Harvey was reminded of miniature golf courses. The large, cartoonish figures scattered around the courtyard were separated by three or four types of shrubbery and a thin chicken-wire barrier to keep out vandals and pests. Small paths branched off in different directions leading to one plaster sculpture or another. He wondered for a moment if he should feel guilty. They were gods, after all. His mind did something like a shrug.
Pearl straightened her hair in the bathroom mirror. She carefully rearranged the pieces of metal holding it in place and thought about pistons. She didn’t know much about pistons, but she imagined infinite rows of them efficiently doing their job, whatever that is.
Between Pearl and Harvey was a sign that said “Do Not Pluck Flowers.” There were no flowers to pluck, but the couple immediately thought of chickens. They did not consult one another, but they may have felt a warm camaraderie if they had.
Over a loudspeaker someone prayed in monotone in a language they didn’t understand. They’d learned only important words, like the names of a few common menu items and a polite way to say hello, but none of these words were used in the prayer, and they were not moved by the lyrics about goodness and equality, even though those subjects were exactly the kinds of things they cared about.
I picked up Ex Libris in a manner that its author would approve of: in a used bookstore. I’ve actually owned it for almost seven months, but I only got around to reading it now, because I wasn’t in love with reading for a while. If I had read it right away, I might have reconciled with it sooner.
The first collection from essayist and reporter Anne Fadiman, Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader is the chronicle of a life devoted to bibliophilia. Reading, words, and books are everywhere—as obsession, addiction, and pleasure.
But Fadiman does not fall into the trap of being overly precious about books as physical objects. Her extensive collection is largely categorized and alphabetized, she would not be caught dead sorting by color and size, and it took ten years of cohabitation before she was willing to merge shelves with her husband and toss the duplicates, but she revels in marginalia, inscriptions, and the wear on used editions. As she remarks in “Never Do That To A Book” after her brother leaves a book open face down on a family vacation and a maid bookmarks it, closes it, and leaves him a scandalized note:
When it’s right, it’s right and you can feel it in the air, when your bodies brush together the sparks fly and the ozone cooks; she cannot take her eyes off you, you cannot take your eyes off her, and nobody has to say a thing. As the elevator rose lurching slowly two flights, I wanted to put my hands on her shoulders and turn her toward me and watch her face tilt up and her lips part, I knew it would happen that way, that she would come in against me and I would press her against the elevator wall, and the kiss would be so hot and filled with excitement that we could slide down to the floor unknowing and clutch each other melting into one soul.
Naturally, that’s not what happened.
I didn’t lay a glove on her in the elevator. We didn’t even talk, I just looked at all that honey-ginger hair and thought about the way it would feel against my skin. When the elevator door opened and I saw the maid’s cart parked in front of my open door I wasn’t even slightly phased, but touched Sonny with the tips of my fingers at the small of her back and she moved into the suite turning up to me and smiling. My knees almost buckled from the look in her eyes.
“Be done in a minute,” the maid called from the kitchen.
We had planned to hike the western slope of Mount Tamalpais, but in the morning we saw clouds covering the ridge, which would erase the vertiginous views of the Pacific Ocean. So we went further up the mountain, to a place called Rock Springs, and picked the first trail that led downward, hoping to bury ourselves in the folds of the mountain and find something, close up, that would rival the distant vistas to the west. We followed Cataract Creek among mossy laurel trees and chest-high river rocks, then dipped along wooden footbridges, past a stand of young redwoods, toward a windbreak called Bath’s Retreat, before climbing a rocky escarpment with stunted manzanitas.
Four things about mountains occurred to me along the way. Continue reading
HOLY SMACK YOU GUYS THE BLACK CAT BY J.M. GEEVER IS ON SALE AS AN E-BOOK!
If you hate killing trees or you’ve been too (ahem) thrifty to buy the paperback, then take a deep breath, shake out your index finger so it’s really loose and limber, and click on the button below. You’ll get the EPUB, MOBI, and PDF versions for a special price of $0.99.
The Black Cat is a terribly original novel about old families, expensive California wines, superstitions, obscure European wars, vengeance, and more wine. It’s like if Edgar Allan Poe tried to describe the plot of East of Eden while he was sloshed.
You can read excerpts here and here.
“J.M. Geever writes with an erudition, wit, and mystery reminiscent of The Crying of Lot 49 and the historical soul of Arc d’X. With The Black Cat, he perfectly captures the essence of California’s place in both the idealization and disintegration of the American dream.”
– Matthew Gallaway, author of The Metropolis Case
You are going to love The Black Cat. For only $0.99.
- Fiction Advocate
Your Face in Mine by Jess Row comes out today!
It’s the story of Kelly Thorndike, a Baltimore native who bumps into an old friend on the streets. His friend used to be Jewish, but now, thanks to a near-impossible medical procedure, he has been transformed into an African American. Enlisted in the cause, Kelly becomes the doubting Boswell to his friend’s Dr. Johnson, charged with writing the official story of the world’s first “racial reassignment surgery.” But Kelly is distracted by his own issues: his Chinese wife and their young daughter died recently, and he still grieves for them, and for the culture he left behind as an expat in China. Kelly is faced with some big questions. Is race a personal choice? Should it be? Is that even possible?
Your Face in Mine is a searing account of race in America today. It might be the best book I have read all year. It’s certainly the most thought-provoking. Run to the store, buy it, read it, and watch the future unfold in its image.
We asked the author one question. Continue reading
Long-form ghost stories are rare, probably because they’re difficult to pull off. You have to keep the tension ramped up. You have to work within a story archetype, but surprise your readers and keep them on their toes. You have to write in such a way that not only do the characters have no idea what’s going to happen, but neither does your audience. In short, you need a lot up your sleeve.
Ancient Oceans of Central Kentucky moves in tightening circles, spinning closer and closer to a rabbit hole of a drain. We follow Leah Shepherd, who has returned to her semi-fictional hometown of Crow Station, Kentucky after a stint in graduate school and a broken-off engagement. Her job as a social worker with a tiny nonprofit feeds bits of surreal, small-town humor into the text: a woman asks for a felony charge to be dismissed because it’s her birthday; a dead dog is found on the side of the road and becomes the all-encompassing conversation topic for a day. Throughout the novel, Leah is reminded of her little brother Jacob who went missing when they were children, and behind every plot advancement is the lurking knowledge that something bad is going to happen.