JF Powers’ Morte d’Urban: On the Priesthood of American Literary Writers

Most reviews of  J.F. Powers’ 1962 comic masterpiece Morte d’Urban (especially most reviews in elite venues) see the central story as that of a wheeler-dealer priest who dies to earthly life to achieve a greater sanctity. And that assessment is pretty hard to argue with—since the hero of the novel is a priest, and the writer himself was Catholic, the novel has to be about the importance of the spiritual life over worldly success, right?

Wrong. As always, it’s convenient for the elite to assure the poor and frustrated that they will find their reward in heaven, so they don’t have to be given a cut here on earth. But the problem with this take on the story of Father Urban is that this is not how it will feel to any non-elite reading it. The way it feels to me as I read most of it is hilarious and exhilarating; the way it felt as I finished it was heartbreaking. What makes it sad is that it’s the story of a great man who’s destroyed by the yahoos. Continue reading JF Powers’ Morte d’Urban: On the Priesthood of American Literary Writers

Eric Miles Williamson’s East Bay Grease: A Portrait of the Artist in Hell

In East Bay Grease, Eric Miles Williamson has created the ultimate novel of a child living in Hell, a story of brutality, transformation and transcendence. The narrator, T-Bird Murphy, is a poor kid from the Oakland slums, living in a world where people violate each other horribly—a world of vandalism and violence where no one ever calls the police because the police are the enemies of all. No one ever files lawsuits. It’s vigilante law. People take their revenge themselves.  They use knives to maim and torture. They burn down houses. They murder. Everyone knows whodunit and they know why it was done. It’s the real world that the poor in the big cities in the U.S. live in, but though the poor make up a huge segment of our population, this world is invisible to anyone not living in it. Continue reading Eric Miles Williamson’s East Bay Grease: A Portrait of the Artist in Hell

Robert Devereaux’s Santa Steps Out – Silent Night, Horny Night

In Santa Steps Out, Robert Devereaux restores the lust and raging lunacy of classic Greek mythology to our most cherished, and sanitized, contemporary American fable.  Robert Devereaux is now often classified as a bizarro author, though I think he was initially categorized in the sci-fi/fantasy/horror genres. I just discovered him some months ago. Here’s the basic story of his 1998 novel, Santa Steps Out:

Santa Claus, while making his rounds one Christmas Eve, bumps into the Tooth Fairy who happens to be making her rounds, depositing coins under children’s pillows in exchange for teeth. (We learn a lot of juicy facts about the Tooth Fairy in this book. For example, she actually eats the teeth she picks up, and then excretes the coins she leaves behind.) The Tooth Fairy is a hot babe and she seduces Santa multiple times in the first chapter. But, we also learn that Santa is married to Anya and he is filled with remorse for having cheated on his ever-loving, ever faithful wife. Continue reading Robert Devereaux’s Santa Steps Out – Silent Night, Horny Night