Jon Reiss

Articles by

Jon Reiss

Writer for BB, Vol.1 Brooklyn, Jewcy, Spin, Rumpus, Punknews, and more. Cofficer of the law.

07/02/14 1:00pm

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If youth is wasted on the young then perhaps wisdom is wasted on the old.  Paula Bomer writes with the wisdom of an adult, but with the heart, the curiosity and the urgency we all grow to one day miss.  Her 2012 debut novel Nine Monthsan exceedingly raw portrayal of the life of an unhappily pregnant woman, stood out among the year’s best, but her newest short story collection, Inside Madeline shows how much further the author’s talent stretches.

What of the word “raw?” NY Times book reviewer Dana Tortorici in her review of Inside Madeline describes the adjective as a backhanded compliment in reviewer speak. “Half praise, half dis, it commends the struggle to embrace female ugliness while finding the work unsatisfactory. ‘Raw’ work is visceral but also hard to digest—a kind term, in other words, for something half-baked,” she writes. It seems to me what that what she’s describing is the kind of bravery and brazenness so often missing in modern storytelling. The dark and the raw in storytelling is too easily dismissed as young or profane. There are plenty of anodyne stories to consume across all kinds of media, but when I pick up a book of non-genre short stories, I go into it hoping it’s written by an author unafraid to embrace ugly, to delve into the guts of physical and emotional growing pains, loneliness and despair.  What’s more universal than that? Otherwise you might as well seek out the literary equivalent of pop music. Bomer’s writing is truly raw, not raw in the way the word has entered book reviewer vocabulary.   (more…)

03/26/14 1:02pm

There must be something serious in the air at New York’s publishing houses. Over the past few weeks I’ve received some dark galleys on some especially heavy subjects.  If you’re looking for some light and crisp reads, like the spring air, you won’t find them here. These are four heavy books.

presentShock_fullCoverPresent Shock by Douglas Rushkoff A few weeks ago we discussed a few books that explore how technology is changing the way we think and act. Had Present Shock been out at that point it would have been included, because it’s one of the most poignant rundowns on the subject to date. Present Shock refers to an elusive goal put forth by modern technology–the goal of “now,” and in this book Rushkoff exquisitely describes the anxiety caused by the dissonance between our digital selves and our analog bodies. (more…)

03/12/14 2:00pm

Made to Break by D.Foy, published by  Two Dollar Radio,  March 18

Made To Break is not an easy read, especially early on.  Take these snippets from first chapter.

“We’d nothing to do but get to the door, but the stairs slipped me up, and I collapsed, and lost my bottle too… The stars were dead. The night was rage. the was was sick with danger. Someone moaned and from the blue I understood: time is a leech… ”

I picked Made to Break up, asked it to dance and it broke eight of my toes before we found a rhythm. Thing is–it ended up being a beautiful rhythm. Still, half the time I put into reading it was spent in limbo. I found myself constantly picking this novel up and then putting it down again almost immediately. That is until I found that rhythm. Then I finished it in a night.
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02/27/14 3:09pm

 

Performer Jay Byrd telling a story about Diana Ross at The Soundtrack Series. Photo: Soundtrack Series

Performer Jay Byrd telling a story about Diana Ross at The Soundtrack Series. Photo: Soundtrack Series

AWP–the yearly conference put on by the Association of Writers and Writing Programs–is like South By Southwest crossed with Burning Man, but for writers. The annual meet-up is going on now through March 1 in Seattle, and writers not in attendance may be experiencing the same sort of missing out on the party sensations that techies, musicians and fantastical weirdos feel when they’re not in Austin or the salt flats of Nevada with their respective tribes.

But just because you aren’t drinking free wine and eating free cheese in the vicinity of your favorite writers or flirting with that MFA professor who always said you had talent doesn’t mean you have to mope around New York City. There are plenty of exciting literary happenings taking place this week; here are a few.
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02/20/14 3:30pm

shallowsEverywhere you look in the book world, technology is sinking in to the way that we read and write.  Pioneers like Dennis Cooper introduced us to the ways the web can exist on the page and then took it a step further by anthologizing a whole new breed of writers who established themselves online. Dennis Cooper introduced message board conversations early on in his books. In Japan, novels written entirely as cell phone text conversations swept the nation for a short time. From Blake Butler’s truncated and scattered prose/poetry to Tao Lin’s stream of semi-consciousness fiction, it’s hard to hard to find a young writer who doesn’t weave technology into their books in some way.

At the same time, new technology has long been seen as a harbinger of the book’s end–newspapers were supposedly going to mean the death of the book, audiobooks, too, and now the internet. The book always lasts.  Rather than being an medium for a moment, it’s a medium that reflects, and endures, an ever-changing world.
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02/06/14 2:00pm

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Writing in Booklyn I receive at least one book in the mail per week. Sometimes I ask for them and sometimes I don’t, but I try to read all of them. Unfortunately I read about as quickly as I digest lactose, so sometimes the books have a tendency to pile up.  I’ve just returned from Toronto, covering a battle rap event. Rap battling is just like an installment of the Franklin Park Reading series–if the readers were really mad one another. During the flights I got a chance to catch up on two books I’d been meaning to read for some time now.  So, here’s your fiction and non-fiction book of the week.

Fiction
Hill William by Scott McLanahan (Tyrant Books)
I’m not sure there’s a young writer alive who had a better 2013 than Scott McLanahan.  His name was on the tip of the tongue of every taste-maker in every literary cluster across the map and his persona has garnered almost as much notoriety as his prose. His animated reading style is so beloved that he was included on a list of the best things to see in New York City–apparently seeing a McLanahan reading is on part with Sleep No More as far as entertainment is concerned.  Hill William is the name of McLanahan’s debut novel. It was probably the most anticipated debut of the year and it managed to live to hype.
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01/24/14 1:01pm
Photo: Erik Erikson

Photo: Erik Erikson

While there’s no shortage of new authors, the classic, raw and dirty coming-of-age rapscallion novel is in short supply, making Royal Young’s Fame Shark a refreshing and endlessly entertaining change of pace.  Now, Audible has released the audiobook version of Fame Shark straight from the lips of the child actor himself. I caught up with Royal Young to chop it up and discuss the hustle.

Jon Reiss: Do you feel like your dad really doesn’t like the book, or is he unable to express how he really feels about it?

Royal Young: He’s done a 180. His first reaction was, and I quote, ‘I fucking hate it.’

Jon Reiss: Tell me about the response thus far to Fame Shark?  How has it stacked up to your hopes and expectations?

Royal Young: So far it’s been really great luckily, except for my family’s reaction, that has been horrible.  The public’s response has been really good, the private response has been…complicated. So that’s been interesting.  I think my favorite part of the response is hearing from people all over the world who have somehow found this book and really related to it–drinking a lot, doing drugs, searching for self-love that sort of thing. Having people tell me they related to it and that it helped them, that’s been the best part.  I’ve now got an amazing pen pal in Lagos Nigeria.

I guess I expected [it] to change my life in some big dramatic way.  That didn’t really happen. Like I said, the response has been great, but as Americans and myself as a very impatient, dramatic person, I had this idea that my life would just magically change overnight. I’m not sure what I thought it would change into…like champagne and strippers every night? No.  It’s been a lot more gradual. I feel like it’s pushed me to grow. The changes have been about connecting with people and dealing with old family issues that the book brought back up again.

JR: I think that’s a very common thing writers go through with their first novels. I think they all expect everything to change right away, but rarely do you hear them admit it.  It’s really honest of you to say that. I think that’s the kind of honesty that comes through in the book and makes it a fun read.  How did you feel reading reviews?

RY: I got lucky. It felt like that honesty you mentioned got recognized in the reviews.  I’m sure I’ll get bad reviews or hate mail down the line and I look forward to it. I tried to be as honest as I could in the book and I think people respected and appreciated that.

JR: What advice do you have for young, hustling writers who are where you were two or three years ago, trying to get that book out there?
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01/15/14 6:40pm

buzzplusxIt’s hard to tell when your favorite writer it going to put out their next book. Recently an editor told me that first novels take five years to write and edit then another year to publish. Beyond that it’s tough to call. I know these things take time, but here are five writers that I’m hoping will release something new, if not in 2014, then as soon as humanly possible.

Charles Bock Though divisive, Beautiful Children drew a lot of attention from the media and the response it got was everything a first time novelist could hope for. Beautiful Children is a dark and compelling look into the lives of Las Vegas street kids and succeeds wildly at making the city a character. The street kids who occupy this book are taken seriously although they are written a bit tongue in cheek culminating in a style that sets Bock apart from his contemporaries. Beautiful Children supposedly took 10 years to write. Since it came out 2009, perhaps newfound confidence and incentive will yield a second novel in 2014.

Dennis Cooper It seemed when The Marbled Swarm was released in 2011, that the media and reading public at large were beginning to accept Dennis Cooper as the dark prince of progressive literary fiction. I call him progressive rather than experimental because Cooper’s novels tend to employ fresh and unique storytelling devices but never lack for cohesion and structure. For Cooper fans expecting his follow up to God Jr. and The Sluts to be anything like those books, or like any of the books the book in his George Miles cycle, The Marbled Swarm was anything but.  It was his first book with Harper Collins and yet it was completely unlike anything he’d done before: dense, labyrinthine sometimes even confusing albeit dependably dark. The Marbled Swarm demanded time and attention. Whether that was to your liking or not, certainly I’d be thrilled to see another novel from him, and perhaps one that retreads familiar ground.
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12/19/13 2:52pm

Last week we added to the online morass of year-end lists, by naming four of our favorite literary magazines–journals we think will move American letters forward in 2014.  That post was just the first four entries in our full list of eight. Here’s the second half. And, it goes without saying, that a subscription to one of these (or a copy of one of the books we recommended earlier today) would make a great gift for any reader on your list.

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The New York Times called Pank a “raft” of experimental poetry and fiction–an interesting choice of words. Of all the literary magazines discussed thus far, Pank (along with Armchair/Shotgun) is perhaps the least concerned with name recognition, not to say it’s inaccessible.  Pank has something for everyone, such as The Great Daylight in Pank’s 12/13 issue, a Breece Pancake meets Calvino-style coming-of-age short. On the other hand they also have poetry both experimental and more traditional.  The Pank blog also serves as a nice book review blog ala The Rumpus.  On top of it all, Pank is published by the omnipresent and very brilliant Roxanne Gay, and has featured the incomparable Sean H. Doyle.  Also, Pank online has one very cool feature–the option to listen to the poetry and prose from each issue.

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12/13/13 2:09pm

The best literary magazines set the bar the for the crème de la crème of contemporary fiction and introduce new and exciting voices. In this two-part series we’ll list eight Literary Magazines that have put in the hard work this year and are on their way to becoming the most exciting and vibrant on the scene. Here are our first four favorites.

Slice Magazine Like a more lit-centric Bomb or a more accessible Granta, Slice is a rare combination of progressive and established.  Slice was founded by two young Brooklynites who at the time had their fingers firmly gripped around the frosty steel rungs of the publishing industry ladder, yet Slice lacks publishing industry pretensions.  Each Slice issue explores a heavy theme, like “obsession” or “the unknown” and includes visual artwork, poetry, essays and fiction that reflects that theme.  Slice has included work by your Rick Moodys and Francine Proses but it also keeps the gates open and barbarian-free for new writers. Slice is not unlike the literary magazines of yore, but it has that idealistic Brooklyn upstart flair that has fueled successful literary ventures like Franklin Park Reading Series or Mellow Pages. In 2014 Slice is due to become the most talked about literary magazine in town.

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