Joyless House Book Reviews

Books Read in Solitary: an Overview

(and as compared to the works of Leo Tolstoy)


It's been a rough and randy couple months at Joyless House. We've endured virtual bar fights, lifetime bans for indecency, official letters of censor from the Autonomous Zone, you name it. Word has it Senator Ron Johnson wants to pull our liquor license. No more of those sweet 'likes' for us; just kicks to groin for walking down the street. Our mothers can't stand the sight of us. But, we have had a lot of time to read. And, since we've been permanently uninvited to all social media platforms, author panels and public libraries, we really have no reason to say nice things about the books that keep coming in the mail. So without further ado...

Well, just a bit of additional ado, if you don't mind. Everyone knows reading nothing but contemporary indie trash will turn your palms hairy. We've also been rereading Tolstoy. And since the authors reviewed below are all FEARLESS and UNCOMPROMISING artists, I'm sure they'd want to have their stuff judged against the all-time master. With not another fucking ounce of ado...

Fucked Up by Damian Ark landed with a maximum of fanfare and a loud fucking thump. This novel is transgressive. It was faved by Dennis Cooper. I don't know, I'm more of an Alice Cooper guy myself. Do you have the time to find out who I really am? No, I really don't. This fucker is longer than War & Peace. I read about half of it. There's plenty of child rape, opiate abuse, jacking off to corpses, mom beating, etc. At the same time it read more than anything like a dystopian YA novel. I guess I just don't get it. It's not for me. I'm an old crank. Listening to Brainbombs and cornholing the captain of the high school baseball team is all well and good but it's not, in and of itself, the stuff of good prose. Oh well, Expat is interested in style and I guess Fucked Up has that. Just not my style. Compares well to War & Peace, strictly in its length. And I don't know... maybe the outsourced Apple-brain youth of today can draw the same conclusions about the patterns of human history the literate man can from Tolstoy's magnum opus. (insert that stick figure shrugging thing)

Oh, did someone mention style over substance? How about the cocaine chronicles of an over-sexed Hollywood trust fund brat and her indistinguishable lesbian girlfriends? Ruthless Little Things by Elizabeth Victoria Aldrich is like MTV showing up drunk at your house in the middle of the night whining 'cause you haven't watched it in 20 years. Aw, hell, that's mean. I just thought it was a clever analogy. E.V.A. is a good writer. She has vision and, yes, style. A great feel for creating mood. I just... ah, fuck, it's not you babe, it's me. I don't identify with young people. Never have really. This slim novel doesn't equate to anything by Tolstoy, but interestingly, the author herself is the modern incarnation of the count's great heroine Anna Karenina. She just can't get her shit together long enough to make that final train...

Double Bird by Bud Smith. I guilted the author into sending me a copy by sending one of my own his way (for reasons you jerks don't need to know about). It's a short story collection and a damn good one. But don't just take JH's word for it, here's what currentivism pioneer and reclusive weirdo bibles has to say, "Bud Smith is simply my favorite writer of fiction. Short stories, novels, tweets, doesn't matter. Bud is the man and I bow down. All other supposed male voices of contemporary literature (myself included) can go find a dark corner and whack their pitiful, little puds." Wow, bibles! That's unsparingly frank! I wouldn't go so far, but I was certainly entertained by Double Bird. The stories are creative, at times even wacky. And the prose flows. It just hits maybe a little too close to home. Like, there per chance go I, were I born a schlub from New Jersey and not a hick from Wisconsin. Tolstoy wouldn't like it (though it's better than The Cossacks [which wasn't that fucking good, honestly]).

And now the one you've all been waiting for... Ah, alas, I have no review of Expat 4. Haven't read it and probably won't. It's being billed as the hottest shit this side of twitter. The best short stories by the very top students in Professor Marrero's Cyber Writing Workshop. What rubbish! I suppose I missed the age cut off? Or perhaps my social media game just doesn't stack up? Shit. I thought getting kicked off of twitter was the baffling work of some uptight assholes, now I'm being blackballed from a compilation tape of a label I was pimping when most of these contributors were popping puss onto the screens of their Nintendo DS-es! Fine with me. The popular kids ALWAYS suck. Without exception. A couple nuggets of wisdom I've gleaned from old Count Tolstoy: a) fuck your contemporaries & b) never forget a slight.

Happy reading, friends.