Sunday, August 22, 2010

“Krakow Melt”

By Daniel Allen Cox
ISBN No. 978-1-55152-372-9
You know how when you group your books in your bookcase by genre and there’s always a few of them that defy easy cataloguing? “Krakow Melt” is such a book. Even though it’s only 151 pages the book requires reams of text to explain even its minor plot twists. Simply put, it’s about two Polish firebugs fighting homophobia in Krakow in 2005. Wrapped up in that sales pitch, however, is the firebrand POV of its renegade author. Gender roles, sexual orientation, socio-political commitment and materialism are given valentines or bull’s-eyes in the galvanizing prose of Cox. An author’s second book is usually his safest but Cox, proving that his first book, “Shuck” was no fluke and that he still has a masterpiece in him, seems even more reckless the second time around. The characters are smarter, the dialogue is sharper and the words themselves seem to come straight from Cox’ unconscious. The book is so conversation-worthy that you don’t want to spoil it for other readers by quoting anything at all. But still, like a song stuck in your head, lines linger and demand sharing: “She then returned to her reading, which I found ridiculously sexy,” he writes. “A book lures you into a state of bodily comfort and then, once your limbs are placed just right, finger-f---s your insides. I wanted to be the book, stretching her open a little wider with very pithy sentence.” Whew… Is there a literary genre called Mental Hook-up?

"The Rapture"

By Liz Jensen
ISBN No. 978-0-385-66702-9
With a lot of books a reviewer writes about what the book is about. With “The Rapture” it’s more appropriate to talk about what the book is “like.” With its flawed and haunted psychotherapist, Gabrielle, there are echoes of the young priest in “The Exorcist”. With the mother-murdering, disaster-predicting teenager under Gabrielle’s care, Bethany, there are echoes of, well, the young girl in “The Exorcist”. And if the comparison seems both flattering and simplistic, that’s intentional. That book, Pauline Kael said, “is a manual of lurid crimes, written in an a easy-to-read tough-guy style yet with a grating heightening word here and there, supposedly to tone it up.” She could just as easily been talking about the first line of “The Rapture”: “That summer, the summer all the rules began to change. June seemed to last for a thousand years.” There’s isn’t much else I can reveal without revealing too much but suffice to say that from there it all goes downhill; into horror, the folly of science to explain the unexplainable and then the redemptive minor hopeful uplift at the story’s end. As a formula, “The Rapture” has a lot going for it. And as a publishing event it hopefully marks the splintering of the audience of vampire books into a readership of more complex fiction.