Look How the Fish Live by J.F. Powers, the Poet of Frustration

Look How The Fish Live by J.F. PowersThe most haunting story in Look How the Fish Live, a collection of short stories by J.F. Powers published in 1975, is the eponymous story that opens it, “Look How the Fish Live,” a story about the indifference of the universe. Every time I read it I think of Jack London’s “To Build a Fire,” although the stories could not be more different on the surface. The story was in the first book Powers published after his masterpiece, the novel Morte D’Urban (see review), with which Powers beat out Nabokov, Updike and Katherine Anne Porter for the 1963 National Book Award. “Look How the Fish Live” is now available in The Stories of J.F. Powers.
Continue reading Look How the Fish Live by J.F. Powers, the Poet of Frustration

John Edward Lawson’s Discouraging at Best: A View of the National Id

Discouraging at Best by John Edward LawsonReading John Edward Lawson’s Discouraging at Best is like watching the Marx Bros. directed by Wes Craven. It’s a series of snapshots of American life in which the national id is hanging out for all to see, where every character is a caricature of our worst views of each other, and all traces of plot take a back seat to the punchlines. Continue reading John Edward Lawson’s Discouraging at Best: A View of the National Id

Agnes Owens’ Like Birds in the Wilderness – The Kids Aren’t Alright

Like Birds in the Wilderness, by Agnes OwensAgnes Owens’ Like Birds in the Wilderness (now available in Agnes Owens: The Complete Novellas) is about a 23-year-old working class kid in Scotland named Mac, who faces shut doors, hard times and bureaucratic indifference no matter which way he turns. He falls in love with a 23-year-old typist from a slightly higher level of the working class and has to figure out how to keep her while fighting off anxiety, depression and alcoholism and stubbornly groping his way to his own code of morality. Continue reading Agnes Owens’ Like Birds in the Wilderness – The Kids Aren’t Alright

William S. Burroughs’ Junky: A Spiritual Quest via Heroin Addiction

Junkie by William BurroughsJunky, a semi-autobiographical novel by William S. Burroughs, is a seductive story set at the inception of the “hip” subculture in America. The story follows a man at odds with American mainstream culture into a quest for spiritual meaning via heroin. Burroughs did, in fact, start using heroin in 1944 and within a year, he was an addict. Though the book does not shy away from the sordid aspects of an addict’s life, this is not a literary Reefer Madness. Continue reading William S. Burroughs’ Junky: A Spiritual Quest via Heroin Addiction

Larry McMurtry’s Horseman, Pass By – A Force of Nature

Horseman, Pass ByLarry McMurtry’s Horseman, Pass By is a perfectly constructed tragedy, but because the main characters wear cowboy hats, it got consigned to the “Westerns” bin long ago by the academics and New York critics, who could then write it off as a lightweight elegy on the passing of the Old West and return their attention to boring novels about men in suits. Continue reading Larry McMurtry’s Horseman, Pass By – A Force of Nature

George Williams’ Degenerate – A Man Will Search His Heart & Soul

Degenerate by George WilliamsNovels are rarely about the things reviewers say they’re about. If a writer’s done a good-enough job on his novel, he’s created such a vivid impression of life that we’re compelled to search for a higher meaning in it, just as we relentlessly pick over life in our endless search for meaning. I’m going to seek to entertain you by comparing George Williams’ Degenerate to John Ford’s The Searchers. Continue reading George Williams’ Degenerate – A Man Will Search His Heart & Soul

Finding God on LSD (A Short Story About Schizophrenia)

by Arnold Snyder

My first wife, June, was schizophrenic, or so I’ve since surmised. I don’t know that she’d ever been officially diagnosed as schizophrenic, but I knew that she’d been diagnosed as something and I’m guessing it was schizophrenia. Three nights after we met, she called me at my dorm in the middle of the night—woke me up—because she was seeing green men outside her window. I talked to her for a couple hours, until the green men had disappeared. Then I went back to bed but couldn’t sleep. This was in 1966, at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. We were both eighteen, though I was an incoming freshman and she was a returning sophomore. Continue reading Finding God on LSD (A Short Story About Schizophrenia)

Harold Jaffe’s JESUS COYOTE and the Purposes of the Manson Myth

Jesus Coyote by Harold JaffeHarold Jaffe’s “docufiction” Jesus Coyote is (as pointed out by Maya Yin in an Amazon review) a Rashomon-like presentation of the August 1969 Manson murders. It uses fictional newspaper clips, police memos, and interviews with the Manson character (“Jesus Coyote”), members of his Family (“the Tribe”), and the Family’s victims (dead and alive) to explore the myth-making process at both the personal and societal levels. Continue reading Harold Jaffe’s JESUS COYOTE and the Purposes of the Manson Myth

RISK OF RUIN Now Available at Amazon

Risk of Ruin by Arnold SnyderMy novel, Risk of Ruin, is now available at Amazon. It’s the story of a blackjack player/biker/tattoo artist who becomes obsessed with a stripper who thinks she’s God.

If you live in Las Vegas, you can also pick up a copy at the Gambler’s Book Club at 5473 S. Eastern or at the offices of Huntington Press/Las Vegas Advisor at 3665 Procyon Street.

I’ll be talking about the book with Bob Dancer and Mike Shackleford today (Thursday, Nov. 8) at 7 p.m. in Las Vegas on their “Gambling With An Edge” radio show. Last time I was on they had to bleep me. Details:

Live Air-Time is: 7 PM Thursday nights on KLAV Talk-Radio 1230am in Las Vegas. You can listen live at http://www.klav1230am.com/. They take callers and give away weekly prizes, but if you can’t listen to the live show they archive all shows.

To CALL in LIVE during the show the Numbers are: (702) 731-1230 & 1-(866) 820-5528

Paul Bowles’ The Sheltering Sky: The Void Meets the Deg

The Sheltering Sky by Paul BowlesThe key to Paul Bowles’ 1949 novel is found in the epigraph by Franz Kafka that introduces “Book Three:  The Sky”:

From a certain point onward there is no longer any turning back. That is the point that must be reached.

The Sheltering Sky, Paul Bowles’ first novel and his most well-known work of fiction, is about getting to that point beyond which there is no turning back; it’s about ripping away the illusion of the “sheltering sky” and staring straight into the void. Continue reading Paul Bowles’ The Sheltering Sky: The Void Meets the Deg