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Joyless House Book Reviews

The Ice Cream Man

& Other Stories

by: Sam Pink

Soft Skull Press

So, Pink is back with a brand new edition...  stories from Chicago, Florida and Michigan... and you'll all be glad to know I'm already spent of the will to make this review read vaguely like a Vanilla Ice song.

If you are familiar with Joyless House Reviews you already know that we are fans of Sam's work. To claim impartiality at this point would be sick and wrong. But... what about familiarity breeding contempt? Sounds pretty sexy doesn't it? (eyebrows move up & down suggestively) Will Pink's turn as the Ice Cream Man be the Trick Too Fucking Far? Will the fruit of this vine finally turn sour to the finicky tastes of this online reviewer? Will the voice finally begin to cloy in this the sweetest of Pink's collections? Do we have the sticky makings of a literary rift for the ages??!!

No indeed. In fact this may be my favorite book yet in the ever-growing, the veiny and slick, the fat & formidable Pink Cannon. A few stories, Blue Victoria in particular, are marked by a new grimness. It's a trademark of Pink's to explore the miserable and mundane in life, ultimately sparing the reader with his humor and humanity. Many of the stories here are along that same line, but there are also a couple that leave you with a little hole in your gut. It's like the author put his meaty paw on your shoulder, looked you calmly in the eye, poured all the knowledge of his hardscrabble years into your jittery soul, and with his other hand, shot you in the stomach with one of those tiny guns ladies keep in their stocking in old time gangster movies.

You wipe away one small tear as you watch him walk away, with his steel-toed gait. God bless that man, you whisper. Then you put a hand to your gut and looking at it think, why am I bleeding?

Confidence Man

Anthony Dragonetti  Expat Press

Alright! (stretches, cracks knuckles) Time to get down to my favorite bit of business: reviewing a book by an author on the same label that publishes my shit. Not a queasy proposition in the least! (begins to absently rip out large tufts of hair from groin area)

Ha, ha. Just kidding folks. We keep it as clean as an olympic swimmer around here. Thankfully, once again, the editorial eye at Expat Press proves to be unassailable. 

Confidence Man is the debut from NYC's own Anthony Dragonetti. It's a cohesive collection of shorts that reads like a well-written diary. Still it doesn't come off as overly solipsistic. The city itself, the author's family, his Italian heritage and (cue creepy organ music) the Catholic church all serve as characters crucial to the narrative. The prose here is great, in the realist style, I would say, not quite minimalist (a sigh of relief from everyone who's been bludgeoned by the avalanche of books full of four word poems), but efficient. Sort of reminiscent of the beat aesthetic (genre cliche used to maximize relatability, sorry [you hypersensitive pricks]) where a piece is meant to be read out loud. The stories here have natural meter and musicality. And... I guess we're pissing all over the fourth wall here... I can verify; it checks out. I heard Anthony read a couple selections from the book live and in the flesh. We snuck it in before the great zombie apocalypse.

 

You know what? Fuck it, as long as  we're doing the dirty dog on the whack-ass rules of literary journalism (just that phrase makes you want to punch somebody in the face, don't it?) here's the scoop: I got to meet Anthony and he's exactly as advertised. He's a sincere dude, in it for the right reasons, and it comes through in his work. Same goes for Pink. 

Confidence Man is an earnest attempt to reconcile life in this modern age. A quest for truth and morality. A walk in the dark urban woods, holding hands with the ghosts of family, faith, New York City and the fucking internet. It's real and it's real good. Shop Expat Press, Soft Skull, 11:11, Heavy Athletics, all that shit. Stay safe or kill with faith. Selah.