Five (sort of) Books That Changed My Life: Jedidiah Ayres...

  I have been struggling to land on a good Five _____ That Changed My Life for this here Crimespree blog, and have a couple half-written and totally overwrought pieces that I’m abandoning – Five Christian Rock Albums That Changed My Life and The Story of My Life in Five Dead Pets – but with the recent passing of my friend and inspiration Cortright McMeel, I’ve been reflecting on how much his publication Murdaland magazine changed my life. So, books. Just plain ol’ reliable books, is my piece.   Murdaland Issues 1 and 2– posi-fucking-lutely changed my life. It crystallized the concept I would channel my own writing efforts into for years to come. This badass literary crime journal took crime seriously, took writing seriously, and didn’t take shit from anybody. No glorifying cool criminals, no bestowing sainthood on any detectives, nobody getting away clean. Thrills could only be found on the runaway trains hurtling toward consequence, and those were never long-lived, just like the journal they were published in (so potent it only lasted 2 issues). Blackly humorous, bleakly insightful and beautifully wrought. I’d have voted the McMeel/Langnas ticket any day.   But lemme back the hell up to a darker change in my life…   My Antonia by Willa Cather – As a kid, I always loved reading – always had something I was digging and getting a lot out of UNTIL middle school. Until I repeatedly had to put down what I wanted to read in order to push through something required by the curriculum. After picking up some kick-ass giant science fiction tome I’d already had to restart TWICE in between bouts of exceptionally dull classics foist upon me, and finding that, once again, I was going to have to start over because I couldn’t remember all the intricacies of the plot and characters, I gave up. Just stopped reading anything ever. I wish I could remember what book was the final straw, but I’ve selected one that I do remember HATING. Sorry, Willa, but your book blows. Like, with teeth, badly blows. How much did I hate this book? I stopped reading anything – ANYTHING – until I’d squeaked through the Arkansas public school system and nobody could, the fuck, tell me shit about what to read. Let’s face it, I was a little cretin at that age – as, frankly, are most boys – but the cure for cretinism is not to cram high culture down their throats – it just re-enforces their I-don’t-belong self-image – but rather to… Hell, I don’t know. I grew out of it eventually, but surely there must have existed a way to keep my enthusiasm for literature lit without smothering it with Lit. My aversion to all things Antonia goes so far as to immediately drop ANY book where characters walk through a wheat field. Moving on to something more positive – My Life by Marc Chagall/A Child’s Nightdream by Oliver Stone – yeah, that Oliver Stone. So after high school ends and I find myself a professional dishwasher making $5/hour 20-hours a week, living first in a mildew-factory without laundry, groceries, a car, or TV or even a telephone, I worked on building up those reading muscles again. And somehow… these two unlikely books with their rather beautiful, lyrical stream of consciousness prose styles capture my attention and don’t let go. Damned if today I could draw you a timeline of Chagall’s life story or give you any plot-points from Stone’s biographical Vietnam novel, but their impressionistic style sure painted some vivid pictures that excited and terrified me. Gave me a real jones for reading poetry for a while, and prepared the way for me to fall in love with the crime and gothic authors I love today who marry beautiful prose to compelling stories.   Gun With Occasional Music/The Disappointment Artist by Jonathan Lethem –...

Good-Bye Sookie, It’s Been Nice!!

Lego build and photos by Ruth Jordan

FRANK SINATRA IN A BLENDER – in Lego

 

THE TRINITY GAME by Sean Chercover – reviewed in Lego...

A pile of Lego and THE TRINITY GAME fresh in our heads…. so...

Laura Lippman Reviewed in Lego

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HELLO KITTY MUST DIE – Book Review

HELLO KITTY MUST DIE Angela S.Choi Tyrus Books April 2010 “Hello Kitty” – term referring to educated, well-mannered Asian-American women….. Fiona Yu- educated, well mannered Asian-American woman determined to kill her inner “Hello Kitty”. HELLO KITTY MUST DIE; the best debut novel I’ve read this year. There is a joy about this manically sublime and entirely over the top book that’s hard to describe. The only way I can explain it is to say I now believe I belong to a secret club. This is the book to present the argument , “Good mysteries can be warped and funny”. As the novel opens Fiona is working on downgrading her “Hello Kitty” status. This requires that she lose her virginity. What follows is perhaps the most commanding first chapter I’ve read in the last decade. Not since Vicki Hendricks found love with a dolphin has anything been as singularly female, shocking and accessible. Cheated out of the rite of passage to “lose her virginity” , our heroine decides to reclaim the momentous moment with plastic surgery. She meets up with her childhood friend, Sean Killroy and an entirely different world opens up for her… this world is dark. Ken Bruen dark. How far does one go to decide who they will become in the U.S.A.? What price do you pay to become the real you? And if the answer to whom the real you is rather shocking do you embrace your individuality or once more conform to society’s ideal of whom you should be….. BONUS to the above questions, how high can you make the body count? In Choi’s first novel, I relived the experience of Tart Noir, remembered Richard Stark, found myself wanting to be in the room when Choi met Bill Fitzhugh and Val McDermid. And here’s the most important thing about HELLO KITTY MUST DIE. I found myself promising never to miss a book or a moment with this author, because the pages flow one into the other with a 1990s’ deconstruction and the Romanticism of the Golden Age. No one else could have written this book and no one else should try to copy it. That’s some major talent for a new writer. One of the most refreshing aspects of HKMD is the fact that it is a female world but Choi invites any reader who’s experienced Swierczynski or Huston to the party. So read the book. I’ll give you the password to our club. It’s Angela Choi. Remember the name. Ruth Jordan  ...