Joyless House Book Reviews

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by: Eric Cecil

Expat Press

Well, Jesus, isn't this a dancy little number. Do you find Camus just a bit too light-hearted? Did There Will Be Blood strike you as a little too "sunny"? Lou Reed a tad too happy-go-lucky for your taste? Then Tunnels by Eric Cecil might be your jam.

Look at it this way: if it's between chugging a bottle of Drano and delving into Cecil's ode to paranoia and depression, you might want to go for the bottle. This book will just give a guy ideas.

Tunnels is a collection of short stories, the last of the lot being novella length. They are stark, creepy stories. Tight-lipped construction; odd, careful language. The action is all dream-like and nothing is ever explained to the reader's satisfaction. It all comes off a bit like a Twilight zone episode. Very cinematic. You're moved through surrealistic scenes by dark, moody music, never offered a glance at the characters' inner thoughts. You glean what you can by context clues and voyeurism. You'll feel like a right letching perv by the time it's done.

So did I like it? Fuck off, that's what! That's like asking a bloke if he enjoyed the bloody plague! Glad I lived through it, I guess... but then again... 

But aw hell, just do it. Pull the trigger, as it were. Has Expat Press ever steered you wrong before? If you want purple sonnets and poems praising flowers and trees, you'll have to get it elsewhere, bub. If you want someone to put their arm around you and tell you everything's going to be alright, Eric Cecil is not your man. If you're the kind of freak that digs a good bummer; if you can get by on a grimly-earned sense of superiority... well, this book just might be your tunnel. Crawl down deep and don't mind those nagging voices whispering in your ear.

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Synonyms for


by: A. Molotkov

Acre Books

Synonyms for Silence is the third poetry collection from A. Molotkov. You know this one is good just by the title: everyone recognizes The Sound of Silence as an intolerable piece of honky choir music, taken to new heights of vomitousness by some famous pedo-metal band called Strained.  Synonyms for silence would obviously connote a lack of sound; or, an environment where a lot of hippy-vocal soul stroking would be impossible. Big points there.

Beyond that, I really go in for Molotkov's style. I enjoyed his previous book Application of Shadows, as evidenced here: Poetry Slam. Synonyms is made up of 60 or so poems of short to medium length. Once again Molotkov uses the cues in the atmosphere to set a mood. He explores the power in illusion, allusion and ephemeral/metaphorical language, without being obscure. He grounds his esoteric leaps with a tree or a snowflake or a lonely outbuilding dotting a bleak landscape. He is economical in his verbiage but expansive in his search for meaning. Some poets will revel in the orgiastic wordplay emboldened by the indulgence of the ego; others - and Molotkov is decidedly in this camp - will attempt to elevate perspective by the subjugation of the self. The poems in this collection create feeling not by painting whimsical pictures, or reaching for sentimental triggers. The poet uses stark realities as landmarks in a reconnaissance effort that strives to leave behind the whimsy and sentimentality that is the breathable atmosphere of the ego. It feels like a search for meaning and I don't suppose poetry could have any higher calling.


Well here's something nice for all us geriatric lit pervs, all us artsy-fartsy old fucks who've been reading since before even... TAO LIN came on the scene, for chrissakes. If you can even believe the written word was invented that long ago. Most of you punks were probably still playing Angry Birds in your carseats back then. But anyway...

Sightseeing takes place in Paris. Paris, FRANCE! motherfucker!! We are treated to a tour of the muthafuckin' Musée d'Orsay in this bitch. We are encouraged to ruminate on masterpieces by Claude Monet, Dirty Gus Courbet, Vince Van Gogh and the like! And don't you worry, our narrator, a mysterious bachelor type, is working on a little master-piece of his own, if you know what I mean! (wink wink, nudge nudge)

Fuck, I'm sorry. Sightseeing is a charming little love story - with a slightly weird bent. A breezy 99 pages sees the budding and flowering of a relationship fueled by our lovers' shared passions for romance, fine art and, well, wine and cheese, of course. The kicker is you are never sure if these people have met before. Is dude amnesiac? Is this broad a psychopath? What? I thought I had the twist figured out in the first couple chapters, but instead Onofrey let's the backstory become more of a mystery as the novella unfolds. That's nice. Fuck neat plot conventions. 

The writing is good. It's in the tradition of good classical poetry and prose. It won't remind you of any of these insufferable, solipsistic, one-note, fucking 'alt lit' novels, that's for sure. The whole romantic Paris experience feels a bit on the nose, but then again, what do I know? I'm from Wisconsin. My idea of a cultural experience is visiting the north side of Milwaukee, hitting Speed Queen for barbecue and taking in a Bucks game. Everyone should do that, by the way. And buy Onofrey's book when it drops May 1st. Clash Books. Merci beaucoup. 



Michael Onofrey

Clash Books