Barthelmeville & other odd places

MISTAKEHaven’t read anything by Frederick Barthelme in ages, but  have fond memories of MOON DELUXE and SECOND MARRIAGE. Here, in his new novel, THERE MUST BE SOME MISTAKE, he’s up to his old minimalist tricks. Hard to describe what he does exactly, like grains of sand shifting under one’s feet. He captures the weirdness of the mundane, of lives hunkered in condos, and the strange way we talk when there’s nothing to say. This novel is consistently funny, strange and touching…  with an eerie ending that will definitely haunt you.

A trio of novels of suspense worth your time. I’ve already raved about Beatrice Hitchman‘s PETITE MORT which is an astounding debut.  For fans of GONE GIRL,  THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by  Paula Hawkins  is worth the ride and full of twists. And speaking of twists, Harriet Lane‘s novel HER  keeps you guessing the whole way through. It  draws you in slowly and then doesn’t let go.  It’s sure to be a hit at the beach this summer.

riverhead booksHERmort



After reading Michel Houellebecq‘s relentlessly depressing novel PLATFORM, I found myself in need of some comic relief. Thankfully I had a copy of S.J. Perelman‘s THE RISING GORGE within reach.  After devouring that, I went searching for some contemporary  sources and was rewarded by CAN’T WE TALK ABOUT SOMETHING MORE PLEASANT?  — a deliciously grim & very funny  memoir by cartoonist Roz Chast.


herbieSince Donald Westlake isn’t around anymore to satisfy my periodic craving for comic crime.  I’ll turn to Timothy Hallinan and his Junior Bender series. Right now I’m reading HERBIE’S GAME.



crime-lbOh, and I can’t forget my friend Lawrence Block who remains as prolific as ever. Just received a Kindle edition of his THE CRIME OF OUR LIVES (what a terrific title!) —a collection of his introductions, appreciations and observations on some of the genre’s greatest, from Poe to Westlake. This one goes to the top of my reading list. I’m taking Block to the beach, eat your heart out.



Finally, you’ll have to forgive me for tooting my own horn here, but I have a new book coming out May Day from JEF Books: NAKED LUNCH AT TIFFANY’S. This is a collection of parodies and satire I’ve written over the years that takes a poke at erotic literature. It covers pretty much everything from the KAMA SUTRA to FIFTY SHADES OF GREY and takes no prisoners. It also features an outrageous introduction by the one and only Nile Southern—author of THE CANDY MEN: THE ROLLICKING LIFE AND TIMES OF THE NOTORIOUS NOVEL CANDY.  I hope you’ll have a chance to check it out.



Alphonse Returns!


Alphonse Allais (1854-1905) was France’s greatest humorist. His elegance, scientific curiosity, preoccupation with language and logic, wordplay and flashes of cruelty inspired Alfred Jarry, as well as succeeding generations of Surrealists, Pataphysicians, and Oulipians. THE SQUADRON’S UMBRELLA collects 39 of Allais’s funniest stories — many originally published in the legendary paper LE CHAT NOIR, written for the Bohemians of Montmartre. Included are such classic pranks on the reader as “The Templars” (in which the plot becomes secondary to remembering the hero’s name) and “Like the Others” (in which a lover’s attempts to emulate his rivals lead to fatal but inevitable results.) These tales have amused and inspired generations, and now English readers can enjoy the master absurdist at his best. As the author promises, this book contains no umbrella and the subject of squadrons is “not even broached.”


HUGH MOORE is back in a new edition!


Whenever a novel by Eckhard Gerdes appears, it’s a cause for celebration. His  books are filled with the unexpected.  He has a big bag of tricks that make many of us envious, and his works contain  hidden pleasures and manic wit. Experimental? You betcha, but only in the best sense.of that exasperating word, for Gerdes never forgets the reader–he engages you — challenges you, tickles you and kicks your ass.

Hugh Moore  (pun intended) was originally published in 2010, but the book was hard to come by. So here’s a spanking new edition from Heroinum Press in Australia and I’m ready for some fine German brew, an overstuffed sofa, and a good reading lamp.

That this book features a foreword by Miriam Patchen, the widow of the great poet & novelist  Kenneth Patchen, speaks volumes (no pun intended).  Indeed, Eckhard Gerdes embodies the spirit of Kenneth Patchen – a sublime mixture of humor (OK, pun intended)  and protest. But that’s as far as II’ll go here. As Magritte might have said (had he been an American), this is not a book review. This is a command: get Hugh Moore, read it immediately, and then we’ll talk.


Petite Mort Marks A Grand Debut


It’s hard to believe this is Ms. Hitchman’s first novel—it’s a remarkably skillful debut. Her style is sensual, poetic and erotic. I’ll even go a step further and describe it as exquisite. Is the book perfect? No, the plot is far-fetched, but then so are most novels in this genre. Despite its flaws, the writing is so good this shouldn’t make anyone put the book aside. PETITE MORT’s ending is indeed a surprise. Does one walk away believing it? Of course not, but who cares. This is entertainment of a high order.  I can’t wait to see what this writer does next.



Word Games


Part Oulipian exercise, these meticulous scrapings reveal the future in all its sublime absurdity. The author approached the horoscope in his morning newspaper as if it were a puzzle, like the crossword or sudoku. By scraping out the middle part, and joining the beginning and end, he received a hidden message.

Reading outside the lines here one discovers an alternative fate more interesting than the fluff dispensed by run-of-the-mill soothsayers. Indeed, these predictions are pithy, profound, and astonishingly accurate.

In HOROSCRAPES, Doug Skinner offers up 366 clever twists of fate—something for every sign—guaranteed to alter forever how we view the universe.