Phenomenology of Superhero by Jason Magabo Perez

June 14, 2016 § Leave a comment

We’ve got some great books coming out from Red Bird this year, first and foremost on my list is Phenomenology of Superhero by Jason Magabo Perez, a perfect book for the summer blockbuster and comic book reboot season. With Steve Rogers hailing Hydra and so many white male superheroes on the silver screen, questions about representation in popular culture are more important than ever, and in this book Jason Magabo Perez explores these issues with wit and passion.

Superhero

I was a little scared of this collection on first read: Jason has writing chops–a veteran performance poet, you can hear his voice in every line–but he also has an academic’s intelligence, and I was intimidated by his genre-jumping throughout the manuscript, as well as his Michel Focault and Sara Ahmed references. Luckily, he was applying these intellectual frameworks to rap music and comic books, so I had points of reference too familiar to resist. I’m really proud to have helped Jason bring this book into the world; I feel it is one of the more important books we’ve published at Red Bird, and am happy it is already finding an audience. You can buy it here, and while you’re at the Red Bird website, read up on how your work could end up in a chapbook next year–our reading period opens up soon!

Multi Genre
52 pages
7″ x 7″ single signature chapbook with hand sewn binding
Published March 2016

An eclectic and energizing collection of poems, essays, and experimental fiction, Jason Magabo Perez’s Phenomenology of Superhero explores the Filipino-American experience with a voracious intelligence and an indelible voice. Fiercely interdisciplinary, Perez’s work explores the relationship between power and otherness in American life, focusing here especially on the relationship between discipline and art, ultimately coming to an “anti-disciplinary” vision of creativity. Touching on such diverse enthusiasms as Michel Foucault, Wolverine of the X-Men, Jorge Luis Borges, Eazy-E, Sara Ahmed, and Buzz Lightyear, every reader is bound to find something to relate to and be challenged by in this brave chapbook.

REVIEW: Patrick Robertson: A Tale of Adventure

February 15, 2016 § Leave a comment

I used to hate salespeople. You go into the cell-phone store for a new phone, and someone swoops in to try and convince you to get the same phone he has, a more expensive one than you had in mind. The store could have made money off the phone you wanted, but since they have this glorified con-man on their pay-roll, he has to find a way to justify his wage by pressuring you into something you don’t want.

As a grocery buyer, I had to deal with them all the time, dropping into the store just when I was least expecting it, to see if I was interested in carrying their new line of sprouted nuts or artisinal jams, talking too quickly to give me a chance to cut them off with a, “no thanks, not interested.” They’d fill my mouth with samples and tell me to think about it, they’d be emailing soon. I always felt like chasing them out of the store–“Really just no! Not maybe! No need to send your pricing structure. We are not interested, never will be.”–but politeness always stopped me. Then the call came a week later, “Remember me? I fed you ginger peach jam from my jar with a tiny spoon: now you owe me! How many cases can I put you down for?” Even after that no, they had to find a way to keep it open ended and check back to see if anything changes in a few months.

After one guy’s fourth call-back, it hit me: these weren’t the slick talking, smooth operators I was hating them for being; they were desperate losers–they reminded me of myself in high-school and college, trying to ask out girls, pitching my pathetic, inexperienced self in way that avoided the chance of ultimate rejection to keep hope, however slim alive. In addition to making me finally realize why I was always left feeling led-on when girls were as clear with me as I could be, I came to recognize that at the heart of every salesman, there is a sad, scared, and lonely man.

Patrick Robertson is probably the purest example of that sad, scared, lonely bastard since Willy Loman. The title character of Brian Hennigan’s slim novel, Patrick is a divorced and friendless alcoholic stumbling from Asian hotel to machine parts sales meeting without ever making a real connection with anyone.

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Don’t let that description and the Willy Loman comparison fool you, though: Patrick Robertson: A Tale of Adventure is not some somber elegy but a raucous farce full of more ups and downs than a regional sales graph. Though a barechested special-ops comando may be the more obvious choice to take on the terrorists, jungle elements, and mistaken identity that pop up in this book, as a salesman, Patrick is a perfect protagonist for an adventure: used to pushing forward towards a deal against all odds, as he falls deeper into trouble, he never gives up, always persevering even in the face of certain death; and as an alcoholic, he is ready to make the sort of brash, split second decisions needed in high-pressure situations. As he explains, “Alcohol is not the answer to all our problems. But if one removes from one’s life those problems that cannot be solved with alcohol, the path is clear.”

Patrick makes a perfect narrator, too, as he’s always dispensing terrible wisdom like the above lines. Interspersed with the action, advice like, “There is a time and a place for the truth, and the conclusion of a sales pitch is not it”, is funny, in part, because readers are left wondering why Patrick would think any of us would want to follow the steps to ending up as sad and lonely as him. Only a narcissist as cut off from others as himself could think that he’s in an admirable position–especially as things keep going from bad to worse for him.  And that’s the other reason they are funny: Patrick’s grand schemes for survival keep taking him further and further from life, until he is finally floating on the ocean in hot-air balloon basket, being roasted to death by the sun.

And that’s why I wholeheartedly recommend this book: it fits in with our program here at The Oldest Jokes in the World, with the humor working as another literary device to reinforce and deepen the subtext. If the life of a salesman is a large and already bullet riddled target for a satire, this book gets by for being a quick, energetic read, full of other surprises, the somehow warm without being schmaltzy ending chief among them. Previously published by Cape in the UK, it is now available for the first time in America. You can get it at Amazon or head on over to ataleofadventure.com for more info… and wisdom.

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Full disclosure: a friend sent me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

Red Shift Season 2

October 16, 2015 § Leave a comment

Red Shift, the old-school, pulpy sci-fi podcast that produced my short “The Pipe Cleaner of Bilge Hob IV” as part of their first season, is currently getting ready for their second season, and they need our help.

First, they are looking for short stories for the next season. The deadline is November 30th, and you can get all the submission details here.

Second, they are funding their second season through a Kickstarter campaign. A lot goes into making the episodes, including taking time in a professional studio and working with incredible actors. Plus, they PAY THE WRITERS!!! So you know your money is being put to good use.

So send your sci-fi stories, send your money. Red Shift makes awesome things out of sci-fi stories and money.

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Due to Controversial Success, Penguin Re-Rebrands Its Modern Classics Titles

August 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

Some great literary/book design humor from Mark Rapacz over at Blastgun!

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Due to Controversial Success, Penguin Re-Rebrands Its Modern Classics Titles.

via Due to Controversial Success, Penguin Re-Rebrands Its Modern Classics Titles.

Too Lazy to Relax

July 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

It’s become sort of a tradition around here for me to post a picture of my feet up in a hammock when we get back from our yearly Ontario cottage vacation–which has in turn led to all sorts of people getting googled over here in search of hammock jokes. This year, however, we reached a new height of relaxation and were too lazy to get out the ladders and hang up the hammock; we got off the boat, planted our faces in some books, and didn’t look up until it was time to come back home.

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I normally report on the funniness of the books I read while I’m up there, but it was all pretty serious stuff this time around, with a historical fiction bent, to help me scheme on the project I want to work on after Slash. (Which isn’t to say it won’t be funny, just that I wanted the best historical stuff I could find, whether they were funny or not). I read The King Must Die by Mary Renault and am almost done with Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel. The Renault made for a great summer read, full of lusty adventure, but the Mantel in particular, is incredibly, and full of snort inducing quips that bring the verve and intelligence of the period to life in a much more visceral way than stale descriptions of clothes and furnishings.  I also read the deadly serious Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin, starting two trilogies I’m already looking forward to continuing next summer. About the only comedic thing I read was Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town by Stephen Leacock, which lived up, for better or worse, to the “Canada’s Mark Twain” blurb that got me to buy it. It did seem more like a watered-down version of Huckleberry Finn than something fresh of its own, but was certainly a fun way to spend an afternoon on a Canadian lake, especially with the lovely design and illustrations by Seth in the version I have. If you want to hear more about what I’m reading and what I think about it, friend me on Goodreads; I’m always curious to see what other readers are up to!

In any event, I’m excited to be back. Not happy–I really feel like I could just sit up there and read forever–but ready for a whole ‘nother year of writing to bring you guys. With the final episode of Slash out in just a few weeks, I need to get the epilogue done by this weekend, and once that’s complete, I’ll be able to dedicate more time to this blog again. I already have a few tragicomic posts planed about the state of the industry and my adventures in self-publishing, and hope to read some real funny literary fiction to share with you all soon!

Recommendation: CEREBUS

May 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

Check out this post I did about the real-person fan-fic implications of Dave Sim’s CEREBUS over at http://www.slashserial.com. It’s got lots about Lord Julius, his take on one of TOJITW’s favorite subjects: the Marx Brothers.

Slash: A Serial Novel by Evan Kingston

Now that we’re nearing the end of the publication schedule for Slash, there seems to be new news to share every week. But while I want to make sure you know there’s now a physical version of Episode Five available and am very excited to give you news about another free ebook promotion soon, I don’t want to lose sight of the Recommendation for Further Reading Series I started posting last year, before there was any real Slash updates to report.

As a result, I’m still going to try to squeeze in some of my favorite examples of fan fiction and slash fiction whenever possible. I want to give anyone unfamiliar with the genre a sense of the world Slash is set in, while celebrating this under-appreciated part of our literary culture. There are plenty stories out there that are beautifully written, emotionally astute, and/or formally daring—and just happen to…

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Remind me if you like me

November 30, 2013 § Leave a comment

Hey all: it has been too long. With my marriage, Red Bird’s recent submission period, and Slash (Episode One is now just 99 cents!!!), I realize I haven’t done much but make excuses on this blog all autumn—and I’ve lately fallen behind even on that. As a result, I’m going to sneak one last post in November to reach my quota of posts about how little I’m posting.

The good news is I’m getting the hang of wedded bliss, have picked out three awesome manuscripts for RB’s 2014 chapbook publishing season, and have even built up a month of lead time on Slash, so I will hopefully be able to get this series of posts on satire I’ve been planning out to you by the new year. I’ve been thinking about it a bunch… just haven’t written anything.

Regardless of how much time I have to use them, the ideas have been coming to me for the blog lately, in part because I think I miss you dear readers. For example, the most recent issue of The New Yorker featured one of the most humorous Shouts and Murmurs in recent memory. Written by Michael Cera, in the voice of the needy, awkward guy he is so good at playing, the piece is a perfect send-up of how awkward and needy text messaging usually is, despite its promises of making us more conveniently and confidently connected. Snorting out loud while reading it, I thought immediately of posting it here, in part because it is so well written and funny, and in part because it reminded me of how starved I was for your cyber-approval. So please, check it out here, and like this post ASAP!

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(I also feel like I still owe Michael Cera for making Superbad, since it is, not only, one of my favorite movies, but also the source of several dates for me. During the summer it came out, the awkward, needy Evan was suddenly a lovable archetype (if not a certified sex-symbol), and I managed to use my own awkwardness to my advantage for the first time in my life. If these few clicks to his work can start to pay off that debt, I’ll be happy.)

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