Review of Ben Hersey’s THE AUTOGRAPH OF STEVE INDUSTRY

The Autograph of Steve Industry
Ben Hersey. Magic Helicopter Press, $16 paperback (303p) ISBN: 978-0-9964143-2-6

“...love is hot rain, you get caught in it, you get scorched, period.” So says the narrator Steve Industry in Hersey’s outstanding debut about an eastern Massachusetts man struggling day to day to keep himself and his relationships from shattering into a million pieces. Told in four seasons beginning with summer, the book is a prose explosion of personal vision and human connection. Steve lives his life with a frantic poetry, juggling work (batting cage manager and bus driver) and play (vocalist and harmonica player in the band the Steamrollers) and family (wife Saundra and five-year-old daughter Nancy). Things begin to unravel for Steve when Saundra grows weary of his particular brand of affection (“...my wife is always trying to get me to love her a little less psychedelically…”) and she begins to challenge his life choices. Torn between his responsibilities as a family man, his deep loyalty to his friends and bandmates, and his sense of self and place, Steve drinks, snorts, and howls his way through, sometimes gleaning his finest insights via the precocious wisdom of his daughter. After kindly reprimanding her one day for using a curse word, things play out thusly: “She said, ‘But, Daddy, I’m a grown woman.’ I looked at her and it was fucked up because I realized in that moment that I was looking to see if she was correct. Yesterday was twenty minutes ago or twenty years ago, what do I know?” The real joy of the work is the way the hyper-kinetic prose gushes with emotion and heart, but never in an overwhelmingly sentimental way. Hersey’s innovative analysis/poetic breakdown of the life experience is a pure pleasure to behold. (December 2016)

Purchase The Autograph of Steve Industry HERE.

Reviewer bio: Mel Bosworth is the author of the novel Freight. Visit him at melbosworth.com

Review of Michelle Dove’s RADIO CACOPHONY

RADIO CACOPHONY
Michelle Dove. Big Lucks Books, $10 paperback (132p) ISBN: 9781941985069


In Dove’s excellent debut, the term “Radio Cacophony” refers to the sonic experiment of playing multiple tracks over each other. The objective is to glean something familiar or beautiful from the often jarring noise. There’s nothing displeasing to the ear or heart in this novel-in-vignettes about a communications major who works for the college’s radio station. Dove’s first person narrator possesses an amicable, easy to read voice and a laid back, frequently wise wit. She supersaturates herself with music from The Smiths, crushes hard on the Day Art deejay, drinks lots of vodka, and fumbles and bounces on an intricate web of youth as she finds her way. As a humorous recounting of boozy exploration set to an amazing soundtrack, the book is an easy success. But what really gives it great lift and cutting depth is the narrator’s ability to ruminate on her motivations and choices. Finding herself alone one day at the station, she purposely allows the airwaves to fall silent between tracks and the anxiety of this dead air rushes in: “It’s in this moment before I finally play the song that is cued up to play that I feel what it feels to be utterly pointless. Yet immediately after the moment of pointlessness comes exhilaration, as I know now that the most vulnerable I have ever been has passed—and still I am me.” Dove gives readers the familiar and beautiful while maintaining a perfect balance of humor and sadness. (September 2016)

Purchase Radio Cacophony HERE.

Reviewer bio: Mel Bosworth is the author of the novel Freight. Visit him at melbosworth.com

Review of Thomas McColl’s BEING WITH ME WILL HELP YOU LEARN

Being With Me Will Help You Learn
Thomas McColl. Listen Softly London, $14 (78p) ISBN: 978-0993535307

            In his book of poems Being With Me Will Help You Learn, Thomas McColl plunges head first into a strange world that seems so much like our own yet entirely nuanced. The title itself is slightly foreboding, as if what we, as readers, are about the read will change us in some profound way, some way that will fundamentally change the way we perceive and react to things in our lives. McColl uses cunning and smart language to create these quasi-worlds that mirror our own. He does this, all the while lacing his poems with dark humor. It’s a kind of make-believe that isn’t quite made up.
            Many of McColl’s poems read satirical. Among these poems is “A Warning to All EC Pedestrians” where a simple practice of walking across the street turns into a humorous yet sinister act. McColl uses this sense of parallelism to change the dynamic between cars and pedestrians. He writes,

Pedestrians planning to cross the road
must have, as standard,
an air bag beneath their clothes
which will blow up on impact.

Review of Kyle Coma-Thompson’s NIGHT IN THE SUN

NIGHT IN THE SUN: STORIES
Kyle Coma-Thompson. Dock Street Press, $16.95 paperback (229p) ISBN: 9780991065776

Coma-Thompson creates hauntingly unsettling/beautiful realities in this exceptional follow-up to his debut collection The Lucky Body. The timely and terrifying “Idaho” touches upon an indiscriminate shooting of Senegalese merchants. “Master and Man” builds meticulously and spans years in a wonder of literary invention in which a guru rises to great power and a Frenchman requires unusual visual aids to reach sexual climax. In the sweet and nearly eerie “Collectors”, two people share stories in a bar and learn each has a distinct penchant for the property of others. “Europe Redux” offers a short though powerful glimpse into a future where time travel exists as commercial industry. Not every story in this collection was mind-blowing to this reader, yet each was interesting and original. A particular standout was “Odin’s Daughters”, where we’re immediately met by a dead gunslinger who breathes through his bullet holes. Another was “Andrej Lives”, which comes in the form of a lengthy note to a friend who reached out for help detailing why they shouldn't commit suicide. Coma-Thompson commands a unique and exquisite voice, and proves yet again that when it comes to short-story writing he can do anything. (July 2016)

Purchase Night in the Sun HERE.

Reviewer bio: Mel Bosworth is the author of the novel Freight. Visit him at melbosworth.com

Review of Nathalie Léger’s SUITE FOR BARBARA LODEN

SUITE FOR BARBARA LODEN
Nathalie Léger. Translated by Nathalie Lehrer and Cécile Menon. Dorothy, a publishing project $16 paperback (128p) ISBN: 978-0-9973666-0-0

“I believe there is a miracle in Wanda,” wrote Marguerite Duras of the only film American actress Barbara Loden ever wrote and directed. “Usually, there is a distance between representation and text, subject and action. Here that distance is completely eradicated.”

A film more famous in our time than in the year it was released, Barbara Loden’s sole filmed work as writer and director went from an affront to American feminists—how dare a woman filmmaker represent a woman as a passive pawn in her own life!—to a smash reception at the 31st Venice International Film Festival, where it took Best Foreign Film honors—as the only American entrant accepted that year. Honestly, it might as well have been a foreign film right here in the USA for all the attention it received in the 1970s.

Loden was an actress who was famous if you knew who she was. She was the leggy, semi-clothed blonde bombshell sidekick to sophisticated sketch and improvisational comedian Ernie Kovacs on his critical darling of a revue show. She won a Tony Award in 1964 for playing a thinly disguised take on Marilyn Monroe in an Arthur Miller play. She was a featured actress in several of second husband Elia Kazan’s films (eg, Splendor in the Grass). Her Method acting was learned at the Actors’ Studio while she was a teen-aged dancer at the famed Copacabana nightclub. This was a woman of formidable ability and negligible self-confidence who, paradoxically, married two high-powered men (her first husband was film and television project distributor Larry Joachim, a major player in the early years of television) and left each of them yearning for the strength to control her.

Review of Nathaniel G. Moore’s JETTISON

Jettison: Stories
Nathaniel G. Moore. Anvil Press, $20 paperback (256p) ISBN: 978-1772140477

Nathaniel G. Moore is no stranger to the odd. Take his first book, the faux sports tell-all Bowlbrawl, or Let’s Pretend We Never Met. Full of linguistic tricks, this latter collection is chalk full of hijinks and features a book-length escapade with the Roman poet Catullus. With Jettison, his debut fiction collection, Moore begins with a new version of his version of Catullus – somehow alive and trying to steal his roommate’s girlfriend – or at least her dress. He speaks in broken English, hates the winter and keeps cooked ground beef in tube socks on the kitchen counter. He enjoys playing badminton, riding his bike and terrifying people with a homemade chainsaw. The aura of discomfort the story presents is enough to make you reconsider over-thinking romantic relationships. Romance and horror are obvious themes in this bawdy collection, the words “romantic” and “horror” both appear online in catalogue copy. Another story called “Jaws” describes a father’s obsession with a girlfriend who he introduced his kids to when they were younger as Aunt Louise. The narrator is in his final years of life and is recalling with much joy the wild times he had
with Louise, who may or may not have been a college drop out sea monster. The descriptions of their playful sexual past are done well, if not entirely over the top. The aquatic sea monster imagery is

Review of John Pass’ FORECAST

Forecast: Selected Early Poems (1970-1990)
John Pass. Harbour Publishing, $18.95 paperback (144p) ISBN: 978-1-55017-731-2

Quoting “The Embankment” from Forecast, the latest collection from West Coast poet John Pass, “something, neither profit / nor recreation, keeps me at it.” you get the sense that the poet toils at his craft for the sake of collecting and sharing his outlook in the ever-changing world the poet has witnessed. With his wife, writer Theresa Kishkan, Pass lives on 8.5 acres of forest, garden and orchard near Sakinaw Lake on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast, where they built a house, have raised three children, and run High Ground Press, specializing in the letterpress printing and publication of poetry broadsheets. Pass, who recently won the 2016 Open Season Award for Poetry from The Malahat Review,
has published nineteen volumes (books and chapbooks) and his poems have been anthologized in Canada, the US, the UK, Ireland and the Czech Republic. Spanning twenty years, Forecast: Selected early poems 1970-1990 culls out-of-print poems from dozens of sources. Love, memory, family, domesticity and intimacy are landmarks that emerge in Forecast, which operates like a greatest hits collection of sorts – if that is even possible for