March 17, 2011

Your micro-review roundup: 17 March 2011

(Because I make my way through so many books and movies for CCLaP, I regularly come across projects that are interesting enough unto themselves but that I simply don't have much to say about, or at least not enough to warrant an entire entry. I thought, then, that on occasional weekends I would gather up such "micro-reviews" and post them all in one large entry; they can also be found on CCLaP's main book and main movie archive pages.)

Drinking at the Movies, by Julia Wertz

Drinking at the Movies
By Julia Wertz
Three Rivers Press / Random House

I've been a fan for a long time now of Julia Wertz's funny, filthy web comic The Fart Party, so I'm glad to see her get a little more recognition here with her first mainstream, nationally released collection, Drinking at the Movies. And indeed, although a lot of this book simply reprints material already seen at the website, at least half of it is brand-new stuff exclusively for the book, where Wertz takes the opportunity to expand certain storylines and to get a little more serious and introspective, as only a book format allows you to. Granted, I'm not sure how charming any of this stuff might be when Wertz is forty, and no longer behaving in the life-changing, sometimes outrageously trainwreckish ways that make the comic so godd-mn funny (in this collection, for example, she moves from San Francisco to Brooklyn, all while drinking too much and going on a series of comically horrible dates); but I suppose it's then that we'll see whether Wertz is able to morph into more challenging work as she gets older, or if she'll become the ten thousandth twentysomething confessional comics artist to hang it all up right around the same time as her first mortgage. For now, I highly recommend this fascinating, hilarious look at why exactly youth is wasted on the young.

Out of 10: 9.0

Beautiful Piece, by Joseph G. Peterson

Beautiful Piece
By Joseph G. Peterson
Northern Illinois University Press

The beauty of genre work is also its curse, and the thing that mostly defines it as a genre piece to begin with; namely, almost all stories written within a certain genre are nearly identical in their generalities, with it being all about the tiny little details when it comes to a fan of that genre liking this particular title over that one, and with non-fans of these tropes simply out of luck altogether. I was thinking about this all over again recently, in fact, while reading through Chicagoan Joseph G. Peterson's new noir tale Beautiful Piece; for while it's perfectly fine for the stylish crime thriller it is, the book is exactly and precisely that and not the tiniest smidge more, essentially padding out a single-sentence plot into an entire manuscript (nervy loner has affair with beautiful femme fatale whose gun-toting boyfriend is violently psychotic), and not even bringing anything original to the writing style that wasn't already perfected in the genre way back in the 1940s. As such, then, it's one of those well-done but largely forgettable tales that litter the genre shelves, one that goes down like warm butter but that leaves just about as much of a lasting impression too, a pleasant weekend diversion for existing noir fans but easily skippable for those who aren't. A middle-of-the-road title, which is why it's getting a middle-of-the-road score today.

Out of 10: 7.9

Bucket of Face

Bucket of Face
By Eric Hendrixson
Eraserhead Press

Eric Hendrixson's Bucket of Face is the latest title I've received from Eraserhead Press's "New Bizarro Author Series," which as regular readers know is where that publisher will give beginner New Weird authors a chance with a cheaply-done novella, then put the author in charge of hawking that book and getting its sales high enough for Eraserhead to have a lasting impression made on them. And indeed, Hendrixson's book does what a lot of bizarro titles do to propel the plot, which is to combine the well-known tropes of another genre like crime or noir with the logic-defying details of a dream state, in this case a gritty murder tale set among a "Naked City" style downtown district, only one where certain vegetables have turned radioactive-superhero-style into fully sentient human-sized creatures, among whom it's become fashionable to wear and deal in actual black-market human faces, a literal bucket of which is found Pulp-Fiction-style among the victims of a random crime at the beginning of the tale, and which fuels most of the Tarantinoesque plot that comes after. It's...um, okay, you know; not terrible, not great, a bit corny, more and more loved the closer you are to a violence-obsessed sixteen-year-old boy, like so much bizarro fiction is, which makes it hard to criticize it simply for being what it aims to be, even if that's not exactly my own cup of tea. While it's certainly not bad at all, I suspect it's only going to be truly loved by all those twentysomething CCLaP readers at Facebook who are always mentioning those anime projects and first-person-shooter games I've never heard of, and it's to them that I especially recommend today's title.

Out of 10: 8.0, or 9.0 for fans of bizarro fiction

Filed by Jason Pettus at 4:15 PM, March 17, 2011. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews |