Joyless House Book Reviews
Last Stop To Saskatoon
by: Tony Nesca
I'm going to review the two newest offerings from Screamin' Skull Press in tandem, not just because they were released simultaneously and arrived at my house in the same envelope, but because they make a perfect pairing.
If you follow Joyless House at all, you know that SS is one of our favorite presses and Tony and Nicole are two of our favorite writers. Oh hell, let's not fuck around - they're two of our favorite people. These two books are highly expressive of the people responsible for them. We read to gain insight into the human condition, to somehow make contact. Let it Bleed and Last Stop to Saskatoon offer a degree of intimacy that justifies the art form.
Last Stop is a long, stream of consciousness poem. It is the song of an artist who's spent decades, now, fighting it out in the gutters of a world that shits on dreams. In the author, the dreamer is still alive, even if the dream itself has been dragged through the muck for a pretty long time. Tony is about rock n' roll, the word, the local dive bar and most of all, beauty found in a cast-off corner. He's never stopped searching for that beauty, even as the great cultural capitulation to "the big vapid" tries to crowd every last bit of it out. Last stop is a protest song, like the man says. A dozen books into his this writing trip, Nesca's passion hasn't waned.
I was especially excited to see something new from Nicole - it's been a while. Let it Bleed is a collection of poems and short prose pieces. There are reflections on the breezy days of youth and revolt at having them ripped away. She writes with passion: bitterness that you can taste. defiance that makes you want to get out your seat, and naked vulnerability that will put a knot in your stomach. Her battle is separate from Tony's, a different venue in the same war. While he's pressing out into the jungle, she's gritting her teeth behind enemy lines. Her battle is to maintain her identity and individuality while grinding out the slough that this world requires of us. Her family back in the states give her grief for leaving them behind; her coworkers give her grief for being an American; and her own body threatens to bleed out on her. Through it all, she owns every bit of her fear, anger and regret, yet comes out defiant and singular. An achingly brave voice.
When read consecutively, Last Stop and Let it Bleed give you a sort of yin and yang perspective on what it means - and what it entails - to love, to create and to dream, while still somehow getting by in a society that doesn't necessarily welcome any of the above. I recommend buying both books and reading them in one sitting. Turn the tv off and put your goddamn phone down. Get a 1.75 of rye and plenty off ice. Have your favorite records cued up for when you're done; you'll be in the mood to reminisce.
by: B.R. Yeager
Amygdalatropolis starts off with an introduction into the philosophy of modern nihilism by Edia Connole. The fact that a thirty-page academic buffer was deemed necessary before getting into Yeager's story might give you some indication of what we're dealing with here.
Our protagonist is identified only as /1404er/, a member of a deep web forum of the same name, where all the members share this same handle. /1404er/ is a teenage boy who has withdrawn from the outside world into a cyber existence that leaves his dick shriveled and his poor mum beside herself with worry. It is a cautionary tale for our time, I suppose. Whether that's what Yeager's intent was, I can't say.
Amygdalatropolis is a difficult read yet impossible to put down. It's a fucking car crash, man. /1404er/ spends his time in a world of snuff films, live suicides, child rape, and every other kind of sensational horror humans could conceive of and conceive of posting online. Everyone is fascinated with the morbid possibilities presented by the deep infiltration of computer technology into our lives and this book is a nauseous meditation on the same. Sick indulgence that was once the domain of academics quietly passing around stills from the rape of Nanking is now accessible to any kid with a computer. I guess the $40,000 question is what all this says about the state of the human animal. Does the anonymity and availability provided by the internet encourage the worst in our natures, or is just a very clean window?
I found this read to be an informative exercise. And actually, the academic introduction put me in the proper frame of mind. The discussion on this subject could be endless, but my takeaway was one solid kernel of knowledge. Connole brings up the idea of God through negation. Nihilism is negation and the idea is proposed that the rejection (or destruction) of what we are (humanity) is the only way to truly address a higher power, a power that is truly beyond human comprehension. (This is just my interpretation of a philosophical point that Connole sites, mind you.) I think this can be spun in a quite positive way. The key to finding a better path in life perhaps lies in the rejection of that which is wrong, or evil, if you will. Simple, but not easy. I suppose the first step in rejecting that which is evil, would be identifying it.
Yeager and Schism do a fine job in presenting an interesting think piece. She's really put together. If you will. And the writing is good. Yeager should be commending for accomplishing the difficult task of making a loathsome character /1404er/ almost relatable. This shit has my rickety hamster wheel turning, anyway!
This Hasn't Been a Very Magical Journey So Far
for Homeless's art:
art & poetry:
Let's see . . . cumbersome title, the author's name is 'Homeless', cartoon cat wearing leather jacket carrying umbrella under coffee cup-sun on cover . . . check, check and check! The only other thing you'll need to know is that this gem drops on 11/17/2017 and is available for preorder now from Vegetarian Alcoholic Press!
What the hell, just for the sake of appearances, let's review this bugger anyway.
The Not So Magical Journey is a surrealistic/hallucinated trip our protagonist, Hank Williams, takes with the aforementioned leather-jacketed cat. The trip is one of extreme violence, drug abuse and creepy sex. As if you weren't hooked already. The journey runs parallel to a more serious storyline. Hank actually seems to be an inpatient at some type of psychiatric hospital. Here he finds the love of his life in the form of a patient called Patsy Cline. As you might imagine, things go tragically awry and the trip with the cat is a sort of metaphorical paradigm for the working through of said tragedy. So this bizarre tale seems to serve as a wacky forum for the exercising of some very serious demons. I'm sure all you sick-in-the-head type fans of Joyless House can dig on that!
The writing here takes the sort of minimalist approach that is pretty prevalent these days. But there are also moments that suggest the author is capable of some good prose. I, being kind of an old-school lit nerd, would like to see Homeless let 'er rip a bit prose-wise. All these short, observational sentences start to wear on the ol' brain, like an unrelenting jab. But overall, I really like the approach here. It's imaginative damnit, and no half-swing! Hear hear!
Something to Do With Self-Hate
by: Brian Alan Ellis
Brian Alan Ellis has pumped out a lot of writing in last few years. Really slugging it out in the fetid swamps of Florida. For this he deserves our respect. Our respect and our deepest suspicions . . .
Something to Do With Self-Hate is a real humdinger of a bummer trip. Heartbreak, hangovers, and hopelessness abound. Everybody's nostrils are stopped up with cheap coke. And don't worry, the legacy of BAE's forefathers in depravity (Bukowski, H. Miller, et al) is done due justice. There's no looking away from the gratuitous descriptions of sloppy sex with the crapulent and deranged, the hideous fouling of undergarments and the unending bouts of self abuse. (Keep it in your pants, freak! For more than a taste you'll have to buy the book!)
Ellis is a good writer. And it takes something . . . maybe even guts to keep up such a relentless pace of soul crushing comedy. On the flip side of the comedy, as always, there is tragedy. In this case our protagonist hangs on the cross for a lost lover. It's an old story, but I guess it never feels old for the one who's up on the cross, now does it? Over the course of this short but dogged novel, you'll wonder if our boy is really mourning the loss of his lover, or just the mess he's perpetually compelled to make of himself. You'll wonder what the hell you're doing with your own life, anyway. And what's the point of it all? Like I said, be wary.