Abbreviations: KU means Kindle Unlimited, LE means that lending of this Kindle title is allowed, and APUB means it was published under an Amazon imprint.NYP means “Name Your Price” (that’s an option on Smashwords and other booksellers). If you’d like to submit an ebook to me for review or mention in this column, see my instructions here.
By the way, Minor Sketches and Reveries is free for the month of July everywhere.
LITERARY TIP: If you’re looking up a book or author, try searching Youtube for the author’s name. You’d be surprised at how many video clips will turn up for even the most obscure writers (except for me, ha, ha; the only search results are for Robert Nagle the real estate lawyer or Robert Nagle the trumpet player). But I’ll be posting more book-related stuff on Youtube over the next few years.
Smashwords July Ebook Sale
The whole month of July Smashwords will be featuring discounted ebooks. It’s somewhat hard to find the good stuff, but I’ve got you covered.
Here are the most interesting presses I’ve seen so far on Smashwords: Unsolicited Press | Fomite Press | Whitepoint Press | OpenBooks (interesting but overpriced?), Bold Venture Press (republishes classic, pulp and genre fiction | Lethe Press | Hamilton Stone, a NJ based press which publishes a lot of poetry and literary fiction | ReAnimus Press (established scifi press which republishes lots of things) | LDB Press | Black Opal Books | Propertius Press (too expensive though) | Atthis Arts | Leaf Garden Press (mainly poetry — see here). Also I would be remiss if I didn’t link to my own Personville Press titles — great stuff — all discounted!
I’ve done roundups to SW titles and even made hyperlinks to them (with my affiliate codes embedded).
Overall, no big discoveries or must read authors during this SW sale, but I took a chance on a lot of indie authors — mostly from outside USA.
Discounted to 99 cents, my ebook buddy David Rothman has a global techno-thriller which I even wrote a blurb for. (Drone Child). I described it as a “A fast-paced Horatio Algerian rags-to-riches story set in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A teenage supergeek runs away to the capital city…with dreams of a better, safer life–and instead ends up working under duress for gun-worshipping racketeers… Lots of incidents and dangerous escapes.” Here’s the author website and a longish interview with rothman . Rothman is a semi-retired fellow living in Virginia, but he’s taken an interest in the social and political changes occurring in the Congo region.
David Blixt is now publishing his novels on Smashwords — a very good thing (although I bought most of them on Amazon already). He’s good at writing about Shakespeare and various historical periods. All his works are worth reading/buying, but let me recommend in particular Her Majesty’s Will and What Girls are Good for. (both selling for about a dollar).
Chloe After Dark by Elsa Joseph. 2.99 UK author about a radio host at a steamy erotic radio station.
Mapping the Shifting Paradigms of Post-Modern Society by Manu Mangattu. An excellent free anthology of literary criticism about postmodernism.
Fairleigh Parker by Timothy Provenzano. With a hard-bitten realism inspired by mid-20th century masters such as Raymond Carver and David Goodis, Fairleigh Parker captures lives at the margins of respectable society without sentimentality.
Much ado about a Marriage by Luis Lott. Singapore author
House with a Blue Door by Nick Wisseman. (free) Upbeat story about a man working at a group home for mentally handicapped patients.
Witness 2017-2020 by Hilton Obenzinger (Author website) . 99 cents (Poetry). Here’s a 30 minute reading on Youtube. He’s a prolific experimental Jewish author and academic. “Hilton Obenzinger is an American original. His lost histories are acts of legerdemain and cunning–mixing truth and imagination in ways rarely see before.” –Paul Auster This poetry offers lots of ephemeral observations about COVID, Trump, current events.
Summer Stance by Lorn MacIntyre. Odd coming of age work that mixes Gaelic language and culture with a modern story.
Small Stories: Perfectly Absurd novel by Rob Roy O’Keefe. Humorous fiction .
Several sexy picaresque novels: Once in a Lifetime by Sharyl Lidzhuan Sapari. Sexy picaresque novel. Several other erotica fluff: Mount Eros and Fifi Code by Richard Lee (Interview and Author website). Letters to Jennifer Sex for Starters by Cole Change. NYP. (This last one seems to be transcripts of live readings).
Ground Under My Feet by Eva Kollisch. Memoir about growing up Jewish during the Nazi period.
Sun Still Shines on a Dog’s Ass by Alan Good NYP. I’ve read several other of Alan Good’s books. Funny, crazy, irreverent.
Various poetry ebooks by D.L. Lang. All free! Poet Loiterer, and Poet Laureate Years. Prolific Jewish poet from California. (Author website). Her youtube channel has interviews and readings. Here’s a nice written interview.
Two sci fi series free this month: Don’t Drink the Water (time travel series, free this month) and After the Cull. By Simon Cutting (Australia)
Updating My Cloud Reader
Oh, my, I have discovered that I have accidentally forgotten to transfer many Smashwords purchases over to the Kindle Cloud. I’m talking about potentially 100+ ebooks. I’m guessing that most of them were uploaded instead to Google Play Books, but now that the Kindle supports native epub uploads, why not put it on the Kindle cloud as well?
Indie Author Spotlight
Under the Radar
Elephant of Belfast by S. Kirk Walsh. Somewhat whimsical-sounding story of a zookeeper/animal caretaker who takes care of an elephant during the German blitz of Belfast during WW2. The premise is certainly delicious. Here’s a 10 minute youtube interview. The author lives in Austin TX. Here’s the author website and links to other writing.
Geometry of Love by Jessica Levine. I’ve been tempted by this book for a long time, but finally relented when I saw that the author wrote her dissertation on Henry James and Edith Wharton. (Author web page and other writings).
At the end of the storm by Maureen Pasch. Successful woman gets screwed by unfaithful husband who leaves her. She has to pick up the pieces and help her daughter in the process.
No Names to be Given by Julia Brewer Daily. (Author book site). Story about 3 women who run away from their abusive boyfriends and have to give away their first born children for adoption. Ah, she lives in Fredericksburg, TX which is in central Texas. (Here’s a zoom interview and other interviews on podcasts).
Rising Up: Book One in the Tranquility Series by Tanya Ross . This book won the California Indie Author award last year.
Ten Threads by Richard R. Becker. (Author website)
Blink and It’s Gone
Paradise: A Novel by Elena Castedo. (wiki page) 1.99 1989 National Book Award finalist and bestseller about growing up in South America. Described as “ingenious social satire” of the “arrogance, folly, injustice, and debauchery” among Spain’s privileged class
The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene by Simon L. Lewis, Mark A. Maslin
Pistoleer: A novel of John Wesley Hardin by James Carlos Blake . Texas novelist Clay Reynolds raved about the writing and historical accuracy of this Texas novel.
Library Purchases/Printed books
Writing Life Stories by novelist Bill Roorbach. This how-to book on memoir writing struck me as useful. Far more interesting was that I had never heard of Roorbach, and he has written many fiction works I’d never heard of. I’ll be buying a few.
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. A fine book surveying people’s productivity techniques. I thought I already bought this one, but I found a hard copy at the library.
Giant Book of IQ Puzzles by David Bodycombe. As a kid I used to devour these puzzle books even when the puzzles themselves were ridiculously hard.
Autobiography of a Corpse (New York Review Books Classics) by Sigizmun Krzhizhanovsky. Borgesian story collection by early 20th century Ukrainian/Russian author, considered Kafkaesque. Update: Apparently several other volumes have come out, with another one due this year!
Annotated Hans Christian Andersen, edited by Maria Tatar. I totally freaked out when I saw this oversized hardback book at the library a few years ago. New translation, heavily annotated, with gorgeous illustrations, and my favorite author. Unfortunately the price even for used copies has been prohibitive. I snagged it for $10 — and with a 10$ coupon, got it for free!
Golden Days (California Fiction) by Carolyn See
A Plea for Eros: Essays by Siri Hustvedt. Adding to my collection, this book seems to be more personal than the other books by her.
Monarchy of Fear: Philosopher looks at our political crisis by Martha Nussbaum . It is such a pleasure to read anything by Nussbaum.
Several works by Bill Roorbach: Into Woods: Essays, Remedy for Love, Girl of the Lake, Life among Giants.
Silk by Alessandro Baricco . Apparently an erotic fiction classic.
Two collections by Paul Metcalf: Paul Metcalf: Collected Works, 1956-1976 and Paul Metcalf: Collected Works, Volume III, 1987-1997 He’s an experimental writer of the Guy Davenport/William Gass ilk. Here’s a Paris Review profile and Brad Bigelow of Neglectedbooks is apparently a huge fan. (oh, and a wikipedia page)
Stories of Frank Sargeson. Well-regarded New Zealand author (I bought a collection of book reviews by him a while back). His stories haven’t really been available in the States.
Radicalism of the American Revolution by Gordon Wood. I’ve heard great things about this tome, and I had been waiting for its price to fall.
Disordered Mind: What Unusual Brains Tell Us About Ourselves by Eric Kandel.
(To do: mention my PG edits!)
I rarely purchase ebooks for over $5, but I made an exception for a book I once downloaded for free but cannot find — Machine of Death, which sells DRM-free on Gumroad for 5.99 . Honestly I didn’t finish the anthology yet — and I listened to some of the stories on audio (audiobook on sale here) but the premise is delicious, and the ebook is beautifully illustrated.
Here’s the delicious book description:
The machine had been invented a few years ago: a machine that could tell, from just a sample of your blood, how you were going to die. No dates, no details. Just a slip of paper with a few words spelling out your ultimate fate — at once all-too specific and maddeningly vague.
A top ten Amazon Customer Favorite in Science Fiction & Fantasy for 2010, Machine of Death is an anthology of original stories bound together by a central premise. From the humorous to the adventurous to the mind-bending to the touching, the writers explore what the world would be like if a blood test could predict your death.
But don’t think for a moment this is a book entirely composed of stories about people meeting their ironic dooms. There is some of that, of course. But more than that, this is a genre-hopping collection of tales about people who have learned more about themselves then perhaps they should have, and how that knowledge affects their relationships, their perception of the world, and how they feel about themselves.
I actually thought of the book when trying to come up with ebooks that my 15 year old niece would actually want to read (she dislikes reading but is into art stuff). I look forward to reading the rest of the stories very soon. By the way, I noticed that Ryan North of Dinosaur comic is a contributor as well as editor.
Literary Articles and Essays
Jessica Levine on whether it’s necessary to write fiction with sex. In her book Geometry of Love, she came close to excising the sex scenes out of embarrassment, but had to be coaxed by her editor to leave them in. Writing about sex can be revealing (she concludes): valuable tool for charting human experience and experimenting with the ways in which language can record it. Her examples of sex in literature definitely have a lot of sexual predation (Tess, Tropic of Cancer, Native Son, Kite Runner, etc) but probably by now female authors have changed that.
From that same Read her like an Open Book website, here’s a collection of interviews with female authors. I personally love reading interviews with lesser known authors (though most of these have been published through major presses). Here’s a general index of authors. Here’s a nice annotated list of 10 novels by women for the men in your life.
Tom Perotta tells all about his new Tracy Flick book.
Here’s a nice preface to Carlos Bulosan’s America is in the Heart.” Fun fact: This important 1940s Asian-American novel is in the public domain but apparently Amazon sells it for 2.99. Yuck.
Egad! 2 months after buying 5 used copies of bks by Siri Hustvedt at bargain prices ($3-6), her publisher finally discounted her back catalog to more reasonable prices. I REALLY try to buy books in a way that supports the author, but when ebook prices are high, everyone loses!
Capsule Book Reviews
Book Roar Review
Here are some small quirky personal poems about mundane things and the natural world. Metaphysical in subject matter (and gosh, a lot of fleshy corpses!), most of the poems are casual, light-hearted and conversational. There is not a lot of specificity to a time or place — aside from an occasional mythological reference and unexpected phrases (iPad, the “Pamela Anderson of matter” etc.) I like how sometimes the poem starts out normally and then takes a jarring turn or twist — often through a rude or offcolor remark. Although these poems seem both free-spirited and free-versed, some of the poems use diction, rhythm and witty word repetition very well (Atrophy, Devilry of Spastic Colon, Wasp Waist, Live Wire, Earth Wire) and skillfully hyperbole (Crater). Generally these poems are accessible and flow well, though there are several images and phrases I haven’t quite figured out — (“existence detaches twice or thrice?” — there’s profundity here, but I’m still scratching my head….) Quite a few poems operate at several layers, and I really enjoy the widening (or narrowing) of perspective by the time you reach the poem’s end.
Some of the poems contemplate random objects — the bath bomb, a shed, a wasp which is bopped dead by a poetry journal, knives in the sink, an appliance inspection sticker, a bike helmet, bugs in coke cans. These poems are a lot of fun — and I bet they are great when recited aloud before others. Be warned that there’s a fair amount of self-aware/self-referential poems about poetry and the poet (Mellifluous Inclinations, Bland Tasteless Junk)– fortunately not enough to spoil the reader’s appetite (also, they are finely done).
Sometimes a remark at the end of a poem can undermine the poem as a whole. In Perception of Truth, the poem crafts some beautiful imagery as a series of WHAT IFS — only to finish by saying “What does it really matter? Why do we even care?” I don’t know; it seems inappropriate to close a poem in such a glib but banal way. Other poems like A LEAF AT A TIME or BLACK MOTH FLUTTERING contemplate the natural world and finish more serenely.
One complaint about formatting. I read the ebook and it does not have a table of contents — a publisher’s mistake. The publisher should have included a Logical Table of Contents for the Kindle edition. As a result, it is impossible to browse through poems by title — maybe that was done on purpose to hide the titles?
Overall, it’s a fun collection of easy-to-read, mostly metaphysical poems, with my favorite being LIVE WIRE, EARTH WIRE
I just finished editing a video interview with author Harvey Havel. Hey, it’s the first video interview I’ve ever done (Still getting the hang of it). I plan to make some vids of myself soon.
I’ve noticed that Hugo House has a video channel with long vids by some of its visiting authors. I see Bob Shacochis, Antonya Nelson, Steve Almond, Charles Baxter, Charles Johnson, Kelly Link , Pam Houston, Andre Dubus and other names I don’t know.