweetman

September 11, 2010

Music Review: Elementary Dialogues by Eyal Maoz & Asaf Sirkis

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EYAL MAOZ & ASAF SIRKIS
Elementary Dialogues
Ayler Records (France), 2009

The fact that Eyal Maoz and Asaf Sirkis were childhood friends, growing up and attending school together in Rehovot, Israel, makes their musical careers all the more interesting. Maoz, a jazz guitarist, left Israel for a musical career in NYC, where he now leads such musical ensembles as Edom, Dimyon, Crazy Slavic Band, and co-leads Hypercolor and Manganon. Sirkis settled across the pond in London, England, after establishing a name for himself as a drummer in Israel during the 1990s. He now leads two ensembles, The Asaf Sirkis Trio and The Inner Noise, and has collaborated with numerous artists such as Harold Rubin, John Williams, and Nick Homes.

After banding around and making names for themselves in their respective cities, Maoz and Sirkis reunite on 2009’s Ayler Records release, Elementary Dialogues. What a force they have concocted! Relying on traditional instrumental jazz formulae of lead trading and intuition fuelled improv, the record fuses blues, jazz and rock styles for a unique picture of avant-garde experimentation.

Eyal Maoz

“Regae” opens Elementary Dialogues with a twangy, fairly conservative blues melody. The simplistic, smile inducing tune effectively sets the plain for Eyal’s clean guitar side, which guides him through tell-tale jazz unconventionality on the album. However, the safe, mood-setting album opener contrasts the feverish intensity found on the rest of the record.

To be blunt, after “Regae” simplicity vanishes from Elementary Dialogues. Second track “Foglah” dawns Maoz’s distinct experimental sound which frequently pushes toward a distorted noise sound. Reminiscent of the Electric Mud style, Maoz unleashes his raw talent by playing with feedback and wah effects, at times calling in shades of Hendrix-esque tone manipulation.

The rest of the record follows the same lines as “Foglah,” throwing the rule book aside for a highly experimental avant-garde sound. For example, “Sparse” is backgrounded with a fiddlish tremolo effect and Sirkis’s chattering ride cymbal. Atop the electric, yet lounge-ish noise, Maoz breaks the tension with drawn out, distorted blues leads.

Asaf Sirkis

“Miniature” splits the record with contrast by slowing tempo. Maoz’s clean guitar saunters around a humble melody while Sirkis rides his snare with soothing brush strokes. “Kashmir” displays the duo’s inimitable approach perfectly with more clean guitar licks from Maoz, and Sirkis’s unrequited love for clacking the rims on his kit. Other notable mentions for fusion lovers include “Jewish Loop,” “Strip,” and “OK,” which incorporate note bending and muddy distortion effects from Maoz and stark impressive improvisation from both duo members.

Maoz and Sirkis trade parts like a couple of prohibition era trailblazers on Elementary Dialogues, each respectively stepping aside to allow their partner to solo around for a bit, and then jumping back into the spotlight for the next burst of energy. The pair blends numerous styles into a melting pot of innovative technicality. From its originality and array of techniques, this record will impress avid contemporary jazz followers, and even the average listener bored with the radio.

Track Listing:

1. Regae

2. Foglah

3. Sparse

4. Jewish Loop

5. Esta

6. Hole

7. Miniature

8. Strip

9. Kashmir

10. OK

11. Ethnic

12. Quiet Improv

13. Without A Story

~John Coleman

September 9, 2010

CanLit Book Review: Chef by Jaspreet Singh

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CHEF
by Jaspreet Singh

Vintage Canada
(CA – April 2008; US – April 2010, CAN $19.95, 246 pages)

In 1984 India carried out the military operation Meghdoot, which saw the successful invasion and occupation of the Siachen Glacier in the eastern Karakoram range of the Himalayan mountains. Ensuing from this invasion, India and Pakistan have continually warred atop this highest battlefield on earth, raging over the rights to the 70 kilometre stretch of frozen land.

For retired Indian-Sikh military chef Kirpal Singh, the main character in Jaspreet Singh’s Georges Bugnet Award winning novel Chef, his experience of the Siachen Conflict burns deep inside him. Literally, Kip (Kirpal) suffers from cancer. Symbolically, his cancer is war’s destruction personified. Eating away at Kip are memories of serving a corrupt government concerned more with right to land ownership than the will of its people.

Chef opens with Kip embarking on a long train ride from Delhi to Srinagar, his former camp, to cook a feast for the Governor of Kashmir’s daughter’s wedding. The Governor was Kip’s commander, one General Kumar, fourteen years earlier when Kip joined the army and became protégé to expert military chef, Kishen. As Kip flashes back to his war days from behind the closed kitchen quarter doors where higher rank officials stayed away from, we learn how Kip witnessed the sour fundamentals of Indian bureaucracy and, most importantly, how important political dignitaries are in bed with the military.

Kip’s first lesson in the army is understanding his role as chef which, with fierce allusion to the Indian caste system, means answering to those above him. Young and naïve, Kip adapts to his place in military society, and through his chef-minded perspective, Singh’s allegorical binding of food to cultural tradition becomes clear. When Kip visits the home of a Muslim girl, he is propositioned by her brother to marry her, and the girl serves a metaphorical dowry of tea. Kip simply wants to observe her cooking, and wonders why she does not join them for tea. Her place, like Kip’s, is in the kitchen, and he learns something about both Muslim culture and elitism along lines he understands. A similar scene unfolds later when Kip becomes flirtatious with a nurse who is Kishen’s lover. She bats him away, saying “I have no tea to offer you.” Hence, enjoying tea, a mainstay in everyday life, symbolises age-old interaction between the sexes.

As Kip grows into adulthood, Singh’s food metaphors sink deeper. Cultural faux pas extending from food preparation relate to social class when Kishen feeds a non-vegetarian dish to a group of Muslim clerics visiting Srinagar. The clerics are there on official, sketchy business, and for the offensive act marring the General’s reputation, Kishen is sent on permanent leave to a camp on the peak of the Siachen Glacier. Here, food leads to a perfect depiction of the power an elite has over a peasant.

Early in part three of Chef, an assumed insurgent, a Pakistani woman named Irem, is captured. Kip is the only one able to interpret her Kashmiri language, and is ordered to learn everything about her. Still a hormonal twenty-something virgin, Kip becomes obsessed with helping Irem, who turns out to be ‘clean’, or not a terrorist. In fact, she warns the General is being targeted for assassination by real Pakistani insurgents and, with Irem’s tip-off, Kip prevents the incident. Irem also provides Kip with information that Kishen is planning to commit suicide. This curdles Chef Kip’s stomach, and he travels to the freezing camp to help his mentor.

Atop the second coldest place on Earth, Kishen lures Kip into kidnapping a group of Indian army officials for a publicity stunt that bluntly lays out Chef’ s discourse: “More dead Indians at the front means more profits for officers and their friends in Delhi. The question I ask today is: Are we dying for nothing?” Kishen proclaims. “We feed the army, we work hard, and those at the very top have failed us. [. . .] And I say the same thing to the bastards on the other side. What are they dying for, the Pakistanis?” If that isn’t enough for Singh to get his message across, Kip echoes more accusations toward corrupt India and Pakistan. He says “Kashmir was a beautiful place and we have made a bloody mess of it.”

At the end of his journey, Kip’s cancer is near fatal, linking his suffering to a nation strung up like a punching bag for corrupt war mongers to bruise and bloody. Arriving at Srinagar, he reveals the true reason for his painful escapade, having less to do with preparing the wedding feast than one might assume. His recurring phrase of “India passing by” resonates profoundly as he reunites with Rubiya, the bride, and she reveals shared feelings of a sad, lost Kashmir instilled within her by Irem’s haunting life as a political prisoner. Now, back in Srinagar, Kip is satisfied. Poetic and romantic, Chef unravels the underbelly tale of modern India being dragged through meaningless, catastrophic destruction.

~John Coleman

September 7, 2010

Old School Book Review: Stoner by John Williams

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STONER
by John Williams

NYRB Classics
(June 2006, $14.95, 288 pages)

How could a book about a reserved, quiet assistant professor of Classic English, Latin translation and grammar, set in a small southern college early in the twentieth century, be so incredibly riveting?

I know your eyes glazed over after the first half of the first sentence! Mine did too – as I wrote it! None of the pieces that make up this beautiful novel, originally published in 1965, had the ability to draw my slightest interest: dry academia, small college politics, poor farming to middle class life, unhappy marriage. It presents as so run-of-the-mill when in this day and age, only the epic will do.

Fear not! Don’t even despair for wading through several chapters to get the rhythm of the book because novelist John Williams (not the composer) writes with simple, direct and heart-achingly beautiful prose that will set you on a straight path.

The first paragraph is a clear outline of the novel beginning when our protagonist, William Stoner, enters the University of Missouri as a freshman in the year 1910 at the age of nineteen and ending with, “Presented to the Library of the University of Missouri, in memory of William Stoner, Department of English. By his colleagues.” The rest that follows may well fall into the category of the perfectly written novel.

The novel’s humble beginning is much like the beginning of its subject. William Stoner was born to two uncomplicated, hard-working parents who’s goal in life was to raise a son who would take over the farm. The only snag in their plan was gifting their only son with enough brains to attend Missouri’s new university.

Initially this was not so much a tragedy as it is a delay his assumption of the family yoke. Stoner was to study “agronomy.” Then, in his sophomore year, his world was transformed by the power and pull of literature. There was no way to reconcile the two; it was either agriculture or English and for Stoner, there was no choice. He elected a life of literature with only one regret: breaking the news to his parents.

Living his life with the kind of certainty and purpose was not as easy as he hoped. Even in small circles of academia, petty arguments and misunderstandings grow and fester into lifelong, bitter resentments. Stoner’s inflexibility delivers him unto a path that, while others may find humiliating and limited, fills his time with purpose and a desire to be a better teacher.

Novelist John Williams

Meanwhile, the rest of his life remains unfulfilled. Stoner’s unhappy marriage to the mentally unbalanced Edith, a sheltered and shallow woman, is one of the saddest relationships that have ever lived in prose. His two friendships, while strong and lasting, do not provide him enough support or sustenance to let him leave his lonesome path or travel a wider road of male companionship. His daughter Grace, his delightful kindred spirit and true joy in his life until Edith interferes, is the embodiment of a product of two truly incompatible people. Stoner’s one true love, Katherine Driscoll, is half his age but equal in his brilliant passion and becomes his mistress. She provides him with a brief respite and the good fortune of a compatible woman that ends sadly and far too soon. They part before they become a University scandal that may jeopardized all they worked to achieve.

It is Stoner’s ability to carry on, to rise above evil but never preach or proselytize that I admire so much. He is not a martyr, but a strong man who is above all, human. Stoner is strong and true to the end, where he remains the same quiet, calm and never-regretful man of purpose.

While this might sound like a tragedy – which in all aspects I believe it is the Great American Tragedy – it is neither maudlin, sappy nor wallowing in self-pity. I could not get Stoner off my mind when I finished it (which I have to confess was in a puddle of tears while flying from San Fransisco to Boston – not my ideal spot for ending such a brilliant novel). I re-read passages and was able to gain more insight from a second look. I found it hard to start something new because I couldn’t even think of another novel that could top it. I was able to find a rare interview with John Williams about Stoner. In the interview, he regarded his protagonist as a hero who lead a good life doing the things he wanted to do. Well, honestly, what’s so sad about that?

~Sweetman

September 3, 2010

Book Review: Night of the Living Trekkies

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NIGHT OF THE LIVING TREKKIES
by Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall

Quirk Books
(July 2010, $14.95, 256 pages)

The title is a cheesy play on the popular zombie movie Night of the Living Dead, and the cover art looks like something that belongs on a choose-your-own-adventure book, but Night of the Living Trekkies is an awesome mash-up of two popular sub-cultures. How else to unite the sci-fi geeks with the apocalypse extremists?: zombies at a Star Trek convention.

They’re not traditional zombies, and the science fiction is reminiscent of Mystery Science Theater 2000, but authors Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall have done a fantastic job of pushing the boundaries of zombie literature. They have also fostered new respect for the dedication of Star Trek fanboys and fangirls. Anderson and Stall even managed to give a nod to the Star Wars franchise.

The prologue begins with two employees at an underground military facility in Houston, TX, making plans to go to a Star Trek convention; while they’re talking, the security system fails, opening some doors that should have stayed closed. Meanwhile, Jim Pike, a solider with serious PTSD who has convinced himself that working as a bellhop at a Houston hotel will reduce his stress, helps prepare for GulfCon, an extremely popular Star Trek convention. Incidentally, his younger sister Rayna is also attending with some friends. Let’s just say Jim’s bad day is about to get apocalyptic.

Before Rayna’s group arrives to the hotel parking lot (the importance of which I can’t reveal without spoiling the book) the staff is already having trouble with violent hotel guests and disappearing employees. Jim’s instincts are screaming at him that something horrible is happening but by the time he is able to convince anyone else that the problem is not just in his mind, the hotel is overwhelmed by zombies. Jim, with the help of a Star Wars fan, tries to rescue his sister and her friends, while Trekkies are dying all around them.

Star Trek fans should know that this isn’t just a horror story set at a convention, but again, I can’t elaborate without spoilers. Zombie fans should know that the undead are shamblers but able to move as a group, with a very unusual source of infection spread in a manner similar to 28 Days Later.

I am very impressed with the quality of books that Quirk has been publishing; some other great titles are Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls, and Android Karenina. They may look like fluff pieces at first glance, but the stories are quite entertaining.

~Ursula K. Raphael

August 30, 2010

Double Review: Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog and The Gourmet

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THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG
by Muriel Barbery

translated by Alison Anderson
Gallic Books
(May 2009, £7.99, 320 pages)

THE GOURMET
by Muriel Barbery

translated by Alison Anderson
Gallic Books
(May 2010, £6.99, 136 pages)

I read The Gourmet (published in the U.S. as Gourmet Rhapsody ) when I was in bed with tonsillitis. This is not extraneous atmosphere-building information designed to humanise the reviewer – if you suffer from recurrent tonsillitis, you will know this immediately, because nothing is more likely to make someone stop reading literary webzines, rush off to take vitamin C, and aerate the bedroom than being reminded of those vile days when swallowing brings tears to the eyes and the whole world is distorted through a fog of misery (extraneous humanising information – I am rubbish at being ill). In this state, a book about delicate French food might seem an odd choice. But it was short, it had a jolly cover, and the journey to the bookshop stocked with trashy fiction was beyond contemplation. So I set to it, having originally judged the cover favourably by the least justifiable criteria – trendily embossed Art Nouveau typeface and fulsome reviews from sophisticated-sounding French magazine editors.

The thing about tonsillitis (I promise I won’t mention it again) is that it doesn’t encourage you to engage much with the written word, unless it’s the instructions on painkiller packets. However, reading The Gourmet I was gripped with the sort of joyous abandonment I thought had peaked when reading ‘Anne of Green Gables’ at the bottom of the garden in childhood summers, ignoring my family and eating forbidden biscuits. Principally, the main character in The Gourmet is wonderfully unsympathetic. He is arrogant, self-obsessed, cruel and blind – nevertheless, we wait breathlessly for his next pronouncement, the next wrinkle that emerges in his character. It’s tough to pull off a bastard as your hero, especially if he is old and fat rather than young and sexy – but Barbery does it with a confidence and sensitivity that I like to think is particularly Gallic. The fact that this is her first novel is enough to make one give up on the writing lark altogether, but that’s another story.

The bastard Gourmet is Pierre Arthens, dying in his apartment on Rue de Grenelle in Paris at the end of a stellar career as a food critic and all-round offence to humanity. He cheats on his wife, aggressively alienates his children and is a horrendous, inexcusable snob, all the while maintaining his superior veneer of taste and cultivation. All this emerges only in fragments, as he, his family, and friends tell his story. He is dying, and he knows it – but more urgently, he knows that there is a dish that he must taste once more before he leaves this world, and which eludes him. This is the story of his quest to remember, in the process exploring some of the finest meals and most telling memories in a life of extravagant epicureanism, be it a tomato from an aunt’s kitchen garden or the most elevated restaurant meal France has to offer. It is impossible not to be charmed, moved, and full of resolutions to eat better.

After The Gourmet, there is The Elegance of the Hedgehog. We are back on Rue de Grenelle and Pierre Arthens is still dying. Thank goodness, mutters the building’s concierge. Renée is small and plump, always dressed in black, with bunions on her feet, pots of coarse casserole on her stove and a cat in her armchair. But what no one in the building realises is that she is probably better educated than all of its self-important residents, and that their concierge has carefully cultivated her stereotypical image. She excoriates phenomenology while watering the plants, and shuts her inner door at night to secretly watch magical Japanese films.

There are souls in the building, however, who find a way behind her façade: twelve-year-old Paloma, possessed of unusual intelligence and a carefully drawn-out plan to kill herself; blue-blooded Portuguese cleaner Manuela, whose kindness knows no bounds; and the mysterious new Japanese resident, Monsieur Ozu, who buys the Arthens’ apartment. Slowly, through chance and attraction and the power of ideas, Renée’s life changes. Wit, friendship, sadness, loss and beauty in this world become hers – and, by extension, ours. Suffice to say, it is an extraordinary book, both luminously intelligent and completely gripping.

If I go on much longer about Barbery’s novels, the good people at this will cut me off. But please – beg, borrow or steal these books, and consume them, preferably at the bottom of your garden and in excellent health. You deserve it – we all do, once in a while.

~Ellen Hardy

August 28, 2010

Music Review: Fuck the Facts

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FUCK THE FACTS
Live In Whitby
Self-Released/Band Camp

Spitting on the technology of 2010, Fuck The Facts released a cassette tape last month, Live In Whitby, a recording of a performance at the Wing Shack in Whitby, Ontario on April 11, 2009. Enough to get die hard collectors antsy, the tape was limited to a slim fifty-three copies (they’re already sold out). The album is also available as a Name Your Price download on BandCamp.com, where FTF’s punk/grind masterpiece Unnamed EP (February 2010) is also available.

Continuously transforming over eight studio albums, countless singles, splits and compilations, FTF’s ever indefinable style tiptoes around punk, noise, stoner-groove and industrial influenced grind since 1998. Live In Whitby offers a glimpse of the band during peak Disgorge Mexico (2008) era with six of the nine tracks, including “Kelowna” and “Sleepless”, taken from the album. The oldest song on the tape is “La Tete Hors De L’eau,” originally appearing on 2003 release Overseas Connection.

One constant throughout FTF’s distinct grindcore approach is sampling voice and sound into their music. Evidently, this is not a studio-only technique. I was at the Wing Shack show, mesmerised watching drummer Mathieu Vilandrê swivel back and forth between drummer and sound dub roles, whacking at a synthesizer to his side when called for. Nothing is excluded from FTF style when playing live.

Singer Mel Mongeon also impresses with her monstrous stage presence, as intimidating as a ravenous Pit Bull. From her territorial markings spattered into the mic – “We’re Fuck The Facts from fuckin’ Ottawa!” – to her dedicated, intestine spindling scream assault, she shoves a middle finger up the ass of any hollow commercial metal.

Fuck The Facts - Live In Whitby lineup (left to right): Marc Bourgon, Topon Das, Mathieu Vilandrê, Johnny Ibay, Mel Mongeon.

Lead guitarist and band founder Topon Das, along with second guitarist Johnny Ibay and bassist Marc Bourgon, feed you the integral cherry on top of FTF’s approach. Drenched with distortion and devilishly down-tuned, the fellows rip through their unique grind sound with exact precision on Live In Whitby. Not a brow-raising pick squeal nor panic inducing lead is fumbled.

FTF followers will be glad to get their hands, or hard drives, on this, the band’s first live release since 2003’s Live Damage. Whitby brings live new era FTF into your home and an opportunity to salivate over the richness of their performance whenever you desire. The sound quality is undeniable and, aside from the cattle calls between songs, nothing differs from the studio. It is an imprint of a strikingly tight and technical group.

Live In Whitby is dedicated to the memory of Canadian visual artist and musician Michal Majewski, who passed shortly after the event. He designed the poster for the show, seen above. A catalogue of his artwork is available here. Majewski was the bassist for Ontario thrash/grind band F.A.T.O., who opened at the Wing Shack show.

Track Listing:
1. Absence And Despite
2. The Storm
3. Kelowna
4. Everyone Is Robbing The Dead
5. The Sound Of Your Smashed Head
6. La Culture Du Faux
7. The Pile Of Flesh You Carry
8. Sleepless
9. La Tete Hors De L’eau

~John Coleman