A “factotum” (Latin for “do everything”) is a jack of all trades—a guy who can trim your hedges, tune-up your car, fix your leaky kitchen faucet, and build a tool shed in your backyard. As the title of Bukowski’s second novel, the term Factotum is used tongue-in-cheek. Although Hank Chinaski, Bukowski’s alter ego, describes some twenty jobs he had as a struggling young writer, he had no talent for doing anything other than writing, and he had no desire to work at anything but writing. He didn’t fit in as an employee anywhere and clearly never could—he sees the way the world works too clearly and can’t hide his contempt for his “superiors,” especially after selling a story to a top literary mag. But he had to pay the rent and buy booze. So, here he is, pushing the boulder up the mountain over and over again. Continue reading Charles Bukowski’s Factotum: Jack o’ No Trades
Okay, here’s the premise of John O’Brien’s The Assault on Tony’s.
A handful of rich Republican alcoholics stop in at their favorite bar near the country club to ride out a riot. They all arrive at the bar with a couple of weapons—a Glock, a Walther, a couple of Dirty Harry .44 Magnums, a Beretta 92F. Apparently they’re always packing, but now they’re packing double and thank goodness, because the riot soon turns into Armageddon. Continue reading The Assault on Tony’s by John O’Brien – An Alcoholic’s View of Armageddon
Stripper Lessons by John O’Brien is a story about a lonely middle-aged guy (Carroll) in a dead-end job, who spends his evenings watching nude dancers at an L.A. strip club called Indiscretions. He’s friendless and has no interests beyond the strip club. Socially awkward, he worries constantly (both at work and at the club) about saying or doing the wrong thing.
As in his first published novel, Leaving Las Vegas, O’Brien provides no backstory for his main character (or any of the characters). There’s no easy psychological explanation, no hint of childhood trauma. By refusing to divulge any biographical details for such a character, O’Brien makes Stripper Lessons a study of loneliness itself, and that makes the novel hard to put down. Continue reading John O’Brien’s Stripper Lessons: A Study of Loneliness
What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.
—J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
The film version of Leaving Las Vegas is a depressing view of an alcoholic (Ben) who is drinking himself to death, and his touching friendship with a prostitute (Sera) he meets in Las Vegas in the final weeks of his life.
The novel Leaving Las Vegas is an exhilarating experience inside the head of an alcoholic who has decided to drink himself to death, and his touching friendship with a prostitute (Sera) he meets in Las Vegas in the final weeks of his life. Continue reading John O’Brien’s Leaving Las Vegas – The Exhilaration of Suicide
Epstein Dorian is at loose ends. His wife is missing. His mother’s a vampire. His teenage daughter’s a basket case. He spends all of his time at home watching documentaries about gruesome murders and serial killers. His sexuality is confused. He entertains libidinous thoughts about his mother, as well as his wife and girlfriend, and at one point even convinces a young male street beggar to perform oral sex on him for money. Continue reading Leland Pitts-Gonzalez’ The Blood Poetry: Uncle Fester Gets Religion
I had a teacher I liked who used to say good fiction’s job was to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. I guess a big part of serious fiction’s purpose is to give the reader, who like all of us is sort of marooned in her own skull, to give her imaginative access to other selves.
—David Foster Wallace,
“An Interview with Larry McCaffery,”
The Review of Contemporary Fiction,
Good Blonde & Others is a collection of Jack Kerouac’s short writings, some autobiographical, some discussions of literature—including his novel The Subterraneans—others talking about jazz or baseball or his cat or whatever caught his attention for that moment.
One of the joys of the collection is of course just the writing itself—Kerouac’s sadness in constant interplay with poetic exultation. Another joy of the collection is the clarity it brings to your understanding of Kerouac’s fiction, just by watching his themes and obsessions unfold around a wider variety of topics, in short essays that are often more accessible than his fiction. Continue reading Jack Kerouac’s Good Blonde & Others – Between Sadness & Exultation
In Last Burn in Hell: Director’s Cut, John Edward Lawson isn’t giving us a novel so much as he’s playing with the concept of what a novel is. And just in case you don’t get the message from the “Director’s Cut” subtitle, the sub-subtitle is “a film by John Edward Lawson.” It comes complete with photo stills, promotional images, an R rating, and a soundtrack. The soundtrack is mostly composed of actual tracks by hiphop/synth/sampling artists like Techno Animal and DJ Spooky, which you can listen to on Youtube while you read to get the full flavor of the book. Continue reading John Edward Lawson’s Last Burn in Hell: Director’s Cut